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Roland and Theology

August 31, 2009

So, Roland reveals a bit more about his position on “theology”: given the way he uses the term, “theism” is not the sine qua non.

Okay, so we know what Roland thinks theology isn’t. Is there anything positive to be said about what it is, on his use of the term? Yes.

[O]nce we move past the assumption that religious belief [in a god?] is the core or perhaps the overarching unity of theology and realize that it is one part and by no means a necessary one, then theology shows all its other colors. It deals with nature and the environment (creation), with the human condition (anthropology), why the world is the way it is (harmatology), the problem of suffering, the nature of the human subject (via Christology), the nature of history, hopes for the future, how human beings might live together (ecclesiology), and the nature of mythology (the central stories with which theology deals).

In the end, then, it looks like when Roland uses the term “theology” he is talking about a combination of certain types of ontology, anthropology, existentialism, and constructive social philosophy.

I think any disagreement between him and I would be semantic beyond this point. I wouldn’t use the word “theology” in this way, but if he wants to, that’s fine with me. When I’m criticizing the presence of “theology” in religious studies, I’m talking about something other than these things.

On a side note: have you ever looked at Roland’s CV? He’s a publishing machine. He’s brilliant. He’s the type of guy whose CV you hate to look at because it will give you an inferiority complex.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 2, 2009 6:32 pm

    This is a very helpful definition for how I approach theology. If I’m to write theology, then I’m essentially doing interdisciplinary creative writing: ethics, existentialism, and a little poetry thrown in for effect.

    (Granted, that “effect” could be to mislead readers, along the lines of your criticism that theology mystifies rather than elucidates, but I have great respect for creative writing as a way in which we can better understand our humanity. I often think of my work as being both academic and artistic, as if I was both a student of art history/theory and a student in studio art. This lens—viewing the pastor as artist—helps me to approach the mystifying/elucidating aspect of my work with integrity.)

  2. roland permalink
    September 3, 2009 5:04 pm

    I think there’s a way forward on this issue and it might be as follows. Instead of defining each discipline by a core idea, I prefer to think of disciplines as intersections of various lines. So theology is isn’t defined by explaining belief in muscled fairies, but by intersections of the sorts of things I mentioned – history, environment, human condition, hope, social questions, mythology etc. You could do similar exercises with, say, literature, history, even architecture.

  3. roland permalink
    September 3, 2009 5:30 pm

    Hey MM, flattery will get you everywhere! But it’s not that impressive. One thing, though, our conversation is helping me shape a chapter on atheism in the last volume of the Criticism of Heaven and Earth series.

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