What it means to be a theologian

I found this blog post to be very well written and concise.

To understand the effects of religion on a wider scale, it’s absurd to think that reading a holy book would indicate anything beyond a peripheral understanding of the text itself. For behavioural effects, it’s best to look at neuroscience and psychology. For societal effects, there’s sociology and history. Being an accomplished theologian won’t teach anyone about the influence of religion on society, but the social sciences will and that’s the place to look to.

Now consider the parallel with something I actually do care about: gaming. One might ask the question “what are the wider effects of gaming on the individual and their role in the community?” Now if there was a study that showed a trend of violence among gamers, would it be more pertinent to question the controlling factors of the study or whether the psychologist in charge had ever beaten Quake on Nightmare difficulty? If there was a sociological study showing anti-social behaviour increasing among online gamers, would the controlling factors of the study be under question or whether the sociologist’s World of Warcraft character had reached level 80?

The parallel with gaming is there to show that knowing the content of a subject is not an adequate resource to deal with questions not relating to that content. Knowing the back-story of Zelda universe does not make that person any bit qualified to answer questions on behaviour associated with playing the game. Theology won’t answer questions of individual behaviour, it won’t answer question of the wider social effects of group behaviour and how that has happened throughout history. The best way to study the inquisition is to look at the historical evidence, not the bible.

This really is to what this argument boils down. There is often an attempt to discredit anyone who dare suggest the idea of a concerned or even aloof creator is a faulty one. No, it isn’t good enough to say that the notion of a god doesn’t hold up very strongly under scrutiny; it is necessary that we fully understand the specifics of what man has written concerning this notion.

What does reading the bible actually tell us? It’s like any other piece of literature, it has a message that the author(s) intended. Those who are adept at literary analysis would see even further into the book and be able to understand the authors themselves. But for the layman, the bible is a chance to get immersed in the world of the mythology. They are able to emotionally connect with the characters involved and try to understand the motivations associated therein. In essence studying theology has the academic scholarship of studying Lord Of The Rings.

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote a masterpiece in the fantasy genre, it’s influence today is seen transcending literary fantasy and into the pop culture. Admittedly the adaption to the silver screen helped bring it into the consciousness of an otherwise ignorant mainstream, but it’s success still speaks volumes for it’s quality. It doesn’t stop there either, the appendices, and further books all bring Middle Earth to life and give it a complete mythology.

I personally would have chosen All Quiet on the Western Front, but to each his own. Even if it’s the great literary work that is the Bible.

About these ads

7 Responses

  1. For now we will forget that some of the greatest thinkers (and scientists) of all time, like Newton, Pascal, and Bacon were also theologians, and instead consider that all one needs to do is “look at neuroscience and psychology” or “sociology and history.”

    The reaity is that while these studies can help us determine what happened after the fact, they do nothing to shape us in terms of how we should behave in an every day fashion going forward. These studies won’t make one a better husband, or father, or care for those in need, or develop a basis for political equality, or comprehend the effect of human nature when developing a government.

    These studies themselves don’t motivate people to build hospitals, found universities, give up one’s own material wealth and ambitions to benefit those who have less,

    But having a right idea about man’s place and purpose in the universe can, and that is why the study of theology is beneficial.

  2. The study of philosophy can achieve that, too. But without the division for violence and bigotry and hatred.

    But the question is actually, “Does one need to be a theologian to criticize the notion of god(s)?” The answer is a certain no, literary criticism is unnecessary.

  3. The study of philosophy can achieve that, too. But without the division for violence and bigotry and hatred.

    Well, again great philosophical thinkers also often happen to be great theologians, and the fact that one studies or advocates a ‘godless’ philosophy is no guarantor that the philosophical beliefs proposed won’t lead to violence, bigotry, and hatred (Marxism anyone?).

    The fact is it’s rather undeniable that the abolitionism of Wilberforce, the ‘equal rights’ spoken of in the Declaration and the civil rights ideas of Martin Luther King all derived in part from certain theological notions – and that there really is no basis in a materialist philosophy for true equality.

    But the question is actually, “Does one need to be a theologian to criticize the notion of god(s)?” The answer is a certain no, literary criticism is unnecessary.

    That is rather like saying ‘does one need to be an economist to criticize art?’; it says nothing important about either the study of economics or art.

  4. Or ‘Does one need to be a level 80 World of Warcraft character to discuss video game behavior?’

  5. Or ‘Does one need to be a level 80 World of Warcraft character to discuss video game behavior?’

    See, I think the more pertinent question would be, ‘If one is a level 80 World of Warcraft character, shouldn’t one move out of their parent’s basement, get a job, and find a nice girlfriend?’ :)

  6. But having a right idea about man’s place and purpose in the universe can, and that is why the study of theology is beneficial.
    Who says theology can give a better indicator of this than any other discipline? Who says that theology can even give a coherent definition of this in the first place? Would a Christian theologian be able to give a better account than a Muslim theologian or a Hindu theologian? Would any of them be able to give a better account than a non-religious philosopher, or a philosopher with a strong grounding in biology?

    I would tend to think not. Theology is absurd because the core of theology is an unfounded assumption that has drastic consequences for man’s place in the universe. If they were able to demonstrate this assumption is true, then yes, I could see the merits. But that’s not what we see, and theology remains absurd philosophy with dangerous consequences.

    “Generally speaking, the errors in religion are dangerous; those in philosophy only ridiculous.” – David Hume

  7. Theology is arguing about what the emperor is wearing. In reality, the emperor is just naked.

Can I haz commentz?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 199 other followers

%d bloggers like this: