Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Does Everyone (or Anyone) Have to Be a Theologian?

There was an excellent post on Rachel Held Evans' blog by an anonymous poster, entitled Will You Always Believe in Jesus, Mama? I heartily recommend the post. But what I want to talk about here is something that a commenter going by the name of "Littlepanchuk" said:

"As a philosopher, I feel compelled to point out that there is a huge difference between being a skeptic and never ceasing to ask questions. The skeptic believes that it is in principle impossible to find answers. The questioner as always searching for answers and is willing to admit that the one she thinks she has found may be wrong. The former involves a level of pride (e.g. 'I know that there are no answers out there'), while the second involves an certain amount of humility ('These questions are difficult, and I may not always get it right'). Though I don't have children, my goal for myself and for any children I have in the future is for them to be a questioner without falling into the pitfalls of skepticism."

My question is this: Why do I have to be continually looking for answers to theological questions? Can't I just enjoy life and the people around me?

I'll use the Conquest as an example. By the Conquest, I mean God's command that the Israelites slaughter every Canaanite man, woman, and child. Most of the apologetic defenses or explanations of the Conquest strike me as pathetically inadequate. So should I spend a vast amount of time and energy looking for some defense that works? Maybe I don't want to do that. Maybe no defense works, and defenses are a shabby attempt to smooth over what is not smooth. Perhaps the truth is that the ancient Israelites chose to marginalize an entire group of people, the way that other cultures, religions, and societies marginalize entire groups of people. If feeling this way makes me a skeptic, so what? If it makes me proud, so what? I certainly have not seen a lot of conservative Christians who are qualified to give me lessons on humility!

Why's life have to entail profound theological questioning and struggle? How do we even know that theology is based on something real? I suppose that a person could construct some elaborate doctrinal system about, say, Santa Claus, but why would it be pride if some people didn't see value in playing that game----in explaining how Santa can fit in the chimney, or why people visiting the North Pole have not come across Santa's home? Personally, I believe that there is a spiritual reality, but there are so many claims about it out there that I doubt that anyone can know who is right----at least not entirely.

Of course, I myself think about religion and theology. It's my interest, and it's what I hope to do as a profession. But why's it important to demand that everybody do so? And maybe I have other concerns than, say, justifying the Conquest. Maybe I'm interested in how to live a more fulfilling life, how to be patient, how to love others, etc.

2 comments:

  1. It seems to me that if you want to follow a religion based on orthodoxy (correct ideas) rather than orthopraxy (correct behaviour), then being a theologian comes with the territory.

    Which, I suppose, is why it's so much easier to be a secular Jew. Being Jewish isn't about having the right theology or believing the right things, but for many people, Christianity is.

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