Saturday, November 12, 2011

On Becoming a Theologian

So I read this article that a guy named Bruce Bethke put online, called On Becoming a Writer Those who know me know he had a hand in coining the term "cyberpunk," having made it the title of a short story about teenage computer hackers back in the 1980s. But he also wrote this, on his website, which I thought was fairly good. I also feel that if you substitute "theology" for "literature," and "theologian" for "writer," it functions pretty well.

Friend of the blog Catholic Nick is one such example. I had lunch with an old youth pastor the other week and he had brought Nick to mind by mentioning the notion that a theologian is defined by what one does, not one's training. As a theologian I have more 'formal' training than he does (Nick, not said pastor who is a Ph.D to trump my B.A.), but he is, in some ways, a better theologian than I am. In trying to work out what to believe as a Catholic he's read...many more sources than I including numerous papal documents. In trying to work out how and why the Church teaches what it does about the Scriptures, and in order to be able to better respond to Protestant criticisms of Catholic doctrines, he's always reading various Scripture scholars.

Granted there's something to be said for learning about the scholarly consensus on given issues in college, a consensus only proves so much; the only real relevant dis-analogy I can see here is that there's not necessarily a scholarly consensus on what makes literature in general good, though certain topics in theology have a consensus that helps render arguments more or less tenable. That said, I think theologians sometimes overstate the importance of the consensus, and that perhaps this can be a way of avoiding the better arguments and thoughts of people like Nick, who do more and possibly better theologizing than half the professional field.


Anonymous said...

I suppose it depends which consensus you're talking about. The consensus of modern theologians teaching at universities? Should be considered, but not necessarrily important. The consensus of the Father? Essential. The consensus of the popes, the councils, and the saints? Essential. More essential than good arguments, even.

M.A. Schmitz said...

Some of it has to do with what the consensus is based on, I think. In other words, why is there a consensus? Because of historical facts or because of interpretations of those facts currently in vogue, or other ideological considerations?

Part of the problem, I think, is that the historical facts are not widely available- you have to go digging through materials that only major research libraries have. This makes it harder to sort out the interpretations of scholars from what is verifiable at times.

Post a Comment

Feel free to join the conversation!

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.