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Thursday, November 29, 2007
  How do "theologians" think?
Nichthus in Teaching theology: What's the microcosm? Quotes Parker Palmer
(1997:123):
We honor both the discipline and our students by teaching them how to think like
historians or biologists or literary critics rather than merely how to lip-sync the conclusions others have reached.
Which as Nichthus recognises raises, for teachers, the question: How do theologians think? I'm delighted that in seeking to answer this he returns to my favourite description of theology, Anselm's "Faith seeking understanding". In the light of this what theologians do is seek to understand (life, the universe and everything) as believers.

However, this is where it gets tricky, especially in the world of traditional academic theology. For as the discipline has grown and developed it has "evolved" several strikingly different specialities. In theology as academic discipline a "(systematic) theologian" seeks understanding differently from a "practical" theologian, and neither follow the same paths in their search for wisdom and understanding as a biblical "scholar"! Life is totally different in the real world. The neat corridors in the academy that one follows in the search for understanding are not like the winding paths and thickets of the forest of life in which we (whether "theologians" or "lay" - what a daft distinction, as if the untrained punter in the pew does not do theology!) are confronted by experience with requires our faith to "understand" it.

Please do not understand me wrong, I do not mean that the techniques and tools my discipline can offer to faith (all the methods and techniques that generation after generation of Bible readers in academy and church have struggled to develop, and now also adding some of the tools that secular readers of secular texts have added to the arsenal) are unnecessary. Students if they are to become competent readers of the Bible still need to recognise the genre of a passage, still need to listen to how others have read it... Discipline skills and knowledge are not unnecessary, they are vital. But, they are not the core of what a "theologian", qua theologian, does.

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