Sunday, September 20, 2009

Theologians Defend Theology

The faith section of the Winnipeg Free Press has an article up today called, "Everyone can use a little theology," by  John Longhurst.  The article is a reaction to a recent letter to the editor attacking theology and agreeing with Richard Dawkins that it's a useless subject.  Longhurst invited theologians to reply, and the article excerpts several responses. 

First up is a the pastor of "St. Benedict's," apparently a Catholic, who quotes St. Anselm. He gives a pretty vague defense of theology, essentially saying that people of faith need "'words about God' ... to speak of what it means to be human."

Then we have a professor of theology & ethics at Providence Theological Seminary.  He puts forth the ever popular religious notion that we mere humans can't understand reality. Trusting science and reason is a "myth." I found that pretty amusing.

theology is of great help. It unsettles the notion that our world is what we make of it

Translation: let's not be bothered with actual facts and evidence. We should rely on religion instead. Next up is a professor of theology at Regent College. He goes for the full blown "theologists speak for God" approach.

Theologians tell us exactly what God promises to us, what God requires of us, and of what God warns us.
Apparently they talk to God all the time. He also throws in a gratuitous shot at Richard Dawkins, basically saying  he's going to hell because he didn't pay attention to theologians.

Last but not least is a professor of theology at the University of Winnipeg. He appears to subscribe to Stephen Jay Gould's nonoverlapping magisteria position.

"Scientists and theologians start with different materials but both use human reason to sort those materials into something that we can understand with the minds that we have been given."
The problem is that theologians are working with irrational material. That's why attempts to rationalize faith eventually break down. The author summarizes with these lines:
So, who needs theology? Maybe we all do, if we accept that theology is about asking the big questions about the world in which we live and what our purpose in it might be.
Obviously it doesn't take a theologian to ask "big questions." And there is no reason to assume that we have any purpose at all. Anyone can speculate about such things without relying on religious myth. Needless to say, I find these defenses of theology none too impressive.

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