Human Qualities of the Theologian
The task of the theologian is that of utter responsibility and the necessity of having a connection to his church and the world outside of it. It is definitely not a task for the faint of heart. Among the many intricate and often overlapping tasks of a theologian is the necessity of fostering a sense of understanding with faith and theology. "Christians want to understand what they believe, what they can hope for, and what they ought to love" (Migliore, 2004). Thus, while Christianity is able to have trust and obedience in the hope and love of God, theology has to struggle with some of the more difficult issues connected to this journey, via reflection, inquiry and the pursuit of truth (Migliore, 2004). Thus, the theologian must pursue truth and keep asking questions while instilling his work and his journey with a certain amount of human qualities which are able to sustain him and connect him with his congregation.
The expert Johann-Baptist Metz, believes that the modern theologian has three primary duties: "to protect the narratives from distortion, to decode dogmas into once again dangerous memories, to use methods of inquiry that highlight the political" (Tynan, 2014). The first duty is more than just communicating the lessons of the Bible; rather, the first duty revolves around that along with the necessity to keep alive the stories of those who came before us (Tynan, 2014). "By helping the present generation remember past sufferings, the theologian helps prevent society from falling into the trap of bourgeois religion. If society is not mindful of its past failings living out its ideals, what will prevent it from failing again? It is the role of religion in society to constantly challenge its members to live better" (Tynan, 2014). Thus, one of the very human qualities that a theologian needs to bring to his modern-day congregation, is the ability to be in touch with both the present and future: preventing religion from becoming a justification for a static social order that preaches values, but does not hold people to the task of living out those important values. "Thus the theologian must be a guardian of true religion and not let it become complacent. Both context and subtext of theology presume certain social and economic values: they are political" (Tynan, 2014).
If one looks at the second duty of the theologian, there's the decoding of dogma: Dogma refers to the truth held in common by all participants of the congregation and of the larger community of faith (Tynan, 2014). Decoding dogma is no small endeavor: if the dogma is misinterpreted, it can breed hate and create a sense of archaic sensibilities allowing certain members of society to be marginalized. There is a certain level of truth which is apparent in all religious dogma, but it needs to be interpreted and understood correctly so that members of the community use it to inform and improve their lives, rather than distort or subjugate their lives. Making dogma more accessible to the human condition means the theologian must: "help dogma touch our human experience and situation; tell the stories of how it has been lived in the Past; shape our hope for a future" (Tynan, 2014). The responsibility of interpreting dogma correctly is connected to the imperative role of the theologian challenging others to live their faith in an authentic manner. The theologian Metz harnesses the idea of a cloak to explain the human habit of failing to act out actively in one's faith: believing in compassion but not acting in a compassionate manner is directly linked to a lifestyle of apathy (Tynan, 2014). If one believes in such things, then it is one's duty to live them out in a consistent and meaningful manner.
Finally, the third responsibility of the theologian is to engage in a certain level of consistent theological reflection and to not forget that theology still has a certain political element to it. All theology has a melee of threads of our political, economic, and social world, in connection with the fully human life. Too many theologians are willing to take shortcuts within the theological journey: some of these shortcuts are quite engaging and clever, and some might applaud these short cuts, but in reality, the shortcuts...
Thus, one still has the responsibility of "running the race" in order to succeed as a theologian. "The race we must run in concrete human history, a history loaded with suffering, mistakes, sweat of real world. Too many theologians try to pull a trick of cunning, winning in theory or in advance as if Jesus gets us off the hook of acting the world. They will write about how people ought to live their lives without really living life themselves. This criticism is aimed at those who take the articles of faith and develop them rational within their minds instead of seeing how they should be lived out in the current age" (Tynan, 2014). Thus, part of the work of the theologian and the human quality that must be possessed is not only an understanding of the world at large, but an understanding of the suffering which is an indelible part of life: this means that the theologian also has an obligation to run the race as well. "In this way theologians live up to the exhortation of I Peter 3:15: 'Be prepared to give an account of the hope that is in you'" (Tynan, 2014).
One could also assert that another quality that a theologian needs to have is an ability to understand the faith and a commitment to furthering that understanding each day. In this sense, it is comparable to the way in which teachers need to foster an understanding of what they will teach before the stand at the head of the classroom, theologians also need to be crystal clear on exactly what they do and do not understand, so they can engage in theological work fully and completely.
Likewise, just as the theologian needs to be clear on exactly what he does or does not believe, and his unique understanding of these elements, there still needs to be an admission by the theologian of the mysteries of faith, religion, a higher power and of the universe at large. Consider the following: "If faith went unquestioned by human intelligence, if of itself it could maintain and transmit itself without the obligation of entering into debate with whatever considers it from the outside or criticizes it or distorts it, there would certainly be no need for theology: faith would be self-sufficient" (Dore, 2003). On the other hand, if faith were actually a revolt against the intellect and all connected activity, and if it were needed to make a sacrifice, then theology wouldn't be necessary, as all those things such as a strength of devotion and genuine emotion would be more overwhelming. There tends to be a trend to make faith and theology more of an intellectual endeavor than a spiritual one. "The fact must be acknowledged that, at least in western theology, there has been an increasing tendency for some centuries to confine theology to intellectuality. It can even be said that modern theology has come more and more to consider reason and enlightenment as its principal if not its only companion" (Dore, 2003). The problem with this is multi-fold: number one, theology can't and shouldn't be confined strictly just in reason and in deduction: with a properly spiritual dimension of faith, the mystical is too easily lost (Dore, 2003). Many theologians have notices how this day and age marks a certain gap between current theology and prayer and other spiritual experiences (Dore, 2003). "The conclusion is inescapable that, if it is the responsibility of theology to be accountable for faith, this implies that every theologian today must make or remake room for the properly spiritual dimension of faith" (Dore, 2003). The theologian thus must have the human quality which seeks to resist the desire to explain everything away, and which resists the desire to seek an answer for some of the more mystical aspects of faith. In reality, the theologian must have the very compelling human quality which attempts to understand all the nuances of faith and the interconnected mysteries, along with a willingness to accept everything that one cannot change or adapt.
Another human quality that the theologian really must cultivate in terms of his faith and in terms of his connection with other people, is the desire to acknowledge human fears and tendencies, and to foster ways to provide comfort to human beings. One major fear that humans have had since ancient times has been a fear of death. "The human longing for consolation in the faith of death may be traced back to classical times. Perhaps the most distressing aspect of death is that of separation --…
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