Sunday, March 15, 2009

Theological snapshot

I spent 29 hours this weekend listening to and talking with the leading liberal theologians of our time – and some darn smart up-and-comers. Here's what I learned:
  • We hate the status quo, but we're suspicious that new pathways won't lead to the change we want.
  • Our undeniable complicity in the suffering caused by the status quo prevents us from believing we can be an essential part of the change that's needed.
  • An excess of caution on our part is leaving the field open for people who are interested in movements first, ideas second.
  • We believe in nuance and complexity, but suspect that communication in those terms is doomed.
  • Although we are believers, it's easier for us to talk about theology than God, hermeneutics than scripture.
  • We know too much to speak in simple ways. Questions posed to us exist to be subverted rather than answered.
  • Yet our resources are far richer than those of our rivals, if we had the courage to use them.
  • It is hard to challenge the orthodoxy of our side that capitalism and individualism are evil through and through.
  • The academic guild makes it difficult to bring together in an egalitarian fashion established senior scholars whose work is well known and young promising scholars who, to the former, are unknown quantities. It's not that the older generation are unwilling to listen to the younger; it's that we are engaged in a new conversation, and it's easy for the older folks to simply pick up with each other's ongoing and familiar work.
  • Among the finest people on earth (not an exhaustive list) are Harvey Cox, Marjorie Suchocki, Tom Reynolds, Victor Anderson, John Thataminal, Dwight Hopkins, and Darby Ray.
  • The reason I am so enthusiastic about the American academy in the field of religious studies is its unceasing generosity and openness. This quality has only become more evident in the last twenty years, and it will never cease to amaze me.


Nathan Mattox said...

Thanks for your work giving those of us unable to attend a good idea of what happened at CST. I've been trying to see what questions were posed to the theologians and what their responses were. I submitted a video question, but don't know if it was used or not.
This is the first time I've come across your blog. I'll bookmark it to check in again. Are you a Hendrix prof? That's where I graduated a few years ago. Also a CST grad by the way. I look forward to reading more

Danny said...

Really appreciated these...

T said...

"Although we are believers, it's easier for us to talk about theology than God, hermeneutics than scripture."

Insightful. I notice much the same in my dealings with conservative theologians. Is this a pox on the hearts of the faithful in the Academy? Perhaps the theoretical is easier to deal with, thus we keep our distances from that with which we claim to be patterning our lives.

Anonymous said...

John's a friend of mine. He and his wife Lyn took good care of me when I was in Nashville for four months (by myself) after Katrina.