Monday, April 29, 2013

Theology: Queen of the Sciences

Theology was once referred to as "The Queen of the Sciences." The first universities were religious institutions and for centuries all learning started with an understanding of theology. Now, it would be arrogant to make this assertion today. On the other hand this saying is a good jumping-off point for what theology actually is. From a Christian perspective theology is the beginning of all reasoning. I'm telling you this because I have a second blog solely about theology. When I started blogging I wanted to keep my theological thoughts and my non-theological thoughts separate. From here on, they will be combined. For one, maintaining two blogs is a little inconvenient. Moreover it is inappropriate as this is a blog on my opinions and thoughts - things that are inseparable from theology.
Not this kind of Queen.

Theology on the most basic level is "thinking about God." Theos means God. -logy is related to talk, study and learning. Theology is related to studying, learning, and talking about God. The most widely accepted definition of theology is Anselm of Canterbury's "faith seeking understanding." What he means by this is one who has faith in God's existence, God's care, etc is seeking understanding about how this faith plays out in the world. Defining theology, however, is fairly difficult. Mainly because God is a controversial figure.

More like this one is Queen of the corgis...and commonwealth.
To begin with "studying God" is going to mean two vastly different things to atheists, theists, and even among theists. To an atheist, studying God is going to be like studying Shakespeare. You are looking at a topic and seeking to find out information about said topic. From this perspective studying God is in a tightly confined box. To a theist, on the other hand, it's much bigger. Of course, that depends on what kind of theist you are. As a Christian I believe God to be an omniscient being that created everything. Some other theists may believe different things about God or gods and that will change the way they look at theology. As a Christian who believes God created everything and has a hand in everything it follows that Theology has to do with everything.

To further complicate things, from the Christian perspective God is un-understandable. My favourite word for this is sublime. Sublime is something so big, awe inspiring, and powerful that your mind can't take it in and it is intimidating. My favourite illustration of this is Earle Birney's poem "Bushed." In this poem the character decides to move to a cabin in the woods but soon finds it to be overwhelming:

He invented a rainbow but lightning struck it
shattered it into the lake-lap of a mountain
so big his mind slowed when he looked at it

Yet he built a shack on the shore
learned to roast porcupine belly and
wore the quills on his hatband

At first he was out with the dawn
whether it yellowed bright as wood-columbine
or was only a fuzzed moth in a flannel of storm
But he found the mountain was clearly alive
sent messages whizzing down every hot morning
boomed proclamations at noon and spread out
a white guard of goat
before falling asleep on its feet at sundown

When he tried his eyes on the lake ospreys
would fall like valkyries
choosing the cut-throat
He took then to waiting
till the night smoke rose from the boil of the sunset

But the moon carved unknown totems
out of the lakeshore
owls in the beardusky woods derided him
moosehorned cedars circled his swamps and tossed
their antlers up to the stars
then he knew though the mountain slept the winds
were shaping its peak to an arrowhead
poised

And now he could only
bar himself in and wait
for the great flint to come singing into his heart


This is the sort of feeling that God evokes. As human beings that are less than God we can simply not understand God. Our minds would explode all over the place, or perhaps melt like in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Now, I should mention that I don't think God is wrathful this way. I like to think of this scene as if human beings were capable of understanding God this is what the resulting brain-overload would look like. Indie and Marion keep their eyes closed because they know they simply aren't capable of comprehending what they will otherwise see. I also happen to believe this is the feeling being drawn on when we say "God-fearing." It is not that God is something to be afraid of but rather that God is so powerful that the God-fearing person realizes the power of God and is a little afraid.
Does this mean he's PM of chemistry or something?

Of course, this isn't to say that we shouldn't try to understand God. Christians have a reputation for sticking their head in the sand. I'm pretty sure this is un-earned as it is simply a vocal minority that acts this way. As Christians we are supposed to be constantly striving for understanding. We should constantly be trying to understand how our faith plays out in the world around us. Faith seeking understanding. We won't arrive at understanding but we should constantly be seeking it. That's how we grow.

So from a Christian perspective, theology is indeed the root of everything. It is the root of science as this is a study of what God has created. The large hadron collider helps us to learn more about the thing God has entrusted to our care. The study of art is the study of the emotions and ability of expression that God has given us. This goes right down to things like your choices in the grocery store. Those are often choices of stewardship of God's creation. Environmental impact, self-impact, financial impact, impact on producers, etc. All these things trace back to God somehow.

So it is with this reasoning that I combine my two blogs. Thoughts about the church, God, and other spiritual "stuff" not only go together but belong together. This blog is dedicated to my thoughts and opinions and they will now be in once spot. So from here out I'll be transferring the few older posts here and this is where all future posts will be found.

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