Augustine, the theologian
1. Actually, there is no such thing as a theologian, anymore than there is such a thing as a Christian. Theologians are not solitary creatures. Theology is the outcome of good conversation, the conversation of friends. Though – the rabies theologorum – you could be forgiven for thinking the opposite! Which is why, in the interest of world peace, it is probably wise that theological conferences are held infrequently. Theologians are like horse manure: all in one place and they stink to high heaven; they are best spread around.
2. “Theology is not free speech but holy speech” (John Webster). The theologian is a servant of the word: in multi-logue with other theologians, she thinks about what God has told us in the Bible. Thus – but only thus – is she also a servant of the church, creatura verbi Divini. The theologian tests the church’s preaching and teaching, and the work of other theologians, to keep them honest, i.e. to ensure that they are about the love and grace of God.
3. The theologian, therefore, is not an academic but an ecclesiodemic. He may work in a university but he is not of the university. He must be multilingual, but he must remember that his hometown is Jerusalem, not Athens. So he must hang loose to criteria of academic respectability. Submission, for example, to the idea that theology must never be homiletical, or that a theologian should not begin a lecture with prayer, suggests a Babylonian captivity. To switch biblical geography, the theologian must not hanker after the fleshpots of Nile College. Read More…