Monday, 21 March 2011

What makes a theologian

Roland Boer has posted in the last fortnight about the credentials of Scott Stephens*, the online editor of the ABC's Religion And Ethics portal, and a recent interviewer on ABC's Compass. Clearly, there's some bad blood between Roland and Scott, and I don't really want to get involved in what is probably best left between those two.

But it makes me ask myself the question, "What really makes a theologian?" I know I think of myself as an amateur theologian, so the question is quite personal to me.

In one sense, any words about God are theo-logy; and anyone who does this over a sustained period could be called a theologian. But this opens the gate for a lot of bad theology. Maybe we should require formal qualifications, but I'm sure any student of theology has encountered well-qualified theologians that we think are doing bad theology. Is bad theology a good enough reason to call it non-theology?

On the other hand, are there some unqualified people who actually do good theology? Probably. I'm sure there was a time before qualifications in which people did good theology, so there's no reason that it can't happen again.

Maybe the proof of the pudding is in the eating. In other words, as long as the theology is good I'm not fussed about the qualifications; with the strong qualifier that the process of attaining qualifications should be the right training for a person to produce good theology. It's a probability game: qualifications are more likely to result in good theology, but it's no guarantee either way.

So then we have to ask; what makes good theology?


* I should also confess that I know Scott and studied in his classes about eight years ago. I'd call him a friend that I've not seen for a number of years. I don't know Roland, but I usually enjoy reading his blog and have one or two snippets of his writing in my library.
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