What is Theology For?

June 13, 2016

Graham Tomlin, Bishop of Kensington, reflected on his participation in YCFC’s final consultation on the Future of Theology, the first series of consultations in the centers three-year project on the Theology of Joy & the Good Life on the Anglican Diocese of London’s website. He writes:

The premise we were there to discuss was that theology needs to re-think itself as the ‘secular’ world no longer listened to theologians (they don’t produce anything useful, scientifically verifiable or economically profitable) and church didn’t much either (churches being more interested in pragmatic leadership training and no longer read theological books). As a result, theology has tended to drift into the descriptive mode of ‘religious studies’ and lost interest in God. The suggestion was that theology should ultimately be about ‘articulating visions of human flourishing’.

Tomlin fundamentally endorses this approach, proposing a couple of important amendments, and puzzles out exactly what this means for the nature of theology itself:

The most interesting question concerned whether the goal of the theological enterprise was God per se or the Kingdom of God – what life looks life when God is king. I found myself increasingly drawn to the latter suggestion. Jesus says: “Seek first (not God, but) the Kingdom of God. The end result of all our journeying will not just be the beatific vision, being enraptured with the vision of God, with the implication that creation falls out of view. It is not in some Platonic sense finally to escape the body and physicality to embrace a spiritual contemplation of the divine, but instead we hope for a new heavens and a new earth. The pictures the Bible gives us of the end are very material – a feast, a new city descending from the heavens, a resurrected body – they indicate a new order of being, a new set of social relations. It is created life finally reaching maturity, healed of sin, bathed in the love of God, saturated with grace, a renewed creation.
So perhaps the vocation of theology is not just to describe God – although it is that – and certainly not just to describe human experience of God – but to describe God as he relates to us, and us as we relate to God (or more strictly, creation as it relates to God).

You can read the full article on the website of the Diocese of London.