Friday, September 17, 2010

Questions Concerning the Contemporary Role of the Theologian in America

In contemporary America it seems there are two perfectly bifurcated roles for the station of theologian: holding court as a kind of absolute authority for all questions of vital religious and existential importance, or an assumed irrelevance of such totality that the very notion of theological engagement is laughable.

Whether this is a sorry state of affairs to be lamented or a gift to be celebrated and maintained, likely depends on ecclesial commitments and one's vision of the theological task in relation to church and world. But regardless of preference or conviction, can there actually be a third way in late modern societies? That is, is this situation something worth striving against, something capable of being resisted, even if it is not to be welcomed or endorsed?


  1. I would guess that many theologians in the US (in small, private liberal arts schools) have the job title of 'maintainer of the status quo' for the already decided upon theology of the administration, or board of trustees, or the interested donors, or the interested parents of students, or the larger denomination. They are neither an authority nor are they irrevelant, but are actually too important to have that much independence of thought. I don't mean to sound cynical or snarky, but I think that many theologians in Christian colleges and universities have this extra burden that might not affect faculty members in math or nursing departments.

  2. I'm sort of hoping that third way is the task of theologian that striving against though I just finished Hannah's Child and Hauerwas has rejected accommodation and irrelevance, and retained a place of respect despite striving against. I think it was Grenz who said the task of the theologian was the strike a balance between kergyma, heritage and culture.