Tuesday, November 06, 2012
Theology is for Fishermen and Barbers, and the Unemployed
Call me an "old liberal" if you must but I think theology is too important to be left to theologians, at least academic theologians. I am one of those people who rather admire the theological schools of Alexandria that made theology such a popular subject that fishermen ranted theological sea shanties and barbers discussed Homoiousios and Homoousios whilst applying a sharpened razor to their clients throat. I happen to go along with "A theologian is one who prays, and one who prays is a theologian." I believe in theology for all.
The problem for all theologians can be they often appear be "straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel". Both for those outside the Church and those inside what most theologians have to say is irrelevant.
One of the disappointing post-Concilliar developments is a type of destructive elitist academic theology that seems to want to exclude the fisherman and barber from theology. I say this because one of my parishioners, who does pray and therefore is a theologian, was called theologically illiterate by a priest. When theology is no longer there for fishermen and barbers, and the unemployed too, it becomes a type of self serving masturbatory activity that belongs an in-group. It is contemptuous of the the faith of the ordinary man or woman in the pew. Rather than building their relationship with Christ and His Church it tends to destroy it. It places itself in opposition to the vast swathe of Tradition. Rather than being about faith seeking understanding, it becomes personal opinion seeking a platform.
Since the time of the Apostles there has always been a tension between the charismatic gifts and hierarchic gifts, the obvious example is St Paul trying to regulate those speaking in tongues. In the Didache (if it is really from the early 2nd cent) there are the prescriptions regulating prophets, and then a little later Ignatius of Antioch demanding all is to be regulated by the Bishop. Various early heresies especially Montanism and Marcionism but also Gnosticism seemed to establish a charismatic elite, with their particular and special knowledge, that broke away from the Church, the faith of fishermen and barbers, and the unemployed.
The theology of the Catholic Church is clear and accessible to all, it is not the babble of Babel, nor the squealing and hysterical self justification of those who present their own magisterium as being on a par with that of the Church. It is ultimately about such basics as salvation and evangelisation. It is the servant of the Church not its master. The esoteric nature of much contemporary theology is a sad reflection on so many of the elite and effete within the Church who see their role as being about destruction of faith rather than building it.
There should be no uncertainty in our understanding of Catholic orthodoxy, it is a certain path not a meandering marginal musing, it is something that belongs to us all, including fishermen and barbers, and the unemployed, the only theological illiterates are those who are untouched by the Spirit that reverses Babel and stop their ears to the voice that calls us into communion with Peter.
Posted by Fr Ray Blake