Monday, May 29, 2017

What is theology?

Theology can be many things

1. Theology is the critical, objective inquiry into religion: its elements, its history, its function in society and culture, its forms and expressions. Theology uses the scientific method including imaginative conjecture, verification by evidence, and peer review. Some of the sciences theology uses are sociology, anthropology, linguistics, historical criticism, and paleontology.

2. Theology is an inquiry into the subjective dimension of religion. It explores human consciousness, the sense of the sacred, the notion of the "mysterium tremendum" and, the varieties of religious experience, the feeling of transcendence, the notion of spirituality and soul. Phenomenology and psychology are methods of eliciting and studying religion experiences through the reports of those who express these experiences.

3. Theology is the capstone of philosophy which attempts to understand the range, intention, and breadth of human existence on earth using the findings of science and weaving them into a coherent narrative to guide human behavior personally and socially. Philosophy speculates on the the mysteries or yet-to-be-knowns of human being in the world--including origins and purpose. Theology, as an extension of philosophy, is a way of life based on a vision of the universe and our place within it.

4. Theology is spirituality. It consists of insights from masters of spiritual awakening and growth to grow the human soul and character. It involves art and art criticism, literature, drama, music, poetry  sculpture, painting, dance--all of which are used by human beings to express moods, feelings, hopes, and ideas that reveal their aspirations, confusions, disappointments, loves, fears. and desires. It is the sense of transcendence moving beyond the mundane, ordinary language, and all beliefs including religion.

5. Theology is story-telling, the story of the universe and of humans' place within it. It is also the attempt to gather stories and their lessons into one story which can celebrate the diversity, individuality, and creativity of humanity while including all within it. It is a means. perhaps a vital, essential one, to keep the common faith, the relational love, and the hope in the future to preserve and  advance our species.

Actually, theology is all of these. And more. Literally, theology means study of divine beings, gods, higher powers, God. We humans have many understandings and expressions of divinity or the sacred. Some of these point to the environment outside, some to subjective experience, some to supernatural entities, others to the spirit within, some to the multiplicity of beings and others to the unifying relation among them, some to the past, others to the future.

The theology I accept maintains these tensions in our human existence. The one I reject attempts to resolve them in dogmatic beliefs or absolutes which turns its back on the creative imagination of the human adventure in knowledge and action. New theology explores the vibrant center of the tensions of existence without getting stuck on any of the poles of those tensions. New theology discovers and instigates the soul in matter, the sacred in the secular, the extraordinary in the ordinary, even the religious in religions, and the magic in the mundane.


God is alive; Magic is afoot
God is alive; Magic is afoot
God is afoot; Magic is alive
Alive is afoot.....
Magic never died.
God never sickened;
Many poor men lied
Many sick men lied
Magic never weakened
Magic never hid
Magic always ruled
God is afoot
God never died.
God was ruler
Though his funeral lengthened
Though his mourners thickened
Magic never fled
Though his shrouds were hoisted
The naked God did live
Though his words were twisted
The naked Magic thrived
Though his death was published
Round and round the world
The heart did not believe
Many hurt men wondered
Many struck men bled
Magic never faltered
Magic always led.
Many stones were rolled
But God would not lie down
Many wild men lied
Many fat men listened
Though they offered stones
Magic still was fed
Though they locked their coffers
God was always served.
Magic is afoot. God rules.
Alive is afoot. Alive is in command.
Many weak men hungered
Many strong men thrived
Though they boasted solitude
God was at their side
Nor the dreamer in his cell
Nor the captain on the hill
Magic is alive
Though his death was pardoned
Round and round the world
The heart did not believe.
Though laws were carved in marble
They could not shelter men
Though altars built in parliaments
They could not order men
Police arrested Magic
And Magic went with them,
For Magic loves the hungry.
But Magic would not tarry
It moves from arm to arm
It would not stay with them
Magic is afoot
It cannot come to harm
It rests in an empty palm
It spawns in an empty mind
But Magic is no instrument
Magic is the end.
Many men drove Magic
But Magic stayed behind
Many strong men lied
They only passed through Magic
And out the other side
Many weak men lied
They came to God in secret
And though they left him nourished
They would not say who healed
Though mountains danced before them
They said that God was dead
Though his shrouds were hoisted
The naked God did live
This I mean to whisper to my mind
This I mean to laugh with in my mind
This I mean my mind to serve 'til
Service is but Magic
Moving through the world
And mind itself is Magic
Coursing through the flesh
And flesh itself is Magic
Dancing on a clock
And time itself the magic length of God.
Written by Leonard Cohen, Buffy St.Marie • Copyright © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group

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