What is a Theologian?
Plato, the renowned philosopher of the ancient world, taught a lesson in the infamous Allegory of the Cave. Imagine humans chained to the ground in a cave in which they can only look directly at a cave wall. Behind them burns a raging fire leaving a pathway between the flames and the chained humans. This fire casts shadows on the cave wall and the chained beings only live seeing these shadows. To these chained the shadows are reality until one escapes and goes outside the cave and is blinded by the sunlight. Seeing sky and grass for the first time they run inside and begin to tell everyone the “Truth.” Yet it cannot be the Truth, for truth is the shadows on the wall.
I suspect that the times we live in are not spent in a cave. Rather, we live freely in front of a mirror standing in awe of our own reflection. A nation of individual liberties and rights. The messianic Internet that can dispense facts the way an ancient Pez dispenser gave candy. An entire civilization that exists for the building up and articulation of the self’s ideas and values. Millions of radio stations, editorials, journals, television channels, podcasts, and schools to reinforce an individual’s ideas and motives standing center in the mirror. Everything that exists and happens occurs in relation and is second to the individual standing in the foreground. Is it any longer left to the imagination how an entire society can be so indifferent to the complete contempt for human life that is deemed inconvenient no matter the stage of development? Or how in the time of abundant material wealth many are so unhappy?
The theologian can be thought of as a highly-trained doctor of the soul. It is a theologian’s duty to make their way to an individual and disrupt their self-adoration with mercy. To turn their eyes from the illusionary mirror and to look at themselves and others with fresh amazement. To teach them to look and to see what they are and to recognize it as sacred. Then comes the work of guiding them through exercises to release the chokehold of slavery to material things. To teach them to breathe freely so they are a slave to nothing and can live freely according to the formation of their conscious. The final application of talents is to then teach how to look upon others as to who and what they are. Human beings, persons, are not ideas, tools, or pawns to be played. Just as one saint’s being radiates sacredness, so does every person in existence no matter how atrocious their behavior, or removed from society’s deeming of importance.
To achieve this a theologian must give their entirety to being a disciple of Truth. One cannot be a Feminist, Radical, Liberal, or Conservative theologian. If a title is before theologian then every word or communication is colored, politicized, classified and objectively is not pointing or leading to Truth. Everything becomes truth according to: feminism, science, biology, and political science. Yet, the theologian’s task is to be able to be competent in all fields so when a person, community, or nation inevitably falls short in their search for wholeness the theologian is prepared to begin treatment. What sets a theologian apart is that treatment has its beginning and end in love.
To be able to dispense love countless hours are spent listening to creation, reading history, biography, sacred texts, and meditation or prayer. Books are owned which consist of feminist writings all the way to human psychology and switch back to random books on birds in the Pacific Northwest. On the surface, it appears as if someone has given their life to randomness. Yet if you look closely you will find a person who has dedicated their life to equipping themselves for the best possible chance to raise everything to that magnificent base level of dignity called “holy.” To heal the wounds for a middle class white male in the United States of America isn’t going to work for an elderly woman in Azerbaijan. A theologian must know how to be in communion with and treat both.
It must be acknowledged that to be a theologian is to risk being a fraud. When a theologian acts I have asserted that the beginning and end of their actions must be in love. This love cannot be sourced and traced back to the theologian, it must go beyond them to whom they are disciples of. Isiah 26:12 reads “LORD, you will decree peace for us, for you have accomplished all we have done.” So it must be. All words and actions must be sourced from Truth and Love. This is the finality of what it is to be a theologian. When a person changes from their lives being nothing more than a self-reflection in a mirror to authentic encounters they must recognize that it was Truth and Love that set them free. Not a female or male theologian. It is the Lord that delivers.