Good Theologians

Assumed audience: Theologically-orthodox Christians, or folks interested in things that theologically-orthodox Christians think.

[Fostering] the practice of Christian theology will involve the cultivation of persons with specific habits of mind and soul. It will involve culture” in the sense of formation. To put the matter in its simplest and yet most challenging form: being a Christian theologian involves the struggle to become a certain kind of person, one shaped by the culture of Christian faith. But once again, this is not some sort of unproblematic, passive socialization into a world of already achieved meanings and roles. It is above all a matter of interrogation by the gospel, out of which the theologian seeks to make his or her own certain dispositions and habits, filling them out in disciplined speech and action. Such seeking is painful; as a form of conversion it involves the strange mixture of resistance and love which is near the heart of real dealings with the God who slays us in order to make us alive. Good theological practice depends on good theologians; and good theologians are — among other things — those formed by graces which are the troubling, eschatological gifts of the Holy Spirit.

 — John Webster, The Culture of Theology, pp. 45 – 46

I come back to this theme often, not only in reading this book but in theological reflection in general. What kind of theologian are you (am I)? To be a theologian is not merely to be someone who studies the ideas of theology; it is to be someone who encounters the subject of theology. And there can be no such encounter which does not transform us.

But Webster’s way of putting it describes that transformation rightly: it is not some kind of generic transformation into being better than we were before, not just enlightenment or expansion of one’s mind. It is dying to self and being made alive in Christ. That is good news, but it is not easy news. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”