Tuesday, October 28, 2008

On being a (Scriptural) Theologian

One of the really odd things that struck me when I left the little pond known as the Lutheran Church of Australia for the big ocean of the Catholic Church was how often I came across Scripture scholars teaching in our Catholic institutions who would begin their address by saying "I'm not a theologian, but..."

Que? That didn't compute with my Lutheran theological education. When I did my humble Bachelor's degree in Theology, I did two years each of biblical Hebrew and Greek. This was followed up by at least three exegetical studies in each of Old and New Testament books. Suffice it to say, that "Sola Scriptura" meant that even in Dogmatic (or what was known as Systematic) Theology, the first qualification was to be a Scriptural theologian.

So what gives? Why have Catholic Scripture scholars universally given up the right to call themselves "theologians"? This is the very essence of an issue raised at the current Synod of Bishops on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church - by no less a personage than the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, himself:
Where exegesis is not theology, Scripture cannot be the soul of theology and, vice versa, when theology is not essentially the interpretation of the Scripture in the Church, this theology has no foundation anymore.

Therefore for the life and the mission of the Church, for the future of faith, this dualism between exegesis and theology must be overcome. Biblical theology and systematic theology are two dimensions of the one reality, what we call Theology.
And the bishops have listened! The new propositions have taken this issue very seriously in four of the propositions:
25. Need two levels in research exegetical
26. Enlarging the prospects of the current study exegetical
27. Overcoming dualism between theology and exegesis
28. Dialogue between exegetes, theologians and pastors
As soon as a proper English text is available, I will put up some of this material.

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