Friday, October 12, 2012

A CRITIQUE OF THEOLOGICAL THINKING Theology is the study of (logos) God (theos), or, as some have defined it, “the science of things divine”. In broad terms it is the field of thinking which deals with the attempt to answer the age old questions: Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? Theology proposes that a creator/deity is responsible and then proceeds to supply much dogma to support the concept. To call theology “the science of things divine” seems to be an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. If science is the body of systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation (Webster), and things divine are concepts derived from myth or fantasy, there can be no conciliation of the two. Science does not deal in myth, and vice versa. To pretend that they do seems fraudulent. This difference in the technique of analytical thinking is the reason there can seldom be a constructive dialogue between people of faith and people of science. They begin with contradictory assumptions which make real communication impossible unless one or the other relinquishes his/her assumption. The person of faith admittedly believes in something that cannot be observed or demonstrated or replicated. The person of science does not believe this, but he cannot prove it is false. The result is an impasse which is not easily resolved. The best that can happen when two such minds meet is an agreement to disagree. Persuasion is out of the question, and any attempt at such quickly becomes harmful to the relationship. Some scientists, an apparent minority, try to handle this dilemma by compartmentalizing their thinking into that which is science and that which is theological. They claim that science and religion are simply two different methods of looking at life and are not to be mixed. Science will handle the physical, and religion (faith) will handle the non-physical. This way the questions are evaded but not resolved. We don’t have readily available, objective answers to the age old questions, but humans don’t cease to search whenever there is uncertainty. It is human nature to be attracted by those who have leadership skills and who profess to have knowledge to dispense and who pose as authority figures. Wherever uncertainty exists, there have always been some individuals who (a) think they have figured out some possible answers, and (b) benefit from peddling their solutions to the multitudes who will buy them--literally and figuratively. These peddlers become our theologians, and many have achieved popularity and acclaim both past and present. The demand for authority figures who could inform the masses as to the answers to the age old questions led to the establishment of colleges and institutions where such would-be authority figures could be trained. These are known as theological schools or seminaries, and their products are theologians and clergy. The establishment of temples, churches, mosques and synagogues over the past three millennia are the manifestation of the extent to which man will go in attempting to find answers. The fact that the founders of these religions each were convinced that they had the answers, yet were similar only to the extent that they each claimed one God, did not prevent them from creating different sets of dogma, ritual and myth. Each had its prophets who were idolized and deemed the ultimate authority, e.g. Moses/Abraham, Jesus, Mohammed, and more recently Joseph Smith and Mary Baker Eddy. Each of these claimed God-given knowledge as to the proper way to think and worship, and they prescribed specific behavior with regard to disciplining those who go astray or who are seen as heretics or infidels. Arrogance seems to be characteristic of such prophets, i.e. “God spoke to me, and I know------.”


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