I have been doing a class on Practical Theology and struggling a bit, so am going to come back to this blog to explore some thoughts, ideas and invite reflection in comment. If you read this, and you have thoughts, please, comment.
Classical “Theology” is a “discourse on God” so sometimes generates a reaction among Unitarian Universalists; so let me ask this before embarking on a many varied exploration of theological ideas. Could you please define “God” in a way that works to establish general agreement among people of pluralistic faiths, so that we can narrow the field?
Yeah, I cannot do it either. There are those, such as Jose Ignacio Cabezon, who argue that “Theology” even with its root in “theo” or “God” is appropriate for Budhism, “”I take theology not to be restricted to discourse on God … I take ‘theology’ not to be restricted to its etymological meaning. In that latter sense, Buddhism is of course atheological, rejecting as it does the notion of God.” (Jose Ignacio Cabezon, ‘Buddhist Theology in the Academy’ in Roger Jackson and John J. Makransky’s Buddhist Theology: Critical Reflections by Contemporary Buddhist Scholars (London: Routledge, 1999), pp. 25–52.) Of course, we assume that the definition of “God” involves some form of directed intelligence; some idea that is embodied, as “I” which makes it separate from “Us” though even in biblical sources, we can argue that the phrase “I AM” as the name of God is certainly an experience which we all share; and taken metaphorically, perhaps “God” is more than a consciousness, a direction, maybe we can see “God” as potentially “Is” or all things that are.
That’s my working definition of “God” these days. All things that are. All concepts of things, all suffering, all love, all of creation, both the random elements that respond to gravitational forces and the metaphorical ideals that wander our minds and call us to our higher selves. This definition is by essence plural, it must include “non-God” as well as “God” because without the God of my relation, my mind, my heart and my identity, am I even here to debate God’s existence?
Nope, not the way I see it. This God has many voices, many identities, and shifts and changes with the times. S/He speaks out in the moments of public policy joy, like when Anderson-F’n-Cooper came out and when our senators show what real courage looks like, and S/He laments at moments of sorrow, like the horrible loss of the western fires here in the United States, and the many wars, death and hunger that plague our planet.
If that is MY OWN definition of “God” – a living embodiment of all that is – then tell me, in terms of “being-in-discourse” with God, when we attempt to make meaning of existence, when we attempt to understand our world, to explore its purpose, its identity, when that is our calling to Theology, to interpret the will of this “God” of mine.
So, you tell me; where would I bound that discipline of “theology?” If my God walks in all things, speaks through all trends, the economic, the physical, the emotional – then who am I to deny the use of the term “theology” because classically, it applied to just one instance, one vision of this “God” with whom I would speak?