Much of this post just went off by email to a blogging friend, a woman who is in a doctoral program combining theology and the practice of ministry. (I'm hoping she will clarify and permit me to be more precise). But I am developing an interest in this topic, so thought I'd share here.
I'm smack in the middle of an M.Div, program, making a (later than) midlife vocational change. I'm a lawyer and I'm a teacher, and was most of the way through an M.A. program in Humanities before switching to a seminary degree. In others words, I have mountains of graduate school and professional work behind me. I think that I could fairly assess myself as a reasonably intelligent person ~ no genius, and certainly little enough in the way of capacity for memory. But, you know, smart enough for most everyday tasks that do not involve tax returns or electrical wiring.
As anyone who's been reading knows, I have just slogged my way through a course in Christology with great difficulty. I had expected to love it and ~ I didn't. And it has been a very long time indeed since I have submitted an academic paper without a good idea of whether or not I had achieved the hoped-for goal ~ but a few days ago, I did just that.
A few days later, Quotidian Grace wrote an entry about a discussion in her church's adult education program on ~ yeah, you guessed it ~ Christology! Although they did not, apparently, identify it as such, that was, in fact, the topic at hand. And I began to wonder, as indicated below, why we are not better versed in these theological dilemmas. I don't expect that most of us would be able to solve them or anything like that; they have, after all, been wrestled with by the greatest minds within and without the church for two and one-half millenia (I'm including the Greeks and their debates over matter and being here). But how is it that the rest of us stay in that damn cave all the time?
Of course, I should speak only for myself. I often find myself envying my Jesuit friends their THREE YEARS of philosophy studies, but then I realize that I could not posibly have survived such training. I do wish, though, that we aimed just a little higher than we do.
My email to my friend (somewhat modified for blog purposes):
"I can't say that my Christology professor has soured me on theology. I would love to ascribe my limitations to him, and I have also considered whether the problem is this experience of unending heart-rending grief, which certainly has profoundly compromised my intellectual capacity.
But the truth is that I have never "got" Rahner, whom we have studied in my spiritual direction program and in whom I have read extensively, and I did not "get" Tillich in the course I audited this past quarter. I read Shirley Guthrie for my basic systemmatics course last year and it was barely comprehendable, and I consider that to be very basic reading indeed.
I think that I just do not have a mind intended for philosophic thinking. I've never understood any of the classical philosophers, either.
Now the reality is that I have a pretty good mind. If you could take it out and look at it, you would say, Hmmm, lots of capacity and very well trained. But -- oops -- this one little section is entirely mising.
I used to think that it was the part that in other people permits access to chemistry, but apparently it is a bit more expansive of a part!
Anyway, your program now is in theology and ministry or something of that sort, right? Making theology accessible to the body of Christ?
Maybe you can find a way in for people like me who run into one brick wall after another. Now I love Moltmann, what little of him I do get -- maybe you could write a study guide for Moltmann! If you aim for about a 6th grade level, perhaps . . . .
I'm not entirely joking. I would love to be able to understand the things I've read. "
Hmmm. Apparently some of my email was cut-off due to a little server glitch this morning. But it continued in this vein:
"I was so disappointed when I returned to church in my thirties, having taken for granted a high school Biblical studies education in which we were introduced to the historical-critical method, to discover pastors preaching as if Moses had written the Torah and no one in the pews could be expected to understand otherwise. Now I find that I am responding much the same way to what little I can grasp of theology. We have a 2,000 (plus)-year-old history of philosophy and theology behind us, and the general assumption seems to be that it is not within reach of the typical churchgoer, and that she wouldn't be interested anyway."
I'm not arguing for church to be transformed into a Ph.D. program in theology.
But it really is exasperating to realize how little of our tradition we share with one another.
And now . . . oh, honestly, I feel another post brewing, this one about my envy of my rabbi friends, whose theological education encompasses endless (and I mean that literally) debate over every topic under the sun. Even I could develop a tiny bit of understanding via a participatory rather than an open-brain-insert-lecture method.
But that's for another day.
Comments most welcome and encouraged!