In no area has the demise of the expert been felt more deeply than in that of the theological enterprise. It seems as if the very thought of theology invokes the idea of special channels of divine communication. So much so that Miriam and Aaron’s question echoes throughout the millenia: “Has the LORD spoken only through _____?”
For a long, long time theology has been a two tier process. On one side you have a few who create theology (claiming special access to the divine) and on the other side you have the many (masses) who consume it (in an act of obedience). This chasm has been maintained due to the fact that the creation of theology relies on one’s ability to think theologically. Understanding theology, as difficult as it might seem to be should not be confused with thinking (creation of) theology. It is merely indoctrination: pushing a doctrine (a certain view of a particular concept) as the ultimate reality, without people realizing that. This has been accomplished by rhetoricians (those who know how to effectively persuade people).
- To create theology one has to have the ability “to think outside the box” and to do that one needs a point of reference, exposure to an outside perspective, different from the current system.
Until recently, this exposure has been stifled. Institutions have been constructed to ensure the perpetuation of certain systems of belief and resistance to others. Those who attempted to imagine theology outside the system were labeled, pejoratively, heretics. People were trained (unfortunately, still are) not to think theologically but to master a certain theological system (depending on the tradition they found themselves in). Until recently, that is … because from the dynamic Wikipedia, to blogs, to online articles, to podcasts, to instant knowledge of pretty much any book ever written and on and on, Google search algorithm has exposed us to an unprecedented diversity of views on any given subject. This is a jumpstart into developing our theological thinking. While this exposure does not instantly make people into theologians, it has definitely helped in the formation of a culture where “the heretic” has been recast into a visionary, pushing us forward by challenging the status-quo.
Furthermore, with help of Google, creation of theology is beginning to change from the activity of a privileged few into a participatory effort where everybody is welcomed. The instant feedback dramatically impacts the creative process so much so that theology is not left to be a solo game anymore, but is enriched by live interaction of diverse perspectives. This being still a fairly new reality, the systems and mechanisms for accomplishing this are constantly perfected. The ball is rolling and is gaining ground! As more and more people are encouraged to participate into the theological process, hopefully theologians will be willing to forgo their own theologies and help people think theologically. I hope a new generation of theologians will come who will help facilitate and encourage the ongoing creation of a theology shaped by everybody in the community (be it local, cross-cultural, global).
.We need to be familiar with the theology of those gone before us not to know “what” to believe, but to learn “how” to believe.