Thinking theologically is the first leadership theme that we’re treating in our course on History, Theology, and Contexts. At the same time, we’re thinking about the history of early “Christianity.” No doubt, the early Church thought theologically. As we’re applying this theme to leadership, I think it’s important that we not lose sight of the fact that while thinking theologically is essential for us as being future religious leaders, that we are also aware that theology can also be a harmful discourse.
For instance, our discussion is going to include the topic of canon formation. We don’t think about the fact that the formation of the canon was a means of excluding people from the fray. By saying that ‘one should not add, nor take away’ from x, what we are really doing is limiting acceptance of people who do add or do take away. Deuteronomy is the earliest book of the Bible to give a sort of canon formula. In doing so, it is not simply attempting to make sure that people adhere to the Deuteronomic Torah but also to delegitimize those who fall outside of its pedagogical walls. The irony is that Deuteronomy itself is a product of both adding and taking away. Its authors are essentially doing the exact thing that they do not want others to do. Canon is a form of defining identity and as such, is usually tantamount to a form of discursive violence.
Theology as well, has been used to shape identity but it has also been the cause of violence. The theological thinking of the early church bred later anti-Judaism and anti-Judaism bred later anti-Semitism. It’s not to say that the Church is inherently evil. We cannot fault the early Church for the afterlife of its writings, when it was one of the many sects competing to be the biblical Israel. At the same time, thinking theologically, especially within a leadership aspect, must be viewed with the utmost humility and must acknowledge how theology is not universal but culturally contingent. I think we also have to view theology less in terms of a deposit and more as something that evolves, something that is dialogical. As long as we can see theology as a process, I think it can have a positive impact.
Then again, it’s 1am and I am beginning to ramble. How does this sound?