Now, as it happens, theology is actually a pitilessly demanding discipline concerning an immense, profoundly sophisticated legacy of hermeneutics, dialectics, and logic; it deals in minute detail with a vast variety of concrete historical data; over the centuries, it has incubated speculative systems of extraordinary rigor and intricacy, many of whose questions and methods continue to inform contemporary philosophy; and it does, when all is said and done, constitute the single intellectual, moral, spiritual, and cultural tradition uniting the classical, medieval, and early modern worlds. Even if one entirely avoids considering what metaphysical content one should attach to the word “God,” one can still plausibly argue that theology is no more lacking in a substantial field of inquiry than are history, philosophy, the study of literature, or any of the other genuinely respectable university disciplines.
Moreover, theology requires far greater scholarly range. The properly trained Christian theologian should be a proficient linguist, with a mastery of several ancient and modern tongues, should have formation in the subtleties of the whole Christian dogmatic tradition, should possess a considerable knowledge of the liturgies, texts, and arguments produced in every period of the Church, should be a good historian, should have a thorough philosophical training, should possess considerable knowledge of the fine arts, should have an intelligent interest in such areas as law or economics, and so on. This is not to say that one cannot practice theology without all these attainments, but such an education remains the scholarly ideal of the guild. And, as Stoner rightly notes, the absence or near-absence of theology from the general curriculum has done incalculable harm to students’ ability to understand their own fields. This is perhaps especially—or at least most obviously—true in the case of literary studies; but, in fact, it would be hard to name a discipline outside the hard sciences or mathematics that can be mastered adequately without some degree of theological literacy.
The more that I study theology, the more aware of my limitations I become. Being persuaded that over-specialization is an especially dangerous tendency within this field (above all others) and seeking to keep my studies as broad as possible, I continually find myself frustrated by my inability to attain to the level of scholarship that I believe that the discipline demands of me. Theology calls for a degree of personal commitment, intensity of focus and dedication and investment of life that I feel utterly incapable of. Occasionally I wonder whether I should be doing something entirely different; Theology demands more than I can give. However, despite my frustration with my incapacity, I know that no other discipline could inspire me in the same way.
The last several months have been particularly unproductive and I have failed to meet a number of the targets that I have set myself. I am firmly persuaded that the coming years will prove crucial in my personal development and for the standard of my continuing studies. Whilst I know that I do not have what is required to be a great theologian, I wish to be the best that I possibly can be. Over the next few months I hope to progress beyond the haphazard and indisciplined character that my studies have had to this point, to cease to be a dabbler and become a true scholar. I must address my deep-seated slothfulness and bring my somewhat mercurial temperament under a greater degree of control. I am uncertain as to the direction that this blog will take and the part, if any, that it will play in my future plans. I would appreciate all of your prayers over the next while.