What's important about theology

 

What's important about theology is that it works on 2 parallel puzzles:

(1) Can the human attain communion with God, and become identical with God?

and

(2) Can God exist within the universe?

Both of these questions are, as Kant would put it, antinomies. That is, any attempt at an answer, either yes or no, will lead to a contradiction. Or, as a pre-Kantian might say - and perhaps in some ways this is the better way of putting it - these two questions are different ways of asking the same fundamental question, and to answer this question either positively or negatively is to risk “heresy” (from hairesis, literally “choice”). To become a master of theology is thus to learn to walk along the razor's edge, not choosing one side or the other.

This skill, this mastery, is quite powerful, whether or not one believes in "God" in the traditional sense.  We could substitute the word "universality" or "the absolute" for God, here, and the skill has almost the same kind of applicability.  (Try it!  It's worth practicing.  Forming these kinds of questions is a bit difficult.  Here, I'll go first: could we ask something like, "Can human consciousness comprehend absolute truth?" or "Can an absolute exist within the universe?"  Okay, those were my first attempts, and I can already see problems with them - for instance, reducing the issue to "comprehending" the "truth" makes it sound a bit too narrowly focused on the factual, the logical, and the prosaic.  It leaves out bigger issues, like love.  You go next - I'm sure you can ask better questions than these.)  

The mastery of this skill is useful even for atheists: in fact, there exists a kind of atheist theology, or atheology - certain Hegelians, for instance, fall into this category.  (Hegel famously remarked that philosophy "has no other object but God and so is essentially rational theology.")  Similarly, this skill is useful for people who believe in many Gods, even if no single God is omnipotent, omniscient, or omnipresent - or if multiple Gods are!  Once again, they too can wrestle with the absolute.  The real issue is developing the skill of becoming a careful thinker.

Someone who has no experience in this field will almost always fall for rookie mistakes.  They may think they are avoiding theology altogether, but often they are simply doing bad theology, without realizing it.

For instance, someone who was inexperienced at wrestling with question (2), who set out to be an atheist, might either only deny God existing within the universe, or only deny God existing outside the universe.

Learning the skill, or knack, for theology is like this: at first, one is edging sideways along the razor, as above an infinite abyss, clinging to the blade by one's desperate, tender, bleeding fingertips.  As one gains strength, one can eventually learn to crawl along the razor by one's knees.  Then one fine day, one discovers to one's surprise that one is walking quite comfortably along the razor.  And eventually, one can learn to dance.

St. Thomas Aquinas was one such dancing master.

With enough practice, one can learn not only to dance on the edge of heresy, but to practice martial arts, incorporating jump kicks, backflips, and cartwheels into one's dance, dispatching rivals with the elegance of a ballet dancer.  One feels as confident on the razor's edge as on solid ground - more confident, even.  The consistori de Tolosa was founded in 1323 with the purpose of reviving the creative craft of lyrical poetry (that is, poetry to be performed on the lyre) of the Troubadours - a practice they called called gay saber in Provencal, or in Italian, la gaia scienza.  These dancing masters, and many others like them, held competitions for the greatest verbal dances, which gradually became even more popular than the gay blade of the fencing masters.  From their art was born romantic love.

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