There are far more theologians in the world than we might think there are. The requirements to be a theologian are simply an effort of the head and heart to make sense of life. Some do so by saying there is a divine essence behind the curtain of what we can see and know and experience; some say there is no Creator and what we call spiritual is nothing more than our consciousness reaching beyond its limitations, imagining the unimaginable in order to bring order and explain what is beyond the mind to comprehend. No matter which approach or which perspective, or anywhere along the continuum between the two, there are a lot of theologians.
Even children are theologians, perhaps the best because of their natural wonder and acceptance of things that are beyond their capacity to explain rationally. Children innately are theologians because their hearts are usually still wide open to trust—unless they have experienced some reason to be distrustful already, something tragic and terrible, and unfortunately too common. For those children who are still trusting, they are remarkably profound in their insights and acceptance of the holy and sacred that sparkles in everything and everywhere. According to words identified as Jesus’, this child-like faith is even identified as necessary for entering the kingdom of heaven. Child-like is different than childish. Childishness has nothing to do with entering the kingdom. Child-like points to the willingness to accept something rich and necessary for living life fully, without earning it or even being able to comprehend or explain it; child-like is the inherent necessity of trusting—like the infant that is fed at the mother’s breast or the toddler that reaches to the parent knowing they will be lifted and embraced.
For those who are identified as theologians—those who have earned degrees or some form of credential that the world accepts as necessary for being a theologian, then words and descriptions and explanations are well-honed and crafted. Being a theologian, however, is not the same thing as being faithful. A theologian can be fluent in theology and capable of expressing in words truths that are teased out of ancient and contemporary texts and experience, but faith is the practice, sometimes unknowingly, of what theology only points toward.
Essentially, theology is the practice of explaining the inexplicable; creating containers for that which cannot be contained; describing that which is beyond description. In essence, it points us toward that which cannot be reached, but also lets us know that the mystery of that which cannot be reached is that it does what we cannot do: it reaches out to us and holds us. In this, we understand in a way that explanations can never explain, just as any definition of love falls short of the experience of being loved and out of that, loving.
© 2016 Stephen R. Carl