By Fr. Roy Cimagala
IT WAS gratifying for me to note that in a number of articles in newspapers and magazines recently, the role and relevance of theology in understanding current issues is increasingly felt.
For example, there was a review of a book entitled, “Blind spot: when journalists don’t get religion,” a collection of essays about news stories with prominent religious components which were not given due treatment by the reporters.
I just hope the awareness of such “blind spot” will trigger a systematic effort on the part of journalists to study theology more seriously. In fact, the duty to study theology is incumbent on all of us, since we cannot avoid theologizing.
We need to at least explain, if not transmit, beliefs to others. For Christians, we need to give reason for our faith, hope and boundless charity. And this is what theology does.
Besides, at present when we feel the growing need for dialogue among different cultures and religions, we realize we should have some working knowledge of theology to discuss things with depth in the world of public opinion.
In fact, we should try to stay away from the stage of being a mere amateur or dilettante in dealing with questions and problems nowadays. The issues in the world theater now demand a deeper and wider approach. We have to graduate from the song-and-dance routine. And theology can bring things to another level.
Yes, it’s true that while there are forces that tend to make the world more secularized, freed from elements of God and religion, there are also influences that tend to reinforce people’s faith and beliefs. In either case, theology is needed for us to get a good understanding of these developments.
I personally feel happy that this growing public interest in theology is taking place. For long, we have been neglecting this. The new development only shows how the world of faith and religion, one way or another, sooner or later, has influence even on our mundane and temporal affairs.
I believe that theology plays a very important role in understanding and resolving our current issues, even those that seem to have strictly natural dimensions. Our faith has something to say about them, if not directly, then indirectly. It just cannot be ignored.
But for all that, we need to know the true nature and purpose of theology. For sure, theology is not a social science that mainly if not purely takes on social developments. It’s not as much about us as it is about God. It’s not essentially a natural science since it deals with supernatural truths and mysteries of faith.
Understanding theology that way would contradict and undermine theology itself. It will give out doctrines detached from their proper moorings. Morality will turn to moralism. Dogmas to dogmatism. Religion can spawn bigotry and fanaticism. Theology ends up rootless and headless.
Theology has to be animated by a living contact with God. It just cannot be an exercise of reason alone wanting to understand religious phenomena, or to explain certain spiritual experiences. It has to develop in the milieu of prayer and personal relation with God. In theology, reason has to flow with faith.
Of course, theology can engage and should embrace all human concerns. But this should be done in the context of their relation to God. In short, God has to be the beginning, end and center of theology.
Though we may not be able to clearly establish the connection, or worse, that we can come out with a wrong nexus, the effort to link things with God should be an abiding interest. We cannot remain in the purely temporal and natural where human affairs are involved.
My prayer is that we develop an unceasing sense of relating everything to God. This attitude should not be seen as a big deal, as something extraordinary. It should be natural to us. We have to overcome the prejudices and clumsiness involved in this concern.
A relevant point is what Pope Benedict told some theologians recently. “The first priority of theology is to speak of God, to think of God,” he said. “It speaks of God because God himself speaks with us.”
Let’s hope we can find a way to translate this ideal into reality.