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Faith & Religion

Beginning theologian

Maggi’s recent posting Rahner was an amateur and Steve’s posting of a while back a jest at floating language struck chords with me. I’m a theologian by profession, spending my working week researching, developing and teaching theology yet I often think of myself as a “beginning theologian”. The more I know and study the more there is to explore within God and God’s creation.

The term “beginning theologian” is one that has stuck with me every since I read the excellent book Confessions of a Beginning Theologian by Elouise Renich Fraser, Professor of Systematic Theology at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary (Philadelphia).

The book covers her journey from conservative Southern Baptist roots, through seminary and university theological studies, and into theological teaching. Through this all she learns

I hate looking and sounding like a beginner. Making mistakes and asking questions. Not sure yet where I’m going, much less how I’m going to get from here to there. Afraid of what might happen along the way. But God loves beginners.

Becoming a theologian is about becoming a beginner. It isn’t about whether you’re old enough, young enough, smart enough or good enough. . . .

It isn’t about becoming someone else, changing your personality or leaving your past behind. And it isn’t about becoming dull and dry, giving up fun and excitement, retreating from the world to attain some more exalted existence.

Definitely about being playful, an “amateur”, recognising that anyone who has had a thought about the divine is also a theologian, and that we make mistakes as we struggle to grasp the infinite. Highly reassuring.

Her book is interesting too in that it gives a woman’s perspective on the inside of seminaries and theology departments. In the book at one place she finds herself ostracized by conservative women for being “too feminist” while their liberal counterparts consider her “too fundamentalist”. Challenged me to consider how I view and treat my female colleagues and students.

So borrow the book and give it a read – even if you only read the first and last chapters it’ll help you get a feel for becoming a theologian.

There are some excerpts from the book can be found at Amazon.

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