Theology as Prayer
Well, I am back into it full-time again. Reading, writing, researching, and translating. It has been hard to find the rhythm, but it is slowly coming together. Not only the travel, but the transition from the church back into the academy has been a little jarring. However, the time away has given me a fresh perspective and has renewed my energy to get moving.
As I have gotten back into my studies, I decided to pick up Anselm's Proslogion. As I began reading, I was struck once again that Anslem opens this dense work of theology by calling his readers to pray and then models prayer as a part of his theological reflection throughout the entire work.
I acknowledge, O Lord, with thanksgiving, that thou hast created this thy image in me, so that, remembering thee, I may think of thee, may love thee. But this image is so effaced and worn away by my faults, it is so obscured by the smoke of my sins, that it cannot do what it was made to do, unless thou renew and reform it. I am not trying, O Lord, to penetrate they loftiness, for I cannot begin to match my understanding with it, but I desire in some measure to understand thy truth, which in my heart believes and loves. For I do not seek to understand in order believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this too I believe, that 'unless I believe, I shall not understand.'
Frequently theology is not considered as a prayerful endeavor. It is rigorous hard work. It should be rigorous. It should be hard work. Yet, Christian theology should also bear the mark of being done coram Deo, before the face of God. That is to say, theology should be a rigorous (we are dealing with the incomprehensible God after all) and yet, humble (didn't I just mention that he is incomprehensible) because it is done in dialogue with and before the Triune God.
Kelly Kapic notes that in its etymology 'theology' brings together two Greek words logos (word) and theos (God). He goes on to argue that at its core then theology is being done whenever anyone speaks about God (be a small child memorizing the catechism or an academic doing high level research). Kapic says, 'Theology is not reserved for those in the academy; it is an aspect of thought and conversation for all who live and breathe, who wrestle and fear, who hope and pray.' In essence, theology is a way of entering into a conversation. It is a God initiated conversation. Our part of the conversation is prayer. This is the humble response to God's speech. This response to God's speech is inherently theological. This response is theology.
As I return to the regular routine of academic theology, I am trying to remind myself of this truth. Theological reflection is the faithful response to what God has said. Helmut Thielicke summarizes the history of theological reflection this way:
[T]he history of theology is a history of Christians and their decisions made in faith presented in the form of reflections which are the consequence of those decisions.
My hope and prayer is that I may follow in the footsteps of the men and women that went before me. My hope and prayer is that my theological reflection be done as a faithful response to my God who has spoken.