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Reflections on theology

Readers may not know that I did a couple of years of theology at an Anglican theological college, Ridley College, in Melbourne before I embarked upon my philosophical and historical studies. I was quite good at it, and only my lack of actual, you know, faith interrupted what was a promising career.

So it should come as no surprise to me how boring theology actually is, although I had forgotten. I am listening to someone weave word salad (sorry, mixed metaphor. Suffice it to say one could eat this whole cloth) on Teilhard de Chardin as “theodrama”.

I don’t mind theists doing this, of course, but it is rather amusing to see how theology simply lacks either the evidence or the intellectual resources to deal with science, and in particular evolution, which is why they keep returning to the foolishness that was Teilhard. I may pass out before this talk is finished.

On a brighter note, Paul Griffiths’ talk last night was regarded by many as a shining light of clarity of thought amidst the word salad.


  1. The most annoying thing is that people get offended when you tell them they are just engaging in meaningless word rearrangements. Worst, they don’t stop but just continue the process.

    The only thing more annoying is when people try to respond to an argument against the existence of God by using theological word play that more or less assumes the existence of their deity.

  2. dave souza dave souza

    More please! It sounds from your earlier post as though Paul Griffiths’ talk shone the shining light of clarity on Plantinga’s ludicrous arguments, but from the abstract it would seem to argue that science can’t disprove religion, so Pantinga might be happy either way.

  3. Gerald Gerald

    I thought “theology” was just the study of god-related stuff, so it shouldn’t require that you believe in the stuff? Like mythology, etc.

    • John Wilkins John Wilkins

      Then it becomes comparative religion, which I didn’t want to do. I wanted to argue for stuff. Theology is advocacy for a particular religion.

  4. I don’t have any particular love of theology, even as an object of curiosity; but a tremendous amount of thinking took place under its aegis over the last two thousand years, some of which was done by some remarkable minds and casts light on question I do care about. The other thing is this: a fair number of people on Internet sites I frequent seem to make theology the proxy for everything under the sun that isn’t science, figuring, I guess, that if all the woo in the world had one neck, they could wring it once and for all. Since I’m reluctant to agree with them that all valid thought is scientific, I wind up sounding like some sort of apologist for the umpteenth rendition of the ontological proof even though the disciplines I mostly have in mind are history, criticism, and law. In any case, what I do still find interesting in religious thinking has very little to do with the five proofs or anything remotely resembling natural theology and much more to do with social and political philosophy or the phenomenology of solitary experience.

  5. In undergrad I was often struck by the intellectual bankruptcy of contemporary theology myself; it wasn’t all bad — but when it was good it was philosophy lite and when it was bad or absurd it was extraordinarily so.

    Teilhard is torture; I think theologians get distracted by the endless parade of neologisms, which seem to be like shiny objects to them. If you aren’t the kind of person that says “ooh, noosphere” you’ll inevitably be bored to tears by him.

  6. At a lower level I have wrestled with this while talking about evolution. Someone wants to go on and on about “The Fall” and I keep trying to tell them I’m not going to discuss that unless they can demonstrate to me their god even exists.

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