What To Make Of “Bad” Theologians Who Do Good “Theology”?

Halden muses about the independent relationship between theological study and personal piety and virtue:

Its hard to find a more scandalizing bunch of people than theologians, and not in the good way. One would think that among a guild of professionals dedicated to getting to know God as well as possible you’d see less infidelity, churlishness, affluence, and apathy towards injustice than in other professions.

You’d think that only if you bought religion’s own propaganda that religion and virtue were naturally specially correlated.  Or if you were generally naive enough to think abstract knowledge of ethics itself had any necessary effect on one’s personal inclination to be moral.

However this hardly seems to be the case. As I look at my own shelves of favorite theologians, I see at least a few adulterers, more than a couple of which were rather predatory towards the women they pursued. Likewise I’m hard pressed to find very many theologians who took the intentional practice of the Christian faith with much seriousness. Indeed, even going to church seems too much to ask from many theologians. Here a story comes to mind about how Jürgen Moltmann lies in a hammock every Sunday and thinks about ecclesiology — I don’t know if its true or not, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

I won’t even touch the degree to which most theologians do everything they can to avoid contact with, exposure to, or even having to see the poor.

Halden then wants to credit all the theologians’ good ideas to their being seized by the Holy Spirit despite their lack of virtue.  That makes much more sense I guess than taking their lack of virtue as a sign they’re no more specially and divinely guided into truths than any other human beings and that their clever and noble ideas are attributable simply to their natural intelligence just like any one else’s are.

Your Thoughts?

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.