One of the things I discovered on my road to Deconstructing Religion is that theology is the only major field of study that hasn’t advanced since, I don’t know, the dark ages.
Think about it. Medicine, astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, and linguistics all have seen significant advances but theology remains largely unchanged.
Why is this, you ask?
I believe that most fields of study existed for the advancement of humanity. Medicine brings forth healing. Astronomy helps us to understand our place in the community of the universe. Physics shows us how natural forces operate…and so on.
Theology — and some folks are gonna get really upset with this — only exists for the purpose of manipulation and control. Think about it, theology is, ostensibly, the study of God. But how can we study something we cannot begin to quantify, much less comprehend. Because we cannot understand the object of our study, it is nearly impossible to produce any empirical conclusions about God.
Our understanding — or, better yet, misunderstanding — of God has led to more division and strife than unity and harmony. Theology has produced purely anecdotal renditions of God — and even more renditions of his (or her) nature and character.
Back to this manipulation and control thing. Theology has produced a specific class of individuals whose “job” is to interpret and teach who God is and our relationship to him based on a collection of second-hand (at best) stories of God.
Let me put a bookmark here and say, for the record, I’m not a bible literalist. I think the bible is a fine collection of books whose authors interpret God through the lens of their cultural and personal biases. Once upon a time, I viewed scripture as the final authority on everything; now I see it as a history book with a very limited scope.
So we have this privileged class of scholars who interpret a flawed document to convince the unlearned that they are flawed and their only hope comes from understanding of an inconsistent book. We’re all expected to use this as the plumb-line for our lives irrespective of it’s chronological and cultural irrelevance. A lot of exegetical leaps, logical fallacy, and cognitive dissonance is required to play connect-the-dots with this.
I say all this to say that we should let theology, as an academic pursuit or discipline, die. I’m of the mindset that anything that doesn’t evolve, dies. It hasn’t advanced in any significant way and it’s purpose simply exists to control people — people who are created to be free.
What, then, do we replace theology with? After all, nature abhors a vacuum and when one thing comes to an end, something else will rush in to fill the void.
Glad you asked! My proposal would be to adopt Divine Anthropology. Just like theology is, ostensibly, the study of God, anthropology is the study of humanity. And, since Jesus is the prototype of our coexisting humanity and divinity, He is the springboard for this field of study.
I’m of the mindset that any study should begin with the observable. We have been trying to study an unobservable “God” while conveniently ignoring our observable neighbor. Because of this, “christianity” has done a great job of forsaking wide swaths of humanity.
With Jesus as our template, we begin to discover our divinity. When we understand the divinity of humanity, we learn how to truly honor one another — just as the persons of the “trinity” support and honor one another.
I’m going to double down on this and veer into some real “heresy,” here. When we recognize the divinity inherent in humanity, we change the focus of our “worship” from the unseen to the seen. We change the focus of “worship” to include the creation as well as the creator. Indeed, by including humanity in our “worship” paradigm, we honor God in new and beautiful ways.
You will never meet a human being who is not created in the image and likeness of God. So when we look at people as “lost,” “unsaved,” or otherwise “separate,” we essentially spit in the face of God.
I believe replacing theology with divine anthropology will cause us to pay greater attention to humanity — God’s crowning creation — and begin to express and manifest the love required to truly change the world.