Humility in Theology

People who know me probably know that theology is important to me. Not only am I skilled at morphing any casual conversation into a theological one (which is thoroughly annoying to most of my friends, I'm sure), but I am also an avid critic of "bad theology" wherever I see it. I care about constructing theology which corresponds to who God really is, what God is really like, and who people are in relation to this God.  I value the avoidance of lazy theology, theological apathy, and theology which gives witness to something that is not true of God and reality. I think theology is a big deal and it requires real discipline and hard work.

...There's my confession...

But with that being said, I think a distinct feature of Christian theology is that it requires as much, if not more, humility as it does precision. Indeed, if our practice of theological reflection is to reflect its object in any way, grace and charity are of even higher value than accuracy and clarity. This does not reduce the value of accuracy or the stakes of speaking truth with clarity, but it does (frustratingly at times) condition the way we should conduct ourselves in theological dialogue. It's still ok to say that some confessions are right and that others are wrong. But if we go about the conversation with a posture of authority, with a posture of certainty, and if we lob insults and charges of heresy at one another with ease, we miss what's really at stake in theological reflection. If we are so laser-focused on our own perspective that we cannot even listen to the perspective of another or if we are so one-sided that we cannot see the other side of the coin, we miss a part of what the task of theology is really all about.

What's at stake for theology, unlike some other academic disciplines, is that it its object is actually a subject. Theology reflects on a God who is not a thing but a person. And theology does not stand over but under or alongside its object. Indeed the greatest reason that theology requires humility and charity is that fundamental to it is not just understanding of but trust in the God on whom it reflects. We must trust because we know we cannot fully apprehend. And as those who trust in Jesus, our corrections of our colleagues are corrections of our fellow sojourners in discipleship. Because this trust and this relationship with God are so fundamental to theology, it becomes true that real accuracy of theology becomes dependent upon humility in theology.