In defense of stuyding theology: why some argue it's not just for clergy - New York News

In defense of stuyding theology: why some argue it's not just for clergy

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By: Matthew Brown, Deseret News

Knowledge of theology sheds light on more than God's existence, and it can be useful even for non-clergy.

Those are the arguments made by a couple of academics who have studied religion and are blogging in defense of its worth as an area of study.

"While the study of history taught me the story of humanity on a broader scale, the study of theology allowed me insight into the minds and hearts, fears and concerns, of those in circumstances were so wildly different from my own," wrote Tara Isabell Burton, a writer and doctoral candidate in theology and literature at Trinity College, Oxford.

She said her liberal, secular mother feared her daughter was going to be a nun, a religious fanatic or nerd "agonizing over the number of angels that could fit on the head of a pin," Burton wrote in The Atlantic.

And while theology can be esoteric, she explained how this lost liberal art has broader application for understanding why people make the decisions they do.

"If history and comparative religion alike offer us perspective on world events from the 'outside,' the study of theology offers us a chance to study those same events 'from within': an opportunity to get inside the heads of those whose beliefs and choices shaped so much of our history, and who - in the world outside the ivory tower - still shape plenty of the world today."

Alana Massey, who graduated from Yale Divinity School, added in Religion Dispatches that the "theological lens is the primary one through which many of the world's citizens see themselves, as servants and reflections of the divine before all else."

She wrote that there are still important theological questions to be asked and answered. "Theological inquiry has present and pressing applications in the world and we would be wise not to leave all the fun to historians and the clergy."

Indeed, Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly said, "If I went back to college today, I think I would probably major in comparative religion because that's how integrated (religion) is in everything that we are working on and deciding and thinking about in life today."

But he wouldn't get much out of the class if he took it in Quebec, where the principal of Loyola High School is pressing the government in court to let his school teach a religion and ethics course from a Catholic perspective.

"Quebec wants us to keep any explanation out of why people believe what they believe. You are supposed to say this is what they believe and that's it," said Paul Donovan in an interview with National Post. "The government requires that when you're dealing with other religions that the teacher in the classroom completely disassociates himself from any religious perspective or religious value."

In response to a question whether what Quebec is offering is better than nothing, Donovan said: "I guess they’re trying to find a way to let the students in a secular school gain some religious literacy - though I would argue if it’s just religious culture it’s not really literacy because nothing is really being explained."


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Copyright 2013 Deseret Digital Media, Inc.

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