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What is the point of asking theological questions? Can we ever really know the answers?

Written by William G. Stroop

Do we stop learning when we graduate from high school? College? Law school? Seminary? Graduate school? Medical school? No. As human beings, we are constantly learning and discovering new things. And our curiosity about what we learn, or at least provisionally accept, prompts us to ask new questions.

Because of this probably genetically encoded capacity to continuously learn, everyone is a theologian by nature, whether they recognize it or not (even atheists are theologians). Everyone at some time or another in their life asks themselves if God exists, and if so, how does God act in the world? When confronted with disaster, tragedy, and loss, it is not uncommon to ask fundamental and sometimes deeply troubling questions about the role of God as a saver or taker of life. We ask these very personal and profound questions often when we are confronted with a sense of our own mortality, or have witnessed something horrific—beyond easy human explanation. We automatically seek explanation, comfort, and understanding.

One's theology, whether formally acknowledged as such or not, often provides the basis for what one chooses to do with one's life, and the meaning one sees in life itself. If God is viewed by someone as a vindictive, abusive patriarch, the chances are good that that core theological belief will be reflected in that person's day-to-day affairs. Likewise, theology also lies at the base of a moral or ethical perspective, which can profoundly affect social and personal relations.

Hence, although on this side of death we cannot know anything with absolute certainty (and there is no guarantee that we will know that much more on the other side), it is crucial to our lives and to our communities and the world, that we act as theologians, and ask the hard questions. The answers, though tentative, are important, because they will inform who we are, and how we behave in the world.

—The Rev. Canon William Stroop, Ph.D.