theologian as communicator

I’m thinking more about the task of the theologian, what role the theologian plays within a faith community. I’m also thinking about communication, for various reasons, with participation in a church committee on communication being one reason. The more that I think about it, the more I am drawn to thinking about the theologian as communicator. The theologian is engaged both as one receiving communication through reading various texts (and not just written words but also the texts of culture that surround us, things like advertisements, songs, the layout of city streets, and the faces on the bus during rush hour) and as one initiating in communication, through creating various texts.

And although the reading of various texts is a fascinating topic itself, right now it is the aspect of text creation that is most interesting to me. I’m thinking about Marshal McLuhan’s famous quote “the medium is the message” and I’m wondering what the media that a theologian typically employs says about what the theologian tries to say. There is a big difference between writing a set of dogmatics and writing a sermon, between writing a screenplay and writing a thesis, between writing a book and writing a blog entry. And yet theology is done in and through all of those media.

So which form, which medium, would provide the best, clearest communication of that which the theologian is attempting to communicate? I am inclined to say that it depends on what the theologian is trying to say. Barth’s 14-volume Church Dogmatics, for instance, are a clear example of one version of what a theologian ought to and can do, namely write an exhaustive account of God in the world. However, it is awfully hard to enter into dialogue with 14 volumes of work from a deceased theologian. It is a bit easier to dialogue with a theologian that one is sitting across the table from, or one that keeps a blog where readers can leave comments and receive responses from the theologian.

I see the value in creating large systems of understanding, but I also see the value in saying a few little things that create doors and windows for entering into a larger understanding or for creating a new understanding.

why have I not been writing?

Ok, so it has been WAY too long since I wrote a “real” blog entry. In fact, looking back, I have not written a single original entry (other than posting quotes and prayers from others) through the entire season of Lent. Hm. Why? I have no easy answer other than the classic “I’ve been so busy”, which is true, but a thoroughly lousy excuse for not doing something that I genuinely love to do. I think the primary thing is that I haven’t been pushing myself to be disciplined about writing, at least not writing anything but lengthy church emails and reports that make up a huge chunk of a pastor’s time.

Writing is a lot like exercise, once I do it I feel great, I feel more lively, I feel like my brain is engaged and I’m contributing to both clarifying my own thinking and hopefully opening some new ideas up in other people (my readers) as well. But just like exercise, the hard part is just buckling down and doing it. I’m someone who needs accountability, I tend to do much better when I have someone else nudging and pushing me. Which will happen more now that I have started setting aside a Friday morning writing time. Now this time has been and will be very difficult to defend, but I think it is worth the effort.

So there is my excuse for not writing and a commitment to write more. Grace, though, is important too, so I will refuse to beat myself up over not writing and instead just start doing it again.