Theology vs Religious Studies
Paul Lauritzen July 28, 2009 - 8:22am
I teach in a "religious studies" department not a "theology" department. What we call ourselves is a contentious issue for some of my colleagues. It's unlikely to get any less contentious given the kind of piece published recently in the Chronicle of Higher Education. You can read the piece here, but be forewarned, it is likely to raise your blood pressure. Here's a sample:
In sum, the religion researcher is related to the theologian as the biologist is related to the frog in her lab. Theologians try to invigorate their own religion, perpetuate it, expound it, defend it, or explain its relationship to other religions. Religion researchers select sample religions, slice them open, and poke around inside, which tends to "kill" the religion, or at least to kill the romantic or magical aspects of the religion and focus instead on how that religion actually works.Little wonder that many academicsand Richard Dawkins is merely the most vocal among themdismiss the discipline of theology as "talk about nothing." A number of theologians have taken issue with Dawkins, but all of them seem to miss his central point, which is that talk about a god is, necessarily, talk that never advances knowledge. Regardless of one's opinion of him, Dawkins has done academe a great service by providing a quick way to identify a theologian in our midst. If you are uncertain with whom you are speaking, just inject the name of Richard Dawkins into the conversation. The theologian will be dismissive of him; the religion researcher will not.