Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The theological craft


Commenting on the craft of stonecutting and on the training required to work with stone, Seamus Murphy observes: "With hammer, mallet and chisel we have shaped and fashioned rough boulders. We often curse our material, and often we speak to it kindly - we have come to terms with it in order to master it, and it has a way of dictating to us sometimes - and then the struggle begins. We try to impose ourselves on it, but we know our material and respect it. We will often take a suggestion from it, and our work will be the better for it." In like manner, I think of theology as a craft requiring years of training. Like stonecutters and bricklayers, theologians must come to terms with the material upon which they work. In particular, they must learn to respect the simple complexity of the language of the faith, so that they might reflect the radical character of orthodoxy. I think one of the reasons I was never drawn to liberal Protestant theology was that it felt too much like an attempt to avoid the training required of apprentices. In contrast, Karl Barth's work represented for me an uncompromising demand to submit to a master bricklayer, with the hope that in the process one might learn some of the "tricks of the trade."

Stanley Hauerwas, in his memoir: Hannah's Child (page 37 in the Kindle edition)
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