What an excellent little piece by my brilliant friend Tarah Van de Wiele.
In it she wittily defends the “pure,” theoretical character of academic theology.
I would only add, as a priest involved in academic study myself, that, in addition to the three justifications she gives for her continued pure research, theology is prayer.
Every time Tarah looks up a dusty old term in some thick lexicon, every time she penetrates into the dense obscurity of a footnote, every time she takes notes on her reading … she is busy at the work of that transformative catalyst called prayer or contemplation.
This contemplative dimension of study is important for me in particular because of the affect it has on my preaching, my prayer, my pastoral conversation, my service at the altar. Not so much in terms of new information factoids, but more in the sense of letting the connections, the fecundities, settle down into my soul.
One last point. Is this kind of contemplative transformation “practical?” Certainly not in terms of our secular world. However, for those called to and gifted for this kind of labor, it provides the sort of motivation, clarity, and power which God does, indeed, use to change the world.