David Bentley Hart on theological education
theology requires…great…scholarly range. The properly trained Christian theologian should be a proficient linguist, with a mastery of several ancient and modern tongues, should have formation in the subtleties of the whole Christian dogmatic tradition, should possess a considerable knowledge of the liturgies, texts, and arguments produced in every period of the Church, should be a good historian, should have a thorough philosophical training, should possess considerable knowledge of the fine arts, should have an intelligent interest in such areas as law or economics, and so on. This is not to say that one cannot practice theology without all these attainments, but such an education remains the scholarly ideal of the guild.
from “Theology as Knowledge,” First Things, (May 2006). Available in full here.
3 thoughts on “David Bentley Hart on theological education”
“Oh! certainly,” cried his faithful assistant, “no one can be really esteemed accomplished who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with. A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half-deserved.”
“All this she must possess,” added Darcy, “and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.”
“I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished women. I rather wonder now at your knowing any.”
Thanks for the reminder! A theologian would do well to remember to include a piece of humble pie as a part of their complete breakfast.
Yet I still think there’s a place for Hart’s remark. And I think it’s one that the theologian Nicholas Lash has also spoken to, something I tried to gesture to with this older post: https://externalword.wordpress.com/2013/11/15/a-theme-in-nicholas-lash/
Hart is never going to be celebrated for his lightness of touch. I don’t know that I disagree with him exactly, but what he says, as he says it, brings Austen irresistibly to mind.