Redefining Theology

So "theology" means thinking about God, about a God who reveals himself in history. To believe God's revelation is to comprehend and embrace the import of what he reveals to us. In other words, it is to comprehend and embrace the meaning of history. There is nothing paradoxical about Jesus' statement that good done to the poor is good done to him. It is a simple truth. The person who sees a free Other in the poor and liberates the slave from Egypt is the person who truly loves God, for the slave in Egypt is the very epiphany of God himself. If a person opens up to the slave in Egypt, he opens up to God; if he shuts out the slave in Egypt, he shuts out God. The person who does not commit himself to the liberation of the slaves in Egypt is an atheist. He is Cain killing Abel. Once Abel was dead, Cain was alone. He now believed himself to be the only One, the Eternal. He presented himself as a pantheistic god. That was the temptation posed to Adam in the garden: "You will be like gods." To be like God is to pretend to be the one and only being; to refuse to open up to the Other, who has been murdered.

God, however, keeps on revealing himself to us as the Other who summons us. He is the first Other. If I do not listen to my fellow man in bondage, then I am not listening to God either. If I do not commit myself to the liberation of my fellow man, then I am an atheist. Not only do I not love God, I am actually fighting against God because I am affirming my own divinity.

Theology, then, is a logos which ponders God revealing himself in history.

What about pastoral theology? "Pastoral" comes from the word "pastor," which means shepherd. However, it does not refer to the shepherd or herdsman nicely established in the desert with his family and flock. It refers to the poor and lowly shepherd who must confront the pharaoh in order to free his people, without even knowing exactly what to say or how to say it. Once this goal is achieved, it is the pastor who must pass over and through the desert. This passover (pesah in Hebrew) occurs in a second desert. It is not the desert of the comfortably settled shepherd. It is the desert through which Moses guides his people in the process of liberation. Once again it is a process of historical discernment. Which way do we go? What is the meaning and purpose of the whole process? Only the person who has faith can find out, for only such a person knows how to open up to God's revelatory word and to discover its concrete import.

Hence pastoral theology is a way of pondering the journey of God's people as they seek liberation in the desert. And this journey towards liberation is a passover, a passover from bondage to total liberation. The Hebrew word alludes to the ongoing paschal resurrection. Pastoral activity is paschal; it is our passage through the desert that leads to liberation.

Passolini has a curious film entitled Teorema. He uses an unexpected motif-sexuality-to deal with the same theme we are discussing here. At the heart of this film is a human being, naked at the end, who is running through the desert towards God. That is precisely the thesis of Kierkegaard: We are naked creatures in the desert, running towards God; we are poor, wretched creatures without anything, who must open up to God. In a sense, we are dealing with the passage of humanity through the desert of liberation history.

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