Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 27, No. 2. 1964.
Chaplains Comment — Beware University without Theology
Beware University without Theology
Last year after Congress, I commented in this column on the absence of religion among the official talking-points at that important student gathering.
Obviously it was merely an oversight because this year these were two talks on religion, one by a theologian and the other by Professor Lawden. The Rev. Jim Thornton, a lecturer in philosophy at Canterbury, explaining new theological trends, showed that much theological argument lor or against God was really based on misunderstanding or, worse, an unwillingness to allow possible agreement. Mr Thornton was pointing to common ground where we could continue the argument in the form of a dialogue.
But such reconciliation, Professor Lawden eschews. He feels that theology, theological colleges and churches are but "comfortable temples to keep the devil at bay and to lull the mind" and are thoroughly obscurantist in the search for truth. I cannot quite credit the report of Professor Lawden's address as given in the last issue of Salient. I hope it is distorted.
If it is true, and I stress the conditional, such criticism seems to be the product not only of ignorance of theology, especially of the present day, but also, may one guess, of reaction against an over-religious childhood. Of course, his criticism will find a mark somewhere. There are groups in the Church which are closed to new truth, some from conviction and others from complete lack of conviction. But to move from this acknowledged fact to the assumption that, therefore, theology is not committed to the search for truth, seems to be just another of Professor Lawden's non sequiturs.
Briefly, I would make two points. While we may all perhaps agree that there is somewhere a unity of truth, however we may try to account for it or describe it. Yet, in our present stage of knowledge, there are different sorts of truth to be examined, mainly what we call scientific and religious truth. These, of course, are not in opposition but are complementary areas.
The second point is, that theological method is not dissimilar to scientific. It takes the giveness (granted we believe this to be more than a hypothesis!) and measures it with as much "scientific" study as possible against the experience of faith in believers.
Recently such study has produced considerable theological thought, both radical and reactionary, as we can easily see in the "Honest to God" debate. This Is good and necessary. Partly it is due to concerned people like Professor Lawden in raising the issues, but mostly it is due to the theologians themselves, acknowledging both the reality of religious truth and the need to examine it. Therefore if a University is to be a University, it must beware of excluding theology from its curriculum.