Theology as Soul·Craft
Stanley Fish, my friend and next-door neighbor, likes to remind stu-
dents who express admiration for Milton's poetry that Milton does not
want their admiration, he wants their souls.
I lack Milton's art, but my
ambition can be no less than Milton's. I must try, like Milton, to change
lives, my own included, through the transformation of our imagina-
tions. I must do that using the leaden skills of the theologian, which at
their best are meant to help us feel the oddness and beauty of language
hewn from the worship of God. Theology is a minor practice in the total
life of the church, but in times as strange as ours even theologians must
try, through our awkward art, to change lives by forming the imagi-
nation by faithful speech.2 Thus, I tell my students that I do not want
them to learn "to make up their own minds," since most of them do not
have minds worth making up until I have trained them. Rather, by the
time I am finished with them, I want them to think just like me.
The strangeness of our times for Christians is apparent in the kind of
response a paragraph like the one above elicits. "Who do you think you
are to tell anyone else how to live? What gives you that right? You must
be some kind of fundamentalist or a fanatic." I am, of course, a fanatic.
I want, for example, to convince everyone who calls himself or herself
a Christian that being Christian means that one must be nonviolent. In
the process I hope to convince many who currently are not Christians
to place themselves under the discipline of Christians who are trying to
learn how to live peaceably.3 I find it odd that in our time many people
believe we can or should avoid telling one another how to live. Ftom my
Previous Page Next Page