There is nothing left for theology to examine in a rational and rigorous way

Having so appreciated Manfredi La Manna’s comment on the gender segregation issue, I took a look at his website and found a page of contributions to the Times Higher Education Supplement aka the Times Higher aka THES. It’s good value. There’s one on Keith Ward, for instance; Keith Ward is someone I like to see disputed.

Keith Ward’s attempt to portray himself as a persecuted seeker of truth deserves comment (THES, October 11). First, it is misleading to lump theology with the humanities and to see the well-deserved criticisms to the former as a general attack against the latter. The humanities are qualitatively different from theology in so far as they have different methodology, aims and ethos. Indeed, after the phenomenon of religion is explored by history, literary analysis, and moral philosophy (as well as by sociology, psychology, and economics), there is nothing left for theology to examine in a rational and rigorous way. The fundamental difference that seems to escape Ward’s attention is that, unlike the sciences and humanities where the ideal is the rigorous quest for an as-yet-undiscovered truth, theology inverts the process and starts from a revealed “truth” to be imposed on reality.

I’m interjecting here solely to introduce a paragraph break that’s not in the original

Second, it is significant that Ward underplays the moral dimension of religion. Theology is not “an attempt to understand the hopes, desires and feelings of human beings”, but rather the underpinnings of a specific world-view aimed at making human beings conform to some pattern of behaviour. Third, Ward conveniently ignores the fact that, unlike the scientists he quotes, who owe their status to peer-sanctioned rigorous contributions to the advancement of knowledge, his claim to be heard by the scientific community and his own “academic” status are based on the conventions, procedures and values of the religious establishment. People like Ward are best advised to restrict their pronouncements to the self-selected audience of church congregations; serious scientists and humanists should reject the application by theists for membership of the club for the quest of truth and knowledge and remind themselves that behind the mantle of “academic” respectability lurks the very same intolerance that persecuted Galileo and Giordano Bruno and that condemns billions of people to a life of superstition.

I’m very glad to have been made aware of Professor La Manna.


  1. says

    “an attempt to understand the hopes, desires and feelings of human beings”

    Theology, lit: “study of god”.

    One of these things is not like the other.

  2. RJW says

    Actually, there is nothing for theology to study as the existence of ‘God’ has never been established scientifically, it’s history’s most successful scam.

  3. Kiwi Dave says

    IIRC, OB some years ago wittily defined theology as ‘the -ology without an -ology’; this definition is as good as any.

  4. Omar Puhleez says

    Kiwi Dave:

    That would open up a whole exciting new field: Ologyology – the study of ologies.

    Trouble is that all theologies are different, with adherents of any one disagreeing with those of ALL others.

    I would like to propose the institution of Anglican chemistry, as against Catholic chemistry, as against Calathumpian chemistry. Likewise for physics, mathematics and all the rest: to parallel Anglican thology, as against Catholic theology etc..

  5. John Morales says

    Omar @6, that’s like saying all fruits are different.

    (True but pointless, not just because all fruits are still fruit, but because if they weren’t, there would only be one fruit)

  6. rnilsson says

    Lol @ kiwidave & OB

    @ 7JohnM: In my wild Viking lingo, the word for different is actually functionally like a plural particle. Dad used to ironically allude to this finding of his by referring to the many “different” kronor something cost or that he had in his pocket. Obviously, the point of currency is precisely that it is fungible, or identically exchangeable. IOW, exactly the same, instiguishable. The contrast to religion is that money is useful. Singular or plural.

    Also, thanks for the pointer to prof. La Manna.

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