Christianity is not reconciliation with death. It is the revelation of death, and it reveals death because it is the revelation of Life. – Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World
There’s a dark side of theology. A surrounding darkness that lurks at the boundaries. Often encompassing and despairing, this darkness is ushered and removed. It’s a darkness that we, as theologians, attempt to ignore. Yet, the darkness remains at the boundary. It waits for an opportunity to reveal itself, and make known what the theologian as denied. A dark side to theology, which threatens to overwhelm and destroy. This isn’t an imagined darkness, caricatures of demons and whatnot. It’s immensely more dangerous and real, unknown until it manifestation from the shadows. It’s darkness is that of the soul.
No one is ever prepared for darkness, this depression of the soul that inflicts the theologian. Its emergence, reminds one of the mind’s fragility. That such a fragility should exist isn’t at all surprising, still its presence can feel as a shock. A shock that pulls one back toward the boundaries of despair and hope. A reminder that the theologian is neither immune nor impervious to depression.
Theology has a depressing side. A character that isn’t well known or acknowledged. Theology can frustrate and disappoint. It leaves one with questions that forever remain unsatisfied. Moreover, the theologian is continually misunderstood. What does a theologian do? What role does he or she play socially? The theologian stands apart, unaccepted, in neither academy or church. Its values questionable, it methods untested, theology exists as the living dead. Neither fully alive nor fully dead, theology exists as a shade. A ghost of the past lost in the land of the living. It thus begs the question: Are theologians pallbearers of the dead?
The theologian’s depression is a struggle of purpose. A struggle for rediscovery of meaning in a world in which theology has none. It’s a denial of death, a self-determining push away from the shadows and the boundaries of the forgotten and abandoned. This eternal struggle against the boundary, a place of darkness, is overwhelming and confusing. Bewildered one stands before those oblivious to theology’s zombification, who unapologetically continue to practice a metaphysics of despair. Did no one told them that theology is dead?
The death of theological is acceptance. An acceptance that what once was is now no more. An acceptance of the depression one has denied and contended with. To embrace theological death isn’t a morbidity. It is a renewal, for
…by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code. – Romans 6:15 (TNIV)
The death of theology is also its resurrection. Theology must die in order to live. Such a renewal isn’t a return of the old. It’s a resurrection of possibility and opportunity. For it wasn’t the darkness that the theologian feared, rather it was the self. And re-birthed with new purpose, working for and within the darkness, the forgotten and ignored, theological depression is overcome.
Theology is reborn into the liminal…