The Reformation has led to the University deserting theology,
just as the State left the Church.
Now, theology, at the academic table of courses, is only dessert.
Can it ever go back to the queen of sciences?
Even if asked and begged and properly remunerated?
No: its proper place is where it should have always been.
Away, far, far away from the madding crowd.
Far into the wilderness and the desert.
The only place where theology still shines.
Perhaps a few words are in order?
As if puns need annotation,
like a comic urging his audience: "Get it? Didja get it?"
after the snare and cymbal and before the gong.
What if, next week, before the annual gladiatorial banquets
for the alumni begin, State University decides
to bring Theology back in, out of the cold.
The price of admission to the Table, the executive washroom,
the Academic Club where faculty can practice being eccentric
though few of them really enjoy their pipe,
savor the taste of brandy or are comfortable in tweed –
Sign off on the secular order, give it its due.
Burn a little incense, bow before the statue.
Utter the shibboleths, take a flat in the zoo.
Give your parole, say it's all a point of view.
The fullness of Time is always missed by clockwatchers and bureaucrats:
if you quantify chronos, you will always miss at kairos.
The signs for one are only obvious to the poor,
the ones who still know dirt and touch the growing things
and can tell when the fig trees are about to give fruit.
But the chronologists,
whose heads are baked in flourescence:
they are scribes playing at theology, but only able to publish footnotes and quotes,
who compete for tenure at being doctrinaire,
who give themselves poetry prizes and Pulitzers
while the funeral parlor maven plays on her Wurlitzer
a nice diapasonic cover of Elton John,
"Sweet freedom whispered in your ear,
You're a butterfly."
No amazing grace here, for God's sake,
as academic ashes are burned for the urn.
Theology is forged only in the desert.
It is not welcome in college anymore,
nor can it ever be.
That is the principal reason why the Son of Man was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness.
It is where He emerged announcing the here-ness of the Kingdom of God,
and the fullness of time,
And why the academic scribes pay no mind.
A particularly ironic footnote:
My thanks -- and not for the first time -- to David Bentley Hart for his part of a testy symposium, which can be read at First Things.