The life style of a theologian is a matter of discussion always. A normal comment is: “He lives in a world, which is entirely different from the world of the ordinary people; He spends too much time in the library and he does not know the pulse of the people; He is a frequent traveller and he attends too many meetings”. There is a group of theologians, who want to counter this argument and therefore they try to spend more time to address “grass root” issues. The latter prefers answers for day to day issues to dogmatic conclusions. He gives more importance for activism than for making theories. What was actually the style of life of a theologian before two millenniums? The Book of Wisdom gives us some information in this regard. Sir. 39:1-6 caricatures the important features of a theologian beautifully. Following are important aspects of a theologian’s life:
Devotion for Wisdom (V. 1)
The thirst for wisdom is something which distinguishes an academician from an activist. The author of the Book of Sirach gives an important statement in Sir.38:24: “A scholar must have time to study, if he is going to be wise; he must be relieved of other responsibilities”. This indicates the fact that he should be engaged in searching the wisdom round the clock. There are some people who want to do the work of a theologian as a job. So they like to do it along with a lot of other things. This is something which differentiates a European theologian from his counter parts in the East. The former has no other responsibility other than study. But the other theologians enjoy other duties along with reading and writing. Naturally this would affect the depth of his knowledge and the quality of his presentations.
Study of the Ancient Scholars (V. 1)
The Inter-Testamental theologian gives more emphasis for the past scholarship. He shall go through the words of the fathers and prophets. We see this phenomenon in the New Testament itself. The Old Testament wisdom and prophecies are support materials for the Gospel writers. For example, St. Matthew defends the case of Christ with the sayings of the Psalmist and the Prophets. There are people, who think that the search for the tradition is a hindrance to approach God. Actually, it is a misunderstanding. Those who go through the life and wisdom of the past generations will be equipped to see things clearer; they can avoid the mistakes of the past. A constructive approach to tradition helps a theologian find suitable answers to the crucial issues of his day.
A theologian should have the intellectual curiosity, patience to go through different resources and an analytical mind. This would make his presentations systematic and thought provoking. His conclusions can be objective; but this objectivity is not that of a scientist. Since he draws many things from his own personal contacts with God, his subjective experiences are also important. However, the real theologian has a fascination for “sayings of famous men”, “proverbs” and “parables”. For a meaningful presentation of his theology he needs to go through all available resources, written as well as oral. See the words of St. Luke: “I have carefully studied all matters from their beginning; I thought it would be good to write an orderly account…” (Lk 1:3).
Interaction with Great People (V. 4)
Debates and dialogues are good methods for studying things. This had been the way of learning in the golden days of Greek philosophy. Interacting with a great personality helps a theologian much more than reading a book. Sharing of experiences with leaders of the society refreshes the mind and it propels the thought process. New questions will arise in the mind of the theologian: “A good theologian is not the one who can give good answers, but the one who is able to ask right questions”.
Travelling Abroad (V. 4)
Travelling is one of the best means for attaining wisdom. It opens up the vision of the traveller. The interpretation of a theologian, who knows foreign languages and who is well versed in the cultures of the world, is quite different from that of a man who knows only his mother land. He needs to change the stereo typed attitudes and should be able to understand how other people think.
Prayer and Worship (V. 5)
The word theology is derived from two Greek words; theos means God and logos is the word, science or learning about something. Therefore a theologian is somebody who wants to learn more about God or someone who is capable of explaining the reality called God. According to this a theologian should be a man of devotion, who maintains a regular and intimate relation-ship with the Divine. Unfortunately, many of the prominent theologians of the world live in libraries and they do not find enough time for prayer and meditation. I know a European theologian, who is a specialist in ecclesiology, the science of the Church. Since he is more occupied with making lectures and writing articles and books, he is unable to go to the Church on Sundays. How can he speak about the Church, if he is not a Church-goer?
Effective Communication (V. 6-8)
An effective theologian is able to communicate both verbally and literally. But there are many learned people, who know things, but unable to communicate with the people. Only a few people are good in articulating things in the right way. To present an idea beautifully and to make it relevant for the audience is an art. Much more difficult is the art of writing. It needs patience and it requires long hours of thought.
Good Reputation (V. 9-11)
A theologian should have a good reputation. He earns this not only by his wisdom but also by his life style also. He is different from other scientists. Nobody cares about the character and life style of a nuclear scientist; what he describes makes him known. But in the case of a theologian his life should be compatible with what he professes. He should become a model before others. He has to show the way towards God.
Thus a theologian is essentially the same in the Inter-Testamental period as well as the 21st century. His basic way of life has the above aspects. Those who follow these would be the real path breakers of the Kingdom of God.