Forget the Rome-Based Theological Monologue

Invite Your Colleagues to IMAGINE THE FUTURE,  by


Listening to the Voice of the People on the Street



A Five step program for listening to the people on the street

and formulating a contemporary pastoral theology:*


1. Let theological knowledge emerge from the study of what is nontheological.

Reflection on other kinds of experiences in daily life, in politics, in sports, in the arts, etc. and other forms of knowledge (including the sciences, philosophy and literature) are crucial to the formation of our theological imagination. They connect us to CONTEMPORARY REALITY.

2. Let the nontheological understanding of religions and cultures inform theology.

By focusing on questions of human meaning, identity and purpose in other disciplines,  we can better understand the contexts in which faith arises: philosophy, history, literature, sociology, psychology, anthropology, economics and the arts. No single discipline has a corner on the truth….just as no single institution knows it all.

3. Let theological insights be gleaned through inter-religious dialogue.

An understanding of Christian faith through a study of the texts, rituals, ethics and doctrines of others can lead to a deeper understanding of our own tradition.

4. Let the lived experience of  impoverished and marginalized men, women and children be our touchstone for theological learning.

Firsthand learning from exposure to the worlds of poor and marginalized people (e.g. battered women, orphaned children, persons who suffer from stigmatizing diseases, and the like) can lead to a transformation of hearts and an opening of minds. This transformation of hearts and opening of minds opens our eyes to the Sacred.

5. Let the God-mystery stand as the horizon for all learning

God is disclosed in the human even when the human cannot find or refuses to find God.  God as mystery stands as the finality of all activity, even the most “godless.”




* Thanks go to Paul G. Crowley, S.J., a theology professor,

and chair of the religious studies department at Santa Clara University.

He wrote an excellent article in AMERICA MAGAZINE (7 February 2011) titled  “Tomorrow’s Theologians.”



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