The conversation rolls on – between me and Miss Marx that is – on what theology actually might be. Miss Marx weighed in with ‘Roland and Theology’ (here), which I’ll partially reproduce:
Okay, so we know what Roland thinks theology isn’t. Is there anything positive to be said about what it is, on his use of the term? Yes.
[O]nce we move past the assumption that religious belief [in a god?] is the core or perhaps the overarching unity of theology and realize that it is one part and by no means a necessary one, then theology shows all its other colors. It deals with nature and the environment (creation), with the human condition (anthropology), why the world is the way it is (harmatology), the problem of suffering, the nature of the human subject
(via Christology), the nature of history, hopes for the future, how human beings might live together (ecclesiology), and the nature of mythology (the central stories with which theology deals).
In the end, then, it looks like when Roland uses the term “theology” he is talking about a combination of certain types of ontology, anthropology, existentialism, and constructive social philosophy.
I think any disagreement between him and I would be semantic beyond this point. I wouldn’t use the word “theology” in this way, but if he wants to, that’s fine with me. When I’m criticizing the presence of “theology” in religious studies, I’m talking about something other than these things.
So, a brief response from me to Miss Marx: I think there’s a way forward on this issue and it might be as follows. Instead of defining each discipline by a core idea, I prefer to think of disciplines as intersections of various lines. So theology is isn’t defined by explaining belief in muscled fairies, but by intersections of the sorts of things I mentioned – history, environment, human condition, hope, social questions, mythology etc. Or as you put it, ontology, anthropology, existentialism, and social philosophy. You could do similar exercises with each of these disciplines or approaches and come up with similar results. I reckon you could do the same with literature, architecture or even physics.