Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 15, 1999
Jordan lecturer urges balance of theology and spirituality
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
There is no shortage of books on spirituality. William Thompson knows. He has written a few himself.
"You can't go into a store without finding a book on spirituality," said Thompson, whose books include Christology and Spirituality and The Struggle for Theology's Soul. "The idea of spirituality is greatly increasing in our society."
Where this spirituality comes from and how it is defined often leads to a struggle between faith versus reason, said Thompson.
Thompson gave this year's Anthony Jordan lecture series at Newman College March 5-6 on Spirituality's Challenges to Today's Theology.
The lectures offer participants the opportunity to hear world-renowned scholars address topical subjects in theology.
Thompson, a theology professor at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, focused on theology and its relation to spirituality. Theology, as a science based on reason, often conflicts with individual spirituality which includes personal, sometimes unexplainable, feelings. Thompson emphasized the need to unite the two.
Many of our religious beliefs evolve from either personal faith or reasoning or the combination of the two, explained Thompson.
"If we put emphasis on faith, we don't need to reason things coming from gut feelings," Thompson said. But those who emphasize reason want to move theology as far away as possible from spirituality.
"Faith and reason in correlation . . . there's something ambiguous about this. This is more of a compromise."
One's beliefs are sometimes required to be proven or rationalized, said Thompson, Often it never enough to have faith or reason alone. And for this, Thompson encourages a collaboration between spirituality and theology - an intertwining of the science and the emotion.
"Spirituality is complex and somewhat ambiguous," Thompson said. "But sometimes this ambiguity is a faithful ambiguity, a holy ambiguity, so we don't have to run from it.
"Unless you want to deny the social and communal nature of the human being, or the social and communal nature of God, you can't completely separate spirituality and religion."