Serious theological work today is or ought to be rather like working in a quarry, and quite specifically the kind of quarry which one finds in India, where men and women, and quite young children too, in the heat of the day hack away at the rock-face with simple implements, exposing themselves to danger, and committing to the task all their reserves of energy, intelligence, determination and strength.

I am not thinking of the modern fully mechanized quarry, where everything is done at a safe distance, at the flick of a switch, or the pressing of a button, where danger and sweat are minimized, and people do not themselves engage directly with the rock-face. That might be an image of the modem academic assumption that we are most likely to encounter truth in detachment, that objectivity is all, that commitment is a distraction, or leads to distortion of the truth.

No, I am thinking of the kind of quarry that we find in India and elsewhere, where:

  • The work is hard, demanding, exhausting.
  • The work does not bring high status or tangible rewards, indeed the very opposite. You work because of an inner compulsion, vocation or constraint.
  • Most of the work is invisible, rarely noticed or applauded. People in their cars pass by the quarry with hardly a glance as they go about their business.
  • The work is sometimes dangerous, full of unexpected hazards.  Co-operation is essential. No one can work the quarry alone; one must work as a team with others.
  • The workers in the quarry seldom see the end-product. The stones they quarry are normally used and fashioned far away.

to be continued!

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