Theology Forum has a great post adapting the seven deadly spiritual sins of St. John of the Cross to the sinful tendencies nearly inherent in the theological enterprise. I particularly appreciated his comments on ‘avarice’ as the tendency to use academic work as a stand-in for true spiritual development. An apropos warning for anyone engaged in academic research. And his warning about ‘justification through quoting” was great! For those of you working on research projects and theses, although I like a good quotation as much as the next person, remember that quotation is never a substitution for argumentation; a good quote cannot make a weak argument better, just more interesting to read.
I think he should have given a little more thought to the problem of ‘sloth’ in theology. His comments on the laziness involved in shirking our responsibility to do theology in service of the church were helpful. There is a flipside to this, though, when theologians evidence sloth by refusing the hard work of engaging in theological reflection and writing. One can easily fall into the trap of thinking that such work is merely ‘abstract’ when it does not obviously relate to some pressing concern of the church. Working as the church to make sure that we are thinking, speaking, and acting in a manner appropriate to Gospel-transformed people is always a pressing concern, and doing it well requires that we devote ourselves to the hard work of biblical and theological research and writing.
I’d be curious to know what you think about his seven theological sins. Which do you find yourself struggling with the most? Which do you see as most common among American evangelical students engaged in biblical and theological studies?