One of the privileges of studying theology within the clerical formation programs of the Catholic Church is that you get to study philosophy first. For at least three years. This can seem interesting and exciting when you’re immersed in it—it certainly hones the intellect for debate. At other times it can seem soul-crushing and destroying—what has this nitpicking linguistic analysis got to do with preparing me to preach the gospel? In retrospect, the true extent of the privilege becomes clearer: when it comes time to study theology, the pupil has been primed to interpret, to be able to remove words and concepts from the meaning foisted on them by the gut, to separate them from their inherited baggage and to begin to detect where contemporary religious ideology and real thought might begin to diverge, and how to follow the latter.
What I would like to do today is to honour my compatriot, Julian of Norwich, by attempting to boost something which was dear to her heart: contemplation. I want to do this by taking a long way round to indicate that monotheism without contemplation is dangerous, and to ponder why this should be so. To put it in a nutshell, my claim is that monotheism is a terrible idea, but a wonderful discovery. So I am going to ask you to bear with me as I attempt to fly a series of kites with you, and see if, when they are all up there, we can make any sense of them.
Links to resources on Richard Bauckham’s personal website