In the past few days, I been revisiting Benjamin’s “On the Concept of History” where I was struck by his imagery of theology. In the first thesis, Benjamin stated:
The story is told of an automaton constructed in such a way that it could play a winning game of chess, answering each move of an opponent with a countermove. A puppet in Turkish attire and with a hookah in its mouth sat before a chessboard placed on a large table. A system of mirrors created the illusion that this table was transparent from all sides. Actually, a little hunchback who was an expert chess player sat inside and guided the puppet’s hand by means of strings. One can imagine a philosophical counterpart to this device. The puppet called ‘historical materialism’ is to win all the time. It can easily be a match for anyone if it enlists the services of theology, which today, as we know, is wizened and has to keep out of sight.
Here, theology is described as “wizened and has to keep out of sight”. This imagery struck a chord with me because despite the political and social changes that is taking place in society, local theological discourse is very anaemic with regards to such changes.
It seems that the focus is on the personal and the spiritual without much work being done to engage with the wider society. With the exception of one or two local theologians, I find myself wishing more will come forward to take the challenge of making local theological discourse more vibrant and contemporary by reflecting on public issues that affect the faith community as citizens of a nation.
This, as I see it, is the challenge for our theologians.