It is the role of the contemporary conflicts of theology to expose the idolatries to which we Christians are prone; and the exorcism of them is necessary for the renewal of faith and for the convincing communication of faith to the world. Idolatry for Christians wears many guises. It arises when the service of God becomes so ‘religionized’ that people become blind to the challenges of God in everyday episodes; but it can arise also when the service of God becomes so activist that there is no room for the contemplation of God as the author and the goal of human service. It arises perhaps most frequently when the concepts and images of God, and our own way of realizing them, become ‘absolutized’ and so replace the reality whom they represent. In all these ways we can ‘turn our glory into the likeness of a calf that eats hay’.
Theology needs openness.
So often a lack of openness has vitiated theology in its tasks. Through lack of openness to the contemporary world theology has sometimes worked in a kind of vacuum with neither meaningfulness for itself nor power of self-communication. But through lack of openness to the past theology can be so obsessed with the contemporary as to lose a true perspective and give to the contemporary far less than it can.
And openness to the world must always be accompanied by an openness to Christ crucified, or else the world’s wisdom can mislead. The need is for every kind of openness – to the past and to the present, to the world and to heaven and eternity.
By openness to the past the Christian can contemplate the life and death and Resurrection of Jesus.
It is humbling to be made to realize that the world before or since has produced nothing so worthy of contemplation because what is there given is from beyond the world. The life of Jesus is to be imitated, and the death and Resurrection of Jesus are to be shared. So the sacraments of the Church which convey the death and the Resurrection to the believers link the contemplation of the past with the reality of the present. There must no less be openness to the past in the many centuries between the historic Christ and today. The saintly lives of the past encourage us, and we discover that new truths or errors are often in fact the re-emergence of old ones.