In a recent online piece from the Atlantic , Tara Isabella Burton makes a case for theology as a university discipline, pointing out along the way the inherently interdisciplinary nature of theology: “As Oxford’s Dr. William Wood, a University Lecturer in Philosophical Theology and my former tutor, puts it: ‘theology is the closest thing we have at the moment to the kind of general study of all aspects of human culture that was once very common, but is now quite rare.’ A good theologian, he says, ‘has to be a historian, a philosopher, a linguist, a skillful interpreter of texts both ancient and modern, and probably many other things besides.’ In many ways, a course in theology is an ideal synthesis of all other liberal arts: no longer, perhaps, ‘Queen of the Sciences,’ but at least, as Wood terms it, ‘Queen of the Humanities.’”

So perhaps we don’t need to reinstate the Queen after all. Perhaps news of the death of theology have been exaggerated. Perhaps it’s always been a “The Queen is Dead! Long Live the Queen!” sort of thing.

But is theology any different in this respect from, say, contemporary history, or anthropology, or literary theory, or philosophy? Isn’t any historian worth his salt also a linguist, an interpreter of texts, a philosopher (at least for the purposes of writing his theoretical and historiographical introductions)?

What, it seems, sets Queen theology apart from the others is its aspiration to discern traces of comprehensive significance; perhaps even more, its confidence that such traces are there to be found.


Articles by Peter J. Leithart