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THE CONTEXTUAL DIMENSION OF THEOLOGY
Early in her travels in Wonderland, Alice asks the Cheshire Cat for some direction in the midst of her bizarre adventures:
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don't much care where –” said Alice.
“Then it doesn't matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“ – so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you're sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
Alice is bewildered by her context. She doesn't quite know what to make of the place she has fallen into (through the rabbit-hole); consequently, she really doesn't know where she is going. In negotiating life, context is crucial. In order to get somewhere, we must first know where we are. This is also the case for the venture of theology.
For many people, theology has the reputation of being an abstract and arid intellectual discipline, divorced from terra firma and all too often speculating in matters far removed from everyday concerns. This reputation, well earned at certain junctures in Christian history, is unfortunate, for at its best theological reflection is deeply connected to the questions and problems, hopes and fears, of real people in the real world.