Dave’s post over at DMI reminded me of first time I heard that Mormonism didn’t have “theology”. Back then I thought, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” As I listened, though, I slowly understood. I also agreed. However, the more I’ve listened to discussions on the topic, the more I’ve found the claim problematic.
The problem with this, as I see it is (at least) two-fold:
First of all, “theology” is removed from it’s broader sense of “faith seeking understanding” to a more specialized/technical sense that disqualifies not only Mormonism from having theology, but just about every religion besides Christianity (and only certain kinds of Christianity there in). Etymological concerns aside, I’m not persuaded that this amounts to much more than saying Mormons have not engaged in activities such as those done by Schleiermacher or convened councils to enact creeds. Many, if not all of these conclusions are already known, and could be arrived at without invoking the term ‘theology’. I am also not persuaded that much is gained by using so narrow a definition.
Secondly (and this is the bone I really wanted to pick), it seems that all too often we use the notion of no “theology” to create a convenient “other” for us to work in opperation against. “We” are a-theological and not bound by the same constructs as “they” are. We revel in our a-theology because it gives us the leeway to build multiple intellectual positions, and not be so hard and fast in our definitions and doctrines. I believe this leads to us creating ways of thinking that are “Orientalist” in as much as we require this “other” for self definition and identity.