ichthys mark in Ephesus
A mark left by an everyday theologian of the ancient world

Gramsci said that everyone is a philosopher – because everyone has a philosophy of life. In that sense, everyone is also a theologian. Everyone has a theology – a talk about God – whether it’s derived from the Catechism of the Catholic Church or what the madrasa curriculum covers or Mom’s explanation of puja or whatever. Even the talk that goes “there’s no such thing as God” or the one that goes “maybe there is and maybe there isn’t, how on earth would we ever know?” is a theology, in that Gramscian sense, that sense of the account everyone necessarily has of some matter so inescapable that no one really gets the choice of not having any account of it at all – something like life, or love, or God.

[Theology] is an academic discipline in part, but more importantly, theology is what everyday people do when they try to make sense of the teachings that come from their religious traditions, especially when they try to think through the practical applications of their beliefs.1

Gramsci didn’t say that everyone has a cogent, coherent, consistent, comprehensive philosophy of life. Some philosophies are better than others, on those measures, while some are worse. The same thing goes for theology. If I have to have a philosophy of life, and if I have to have a theology, I’d like the one I have to … work.

What that means, though – “work” – is less than 100% clear.


1 Schneider, Laurel C. and Ray, Stephen G., Jr., eds. 2016. Awake to the Moment: An Introduction to Theology. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press. 1-2.