We, the members of the Indian Theological Association (ITA), at its 26th Annual Meeting at NBCLC, Bangalore, 24 - 29 April, 2003, reflected on the theme "Society and Church: Challenges to Theologizing in India Today." This was also an occasion to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of the Association that had its birth in 1976.We remembered with grateful hearts the pioneers of the Association and their achievements in promoting a genuine Indian theology.


I. A Historical Overview

1. Our reflection began with a historical survey of the trends in theologizing found in the Individual Churches in India. These Churches were the result of historical encounters between the Gospel and the cultural contexts of various peoples in our country, and they witness to the process of the Christian message incarnating itself in different forms.

We noted three major trajectories in Indian theology: (1) the Spiritual-contemplative approach, represented by the Indian Christian Ashram movement; (2) the Intellectual-theological approach in which Christian scholars entered into dialogue with the philosophical and religious traditions of India, and (3) the Socio-political approach which began from the common problems and struggles of people. This approach became the locus for theologizing and creating a new society, and inspired new patterns of formation, e.g., the regional theologates.

2. The Apostolic Church of St. Thomas Christians witnessed to the Christian faith and, at the same time, preserved the socio-cultural customs and practices of their ancestors. However, their easy accommodation to the Hindu caste system prevented them from identifying with the struggles of the oppressed and marginalized and exercising a prophetic ministry. Yet, their harmonious and peaceful relationship with the members of other religions is to be commended. The St. Thomas Christians offer testimony to a Christianity that does not have to be Latin to be authentic and admits to pluralism in its manifestations. They also developed an ecclesiology that gave the palliyogam (assembly) of the people full legislative, administrative and judicial powers in conducting the temporal affairs of the Church.

3. The colonial period saw Roberto De Nobili taking up new initiatives. He began by studying Indian languages (Tamil and Sanskrit) and adopting Hindu cu toms and practices. He presented himself as a sanyasi and explored the wisdom of India by studying seriously its scriptures and philosophies. He entered into discourse and debate with local Brahmins and made serious attempts to interpret and reformulate Christianity in terms of Indian categories and thought patterns. Thomas Stevens composed Kristapurana in Marathi; Beschi wrote. Thempavani in Tamil and Amos Padiri composed Puthenpana in Malayalam. Along with missionaries like Da Costa, Beschi attempted to enter into the religio-cultural realm of the non-Brahmins, especially the poor and the outcastes.

4. The Indian Renaissance of the 19th and 20th centuries and the spirit of nationalism gave new impetus to Indian theology. Several Indians like Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Keshub Chandra Sen were inspired by Christian ideals and contributed to social reform movements in the Indian society and to the rediscovery of India's cultural, religious and spiritual heritage. Keshub Chandra Sen felt he could combine India's spirit of devotion and prayer with the 'practical righteousness' of the west.

5. The struggles for political independence and the spirit of nationalism made an impact on Indian Churches and their way of theologizing. Leading Christian thinkers of this period, such as S. K. Dutra, K. T. Paul, Bishop V. S. Azariah, and others felt that the Christ of western culture had awakened the Christ of Indian culture. Swaraj itself was seen by them as a freedom movement bringing a new identity to the Churches in India.

6. The pioneering work in Indian theology was initiated mainly by Protestant Christians. Outstanding theologians among them such as K.M. Banerjee affirmed the view that there was continuity between Hinduism and Christianity, not opposition or conflict. In the first half of the 20th century. Bishop A.J. Appasamy developed Christian theology along the lines of the Bhakti tradition of personal devotion. Vengal Chakkarai and P. Chenchaiah outlined a Christocentric theology for the renewal of the Church and the nation. These pioneers adopted an exclusivist methodology through which they hoped to find Christ and the Spirit present in India's religious traditions and scriptures, and thus experience the continuity of salvation history.

7. Among the Catholics, Brahmabandhab Upadhyaya was a nationalist as well as a pioneer in Indian theology. He worked to bring about an Indian Church that would possess an indigenous liturgy and theology. He advocated interpreting the Christian faith in terms of Vedanta. He applied the term sat-chit-ananda to the Trinity and referred to Jesus as the Oriental Christ. Another pioneer was Sunder Singh, a mystic, who insisted on the precedence of 'heart' over 'head'. Many years later, the theological work of these pioneers was taken up and developed in diverse ways by Indian theologians like Pierre Johanns and D.S. Amalorpavadoss.

8. Christian Ashrams became a great resource for living one's life in a holistic way and for theologizing in India. Many like Monchanin, Abhishiktananda, Bede Griffiths and Sara Grant who founded or directed such ashrams contributed substantially to the development of Indian theology and Indian ways of worship. Today, Christian Ashrams have become important venues for promoting interreligious dialogue and fostering inner dialogue within oneself and external dialogue with others, especially those of other faith persuasions.

9. Many Indian theologians saw a link between the Gospel and the social and religious movements of the country. They involved themselves in the struggles of the people and identified themselves with the poor and the marginalized. Through their efforts, the Gospel was seen as relevant to the country and the actual lives of people. Paul D. Devanandan and M. M. Thomas continued this line of thinking and linked Christ and salvation to humanization and modem secularity. Mention must be made of Sebastian Kappen and George Soares-Prabhu-among others-who tried to articulate an Indian theology of liberation and advocated the use of social analysis and involvement in liberation struggles to eliminate the root causes of oppression and poverty. In our own time, some have tried to evolve a Tribal theology by reflecting on tribal culture (Land, Water and Forest) in the light of the Christian faith.

10. Dalit Christian theology came into its own when Dalit Christians, with the help of theologians like Arvind P. Nirrnal, began to discover their own history and their 'little traditions,' and articulated a Dalit theology of liberation in their own language and categories. In addition, women theologians have suggested correctives to theologies that tend to be one- sided and suffer from a bias that is patriarchal.

11. Theologians in India have applied themselves to the specific task of developing a theology of religions so that religions can coexist-and live in harmony with each other. The theology of inculturation is another area where pioneers like Fr. Proksch and Fr. Zeitler led the way to a genuine encounter between the Gospel and Indian reality resulting in a new understanding of both. Significant contributions towards an Indian hermeneutical theology have emerged, and new theological expressions in art forms like dramas, songs and paintings are also currently emerging in the theological universe of India.

12. The unique roles played and the significant contributions made by Indian Theological Journals such as Bible Bhasyham, Indian Theological Studies, Jeevadhara, Jnanadeepa, Journal of Dharma, Sevartham, Third Millennium, Vaiharai and Vidyajyoti, are to be commended. They have provided a forum for theologizing in India with freedom and creativity. The National, Biblical, Catechetical and Liturgical Centre (NBCLC) at Bangalore, established after Second Vatican Council, initiated a process of renewal in Christian life and inculturated forms of theologizing. Along with NBCLC, the North Indian Theological Forum and the Tamil Regional Theological Forum offer meeting points for Christians from all parts of India. At regular intervals colloquia between bishops and theologians take place which promote mutual understanding and an ongoing commitment to developing an Indian theology.

13. The Indian Theological Association started in 1976 with the inspiration and initiative of Constantine Manalel has been offering a platform for theologians to develop an Indian way of theologizing. For more than a quarter of a century ITA has been responsive to the challenges of theologizing in the Indian context. Some of the main themes that were repeatedly discussed and reflected upon by Indian theologians were poverty, discrimination on the basis of caste and gender, problems of Dalits, Tribals and other subaltern groups, globalization, ecological crises, plurality of religions, communalism, Hindutva, search for an Indian Church and theology, dialogue, inculturation, women's place and role in society and in the Church, lay people's role in the Church and the method of theologizing in India.

14. The complex situation in India challenges its theologians to commit themselves to liberating action as well as envision the shape of a Church that is relevant to the context. The outcome of their efforts will be a theology that is responsive to God's action in the culture and history of our people. These theologians are convinced that theological education must be interdisciplinary making use of the contribution of the social sciences in analyzing the context of theologizing. The statements of the ITA bear witness to the concerted effort of the theologians to make their faith more alive, dynamic and challenging by encountering their context while remaining creatively faithful to the living tradition of the Church and its mission.


II. Paradigm Change in Theologizing

15. People use paradigms in their lives to cope with the reality in and around them. A paradigm is a model or a pattern through which we encounter the world and find meaning in it. In a world that is subject to evolution, however, paradigms need to change. Otherwise paradigm paralysis sets in and we cease to encounter the world as positive and the presence of God in it as fulfilling.

16. The theologian uses paradigms in his/ her task of theologizing. In the pre- Vatican II era, the accepted theological paradigm was one in which truths of the faith were to be correctly understood and professed and arguments constructed to defend them. Such a paradigm became increasingly dysfunctional after Vatican II where a new understanding of Christian revelation and Church took shape. From a static perception of revelation as truths about God and from the Church as a hierarchical institution there emerged an understanding of the Church as the people of God and revelation as a divine human encounter that continues even in our own times. The Church realized that it must identify and be in solidarity with the secular, especially suffering humanity and that a new paradigm was needed.

17. Responding to the invitation of Vatican Council II and under the leadership of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, the Catholic Church in India ventured into a collective process of reflection on its pastoral services and mission. Theological consultations at diocesan and/or regional levels with the participation of the laity, religious, priests, bishops and theologians reached a climax in the National Seminar on the Church in India Today (1969). It was a bench mark in the history of Indian theologizing and collective introspection, In this paradigm, the theologian is not concerned merely with the dogmas and doctrines of the Church and the intellectual systems in which they are expressed; he/she begins by being part of a community that discovers and assesses its questions, problems and issues in the light of the Christian Tradition and seeks to construct an appropriate response to them.

18. In contextual theologizing interdisciplinary approaches are used where human concerns are identified and assessed by the social sciences; at the same time, these concerns are dealt with in the light of Christian faith. The final outcome is decision-making that shows itself in action. The authenticating factor in such contextual theologizing is a transformation that brings wholeness especially to the marginalized.

19. Our world is constantly changing and we ourselves are part of this evolving flux. Hence, the questions, problems and issues taken up by theology will also be changing and our accustomed paradigms will have to give way to new ones if theology is to be functional and relevant. Besides, our theologizing must be accountable especially to those who suffer in different contexts of life and who seek a fuller existence in the light of God's revelation.


III. The New Face of Contextual Theologizing

20. India is the cradle of some of the great religions of humanity and plurality of religions is a living reality in India. The different stages of the spiritual evolution of humanity are still vibrant on this subcontinent. Our people are attuned to a way of life that respects the religious otherness of the other and fosters a healthy attitude of coexistence especially in the villages. Christian theology needs to develop a language that resonates with this religious psyche of the people. Christology must create the space to respect the plurality of God's salvific ways as articulated in different religions and Ecclesiology must divest itself of all traces of triumphalism and of intolerance when regarding other faiths.

21. Religious fundamentalism has been on the upsurge in almost all religious communities in India during the last few decades. Politicians with vested interests, religious leaders with narrow vision and businessmen greedy for money have been manipulating the religious feelings of the people to secure gains for themselves. The militant forms of religious fundamentalism have become a threat to the secular foundation and democratic matrix of the nation. Christian theology has to face this challenge by objectively exposing the roots of this malaise, by raising a prophetic critique of the disruptive forces and by strengthening the spiritual core of religions through a creative process of interreligious dialogue. This demands that a theology of Christian mission renounce aggressive forms of proclamation and illegitimate claims to absoluteness. The theology of religions has to develop open perspectives which contribute to a new culture of interfaith harmony in the country.

22. Different forms of popular religiosity continue to influence the masses of India. Sages and shrines, pilgrimages and processions, feasts and festivals, hymns and dance exert a great fascination on devotees. A theology of the sacraments and liturgy will find in them rich material to develop inculturated forms of Christian life. Yet these phenomena can be ambivalent and exploitative factors often lurk behind such elevating experiences. The task of Christian theology is to discern what is conducive to growth and harmony, and what is disruptive in the life of the individual and community.

23. The challenges evolving on the religious terrain of India call for theological methods which would creatively resonate with the specificity of the Indian religious psyche and respond to the disruptive situations arising today. This means that on occasion we need to take a clear and courageous stand that obliges us to distance ourselves from the traditional methods inherited from the Judeo-Graeco- Roman culture. While deeply rooted in the Christian experience we are committed to a pluralist way of thinking. The basis of any Indian theological method is the conviction that the Divine is an unfathomable mystery. The sages of India and the Christian mystics have always pointed to this. In the flux of history which is relational and hence relative, the claim of a particular revelation or a concrete symbol of salvation to unqualified absoluteness is difficult to sustain.

24. God's plan of salvation embraces the whole of humanity and its entire historical evolution. In diverse ways God has been entering the lives of persons and offering them salvation. These offers have been articulated in the diverse religions of humanity. In India, each religion is respected and represents a valid way to salvation for those who live in it. No religion saves; only God saves! The symbols of religions are meant to facilitate the experience of God's grace. Pope John Paul II reminds us that through dialogue among believers of different religions we make God present in our midst.

25. Indian theology seeks to interpret the Christ-event in dialogue with the religions of humanity. The Logos that is immanent in this universe as Life and in human history as Light has become flesh; this is the foundational experience of the Christian community. This kenosis of the Divine in Jesus Christ invites us to see the mystery of the divine turned towards humanity and reflected in the person of Jesus, crucified and raised from the dead. It ill-accords with claims that are triumphal, exclusivist or suggestive of 'fulfillment'. We realize that we now experience the mystery of the Divine in signs and symbols. It is in the Eschaton that we see God face to face. Until then all our perceptions continue to have a fragmentary character. Consequently, Indian theology considers persons of other religions as co-pilgrims and respects their religious faith.

26. We realize in India that the deeper we are rooted in Christ, the closer we are related to believers of other religions. In such genuine relatedness we share our faith with others not by aggressive proclamation but by sharing our life and faith with others in the spirit of Jesus Christ who washed the feet of his disciples. Perceiving the Lord in the life of the poor and the marginalized and participating in their struggles for liberation, we share our faith in Christ with others in a way that is true to the Gospel and that resonates with the Indian ethos. Moreover theological reflection in India is oriented to the option for the poor.

27. For us, the Church should be at the service of Christ's mission not primarily as an institution but as a spiritual community: the communion of all those who are guided by the Spirit. It is in and through the Church that we experience the unfolding of the Reign of God proclaimed by Jesus and are able to recognize the charisms of individuals within and outside the Christian community. Theology helps us to discern the transforming presence of the divine Spirit in the different cultures and religions of people.

28. The Church as community is a minority in India. But its long heritage, diverse forms of service and competent personnel have helped to make its presence recognized in the country. Its social service centres and projects are appreciated widely and its social teachings and ethical norms are held in esteem. Indian theologians have contributed significantly to the inculturating of the message of Jesus.

29. However the credibility of the Christian presence in India has also been called into question for not being sufficiently integrated with India's spiritual heritage, for not having clearly repudiated its relationship to a colonial past and for not identifying itself fully with the life and struggles of the Dalits, Tribals, women and other marginalized groups. The Church has been questioned for nurturing an undue enthusiasm to expand numerically and for showing an undue partiality to foreign patterns of thinking and power centres. Some Indian theologians feel that an excessive concern for loyalty to the traditional western theological categories weakens a creative Indian response to the challenges of the times. At times, theologians and bishops tend to identify the Reign of God exclusively with the institutional Church, its Magisterium only with the Roman offices of administration and its articulation of faith solely with the Graeco-Roman language of doctrine. Often, theologizing efforts in seminaries are confined to teaching a theology that is constrained by traditional Roman patterns of thinking. As a result, theologians who are trying responsibly to develop a new language of theology attuned to the Indian religious psyche are held in suspicion unjustifiably. The conflict between loyalty to the western Christian Tradition and responsibility to the unfolding of the divine Word in India evolves into a serious crisis in the life and work of several theologians. A corrective would be supplied by emphasizing the sense of the faithful (sensus fidei), evolving a people's theology-a certain degree of democratization of theology, and collaborating with all sections of the people in the process of theologizing.

30. Every crisis is a challenge to listen to what the Spirit is saying to the Church today. Both bishops and theologians are invited to explore new modes of dialogue and fresh avenues of 10 collaboration. While they follow their specific vocations, they participate in the one mission of Christ: to promote humane values in keeping with the Reign of God in all spheres of life. The bishop is given the function of preserving the local Christian community in unity and fellowship with the universal Church. The theologian has the prophetic task of discerning and responding to the challenges emerging from the world. Theologians need the guidance of bishops for rootedness in the community and to preserve a pastoral sensitivity. Bishops need the interpretation and prophetic inspiration of theologians to cope with the complex realities of the world. Both complement each other: bishops have to be sensitive to the explorative efforts of theologians and theologians have to consider seriously the pastoral concerns of the bishops. Both have to listen sympathetically to each other and speak with love to each other. The culture of dialogue between bishops and theologians now evolving in the Indian Church can be enhanced through means like the following:

a) A well organized dialogue between bishops and theologians should be held biennially at the national level and annually at the regional level, and the outcome should be communicated to the people at large.

b) A theological forum that functions as a thinking cell at the national and regional levels should be set up. It should comprise a few bishops and theologians who have the sensitivity and competence to analyze the emerging trends in the country. By publishing timely statements on important issues affecting the Church and the country it could render a service to civic society.

c) Accountability structures should be in place for bishops to exercise their magisterial role with charity. Theologians need the support of the bishops in their task of creative theological reflection in India. If and when a theologian's work is at variance with the message of the Gospel or the authentic Tradition of the Church, he/she should be invited to a fraternal dialogue on the matter in question by the local or regional Magisterium and the matter should be discussed with acknowledged experts in the field. When there is need for an investigation, the human rights of the theologian must be clearly acknowledged and respected. In all proceedings, fairness and justice must be exercised and seen to be exercised by all the concerned parties.

d) The national or regional bishops' conferences could use the help of theologians to correctly assess the relevance of Church teaching in important Roman documents.

e) A participatory decision making process could be evolved in the dioceses. Before major decisions and orientations are taken by the bishops with regard to the life of the Christian community theologians should be consulted.

f) On their part, theologians in India should commit themselves to a serious study of the classical and contemporary sources of theology in India, to genuine insertion in the life of the local people and to new and meaningful ways of communicating faith in the present socio-cultural and religious context of India.


IV. Challenges to Theologizing in Context

Economic Context
31. During the years after Independence, India tried to realize a just social order through the various five-year plans. In the 1960s India tried to develop in terms of literacy, education and social uplift. In the 1980s, concluding that its own capital was not enough to meet all its projects for economic growth and development, India opened its markets to foreign capital and investments. However, markets work through economic forces which are in the hands of the rich and the powerful. In the 1990s India welcomed globalization which has worsened the situation of people in the small-scale industries, traditional industries, and agriculture. In the whole process, the present market economy benefits a rich and tiny elite group. While the poor have become poorer and more oppressed, there is the growth of a new middle class that is highly consumerist and competitive and, in general, insensitive and indifferent to the overwhelming majority of the poor and marginalized. In fine, the whole economy is geared not to the needs of the poor and the local people but to the needs of the investors, the middle class and the rich.

32. An adequate response to the present economic situation would include organizing the workers in the agricultural and industrial sectors and conscientizing them of their human and civil rights. Women workers and children have to be particularly well organized so as to be protected from sexual harassment. There is need to check vigilantly the influence of transnational corporations which work hand in glove with Indian companies to take undue advantage of the cheap labour in India. Future five-year plans should be redesigned to meet the needs of the local people and the poor and to prevent the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few. To realize these objectives, it is imperative that the poor, the Dalits, the women and the Tribals are empowered and that various people's movements are promoted. The Church must serve the disadvantaged groups by educating and conscientizing them and working for their economic development and thus become the Church of the marginalized.

Political Context
33. For three decades after Independence, India enjoyed political stability. However, the caste factor in Indian society consolidated its strength by organizing regional political parties based on caste. Money and muscle power bought voters as well as politicians and criminalization in politics has become a fact of life.

34. A new system of self-government is required that promotes people's education, literacy, and equality in the economic and social spheres. In the Church itself a greater effort should be made to share power with the marginalized. Theological reflection can help the Christian community to develop political consciousness and participate in decision making.

35. The Dalits (SCs), Adivasis (STs) and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) claim that they constitute a majority in India. They are attempting to unite themselves and have named this solidarity the Dalit Bahujan (the oppressed majority). Possessing their own traditions, they vehemently oppose being grouped with Brahminic Hinduism, which they consider a 13 "spiritual fascism". They strive to be masters of their own destiny and struggle to liberate themselves using the Ambedkarian paradigm while rejecting the Gandhian and Nehruvian paradigms as Brahminic.

36. Exploitation, unemployment, migration, suicides, starvation deaths, hunger, disease and suffering of the Dalit Bahujans are on the increase because of the happy cohabitation of the ideologies of the Brahminic Hindutva and corporate globalization. Dalits are put down with an iron hand and atrocities against them are on the rise. The voluntary groups and Christian workers who work for their liberation suffer attacks from those espousing the Hindutva ideology. Efforts are on to Hinduize the National Institutes and saffronize education. Religious fundamentalism is promoted to gain and retain political power so as to preserve and promote the Brahminic social order based on the non-egalitarian caste system. Anti conversion laws are enforced for the same reason.

37. Indian Christian Theology is called to dialogue with the emerging Dalit consciousness 'as expressed in the Dalit Bahujan movements. Christian theologians are challenged to join the Dalit struggle for liberation and to become "midwives" of theologies for the oppressed. Solidarity with these movements for the pursuit of human concerns must become an occasion for theologizing and for overcoming caste discrimination both in society at large and also within the Church.

38. Women's movements for self-emancipation have been in evidence for many years. These movements have raised questions regarding the putting up of large dams, the injustice involved in settling displaced Tribals, the inequality of wages paid to men and to women and the plight of domestic workers. Christian women's organizations have been instrumental in effecting changes in the recent Christian Marriage Act passed by parliament which puts the woman partner on a par with the man. But much remains to be done. The neglect 14 of the girl-child which is reflected in the sex ratio of 927 females to 1000 males is alarming. Women continue to be victims of domestic violence, unequal opportunity in the place of work and gender discrimination from birth to death. A theology that serves to affirm the equality of the sexes and that enables men and women to seek their proper dignity and destiny must be fostered and encouraged. Such a theology must honestly assess the efforts of the Church and society at large in recognizing women as coequal to men and giving women their due. Giving women their rightful place in public and domestic life is a condition for the health of the family and of society as a whole. The greater portion of this task is still to be completed and awaits the efforts of theologians.


V. The Implications of Theologizing in India

439. (a) If paradigm shift in theology indicates a new method of doing theology in India then this will have implications for the formation programmes of pastors who will be leaders of ecclesial communities.

(b) Those in formation who are being prepared must be schooled in contemplation i.e. they must experience God in themselves and in the community they serve. They must bring hermeneutical suspicion into their considerations which question what is taking place in the existing society and develop theological methods that are inter-religious and offer scope for collaboration with like-minded persons. In order to be evangelized by the disempowered, theologians are expected to become 'organic intellectuals' in active solidarity with the struggling victims through intense and frequent immersion experiences.

(c) Theological method should bring about the individual conversion of the theologian as well as the social change of structures affecting the marginalized. Such transformation will be the authenticating factor of the process of theologizing in the Indian context.

40. Theology becomes a creative exploration when the Church and society face serious challenges in the social, cultural and religious sectors of the country. The spirit of Christ invites theologians to engage in a creative work to respond them. Until the end of Vatican II, Indian theologians were accused of lacking radicalism or creativity. Indeed, theologians allover the world are usually accused of making impeccably true but practically irrelevant statements. But once the contextual challenges of the Indian situation became a constitutive element for theologizing, the face of theology in India changed radically. Today, theology seeks to recognize and affirm the transforrnative presence of God not primarily in the sanctuary but in secular space. In addition, a positive sign of such a theology developing is the creative and critical cooperation between the theologizing community and the episcopal community.



41. An Indian theology has been many years in the making. Beginning from the time of the St. Thomas Christians, it had its memorable moments when persons like Thomas Stephens and Robert de Nobili affirmed its contextual nature. It suffered its moments of agony when in the name of orthodoxy its contextual nature was ignored or denied. But Indian theologizing has gained in strength during the past few decades. It has been especially concerned with the well-being of the marginalized, entering into dialogue with those of other faith persuasions and collaborating with all who commit themselves to building an India where freedom, fellowship and justice prevail. Would not the pluralism experienced and lived out in India invest Indian theology with its specific characteristic and be India's singular contribution to unity and reconciliation in the world at large? This is the dream of those who commit themselves to the theological enterprise in India. If in the past Christianity came to India to be incarnated in its cultures and peoples, the emergence of an Indian theology heralds a Christianity that has come of age. Indian theology speaks the message of Jesus in accents that are authentically Indian and truly Christian. It is with this articulation that Indian theologians walk into a future of hope.