We’ve got some Mormons who do theology qua general authorities. We’ve got Mormons who do theology qua CES employees. We’ve got Mormons who do theology qua Sunday School teachers. We’ve got Mormons who do theology qua historians. We’ve got Mormons who do theology qua cultural critics. But we’ve got hardly a Mormon doing theology qua theologian in sight.
Except (especially) Blake Ostler.
I’m stipulating a particular use of the word theologian here. (Maybe you don’t care for or are dubious about the value of the kind of theology I’m about to describe – that’s fine.) For my part, in order to count as a Mormon doing theology qua theologian, three minimum qualifications must be met: (1) your work must be “scholarly” in character (i.e., you must be reading, citing, and responding to other scholar-theologians), (2) you must be alive, and (3) you must publish a book.
In fact, let’s take this as the benchmark for the existence of Mormon theology qua theology as an extant discipline. Mormon theology qua theology will exist as a scholarly discipline when we have the books (not blogs, not papers, not essays, not journals, not edited collections, etc. – though these may be helpful and productive in their own right) to show for it. The transition from blogs/papers to books is a developmental phase transition.
In this respect, Blake’s work is a theological beachhead. If you’ve read his books, then you know that there is little to nothing else like them in Mormondom. They are a genre unto themselves. They deserve our sustained attention.
As a result, Joe Spencer and I have cooked up a plan. We’re going to spend the next year writing at T&S about all three (with a fourth on it’s way) volumes of Blake’s Exploring Mormon Thought books. We’ll take turns, write something once a week at roughly the pace of one chapter per week, and start next week with vol. 1, The Attributes of God (Greg Kofford Books, 2001). However, rather than simply reviewing/summarizing the books chapter by chapter (you can read after all), we’ll take Blake’s work as an occasion to reflect theologically on the same issues that prompted him to write in the first place.
Looking ahead, I see Blake’s work as indispensable to the (nascent) future of Mormon theology as a scholarly discipline in two respects: (1) it stakes out public ground on the content of a uniquely Mormon theology, and (2) it takes clear positions on what a uniquely Mormon approach to theological work might look like.
If you haven’t already, pick up a copy of the first volume and join us.