I stumbled across this article today from the Daily Nexus. The question being asked is: “Why let atheists talk about theology? That’s like letting English majors criticize quantum mechanics!”
One of the authors of the op-ed piece states,
As an agnostic atheist, I don’t claim to have the “truth” about reality; I am simply one more voice in an endless sea of opinions on religion. Simply put, the best reason to let atheists talk about religion is that they are the only ones telling you that religious dogma is bunk.
Quite frankly, I disagree with this author, but not for the reason one might think as we will see in a minute. To me, this author gives a non-answer. Merely talking religion is not talking theology and two of the authors seems to equate talking religion to talking theology.
So what is theology?
Carl Braaten writes,
This question can be answered from two different standpoints, from that of a general philosophical theory of human knowledge or from that within a specific theological circle of Christian faith. The one places theology within the scope of natural reason; the other links it to the events of historical revelation. In classical dogmatics theology was defined as the knowledge of God and divine things, to be gained partly in a natural way bu the use of reason, and partly in a supernatural way through special revelation. In new and varied proposals theology continues to define itself from two such perspectives, for the side of reason or from the standpoint of faith in special revelation, or perhaps a combination of both. (Christian Dogmatics, 9)
By this definition, there are instances where atheists can talk theology. On one hand, coming strictly from the side of reason, yes, atheists can talk theology. On the other hand, coming from the standpoint of faith in special revelation, no they can not. their opinion is no less valid than mine and their voice should be heard in civil discussions.