Earlier today via email I had a discussion with an acquaintance about a statement I made that theology comes after repentance, understanding and knowledge (illumination) comes after communion. It is not the other way around, i.e. theology first and then repentance, or communion with God after understanding God. Theology is a gift from God, it is indeed communion with God. This clashes with our modern, western accepted modes of thinking about how we come to know what we know.
It is an important distinction, for often it would seem to us that indeed it is the other way around - first I know, then I believe; out of theologizing comes communion with God. Evidence for this, or so the argument goes, is that some sort of knowledge (the existence and love of God for instance) is needed to believe in God. And this is certainly so, but my argument is that this "knowledge" is but a very general knowledge at best, often nothing more than mere intuition. Such as we can see with the Ethopian who did not understand the scriptures and had to be instructed - truly what knowledge did he have? This common knowledge may be a vague intuition, a draw of the heart towards God, a whisper of a calling to turn towards God, a desire for closeness with God. So I hold that repentance comes before illumination and that right belief comes from right communion. The Ethopian communed with the Apostle, and illumination followed. We see this time and again in other examples. Moses meets God and receives understanding after his separation and ascend on Mt. Sinai. Saul of Tarsus receives his sight after repentance; communion with God precedes illumination, Saul becomes Paul the theologizer par excellence. (as an aside, we can see an ontological change in these individuals - they have been truly changed)
From a western, protestant perspective (such as from which I came), it is very difficult to come to terms with this. We like to figure all of it out first, and then give our consent if God meets our requirements (whatever those may be). Such are not the ways of God.
Since we have inherited this western approach to truth (to life, to meaning, to salvation etc.), I think it is important to make this clarification. I know many people who are struggling with this. Sure we should study and reason, but who do we commune with, whose authority will we accept? What is a sure foundation to be the basis for knowledge, and how are we to acquire it? Is the experience of God a possibility?