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Sunday, March 01, 2009

On Theology

Have you ever considered theology; really questioned its meaning and purpose? What is the role of theology in today's Christian life? I have met many men, usually nearing middle age, who seem to have come to an awakening of Christ --- and then pursued theological studies. Some have dropped out of their professions and gone to seminary to pursue graduate studies in theology.

I have to confess that I once considered myself to be of that ilk at one time. I had come to the conclusion that I should "drop out" and go to seminary.

But people whom I considered to be wise and more spiritually mature than myself advised me not to. Both of them had advanced degrees from reputable seminaries. Their consistent advice to me was, "Stay away from seminary. It will only mess you up." At the time I didn't really comprehend what they were telling me. But I trusted them and set aside my own conclusions about what I should do. I took their advice and didn't go to seminary.

Over the years, I've come to appreciate the wisdom that was given me in this respect. Simply put, I think the truth of God is not likely to be found at seminary. You see, the truth is in the relationship that God offers us the opportunity to have with Himself. Consider a parallel if you would. We could study Barack Obama all day long. We could know everything there is to be known about the man. Yet we may still not know him. And so it is with God. We can become very knowledgeable about God - without every really knowing Him.

I'm not saying that theology is useless. Of course it has its place. It is defined ( as the study of the nature of God and religious truth; rational inquiry into religious questions. It has also been defined as the study of the existence or attributes of God. Theology is explained as the use of various forms of analysis and argument (philosophical, historical, ethnographic, etc.) to help understand, explain, test, critique, defend or promote a myriad of religious topics.

Local seminaries tend to explain that theological studies are usually undertaken to help the student (i.e., "theologian") understand his or her own religious traditions or other religious traditions, make comparisons between religious traditions, defend or justify religious traditions, assist in the propagation of religious traditions or to draw on the resources of a tradition to address some present situation or problem.

Did you notice that? Did you see that the list of the most common reasons behind the undertaking of theological studies does not include actually knowing God! I wonder if the people who are undertaking these theological studies understand that. Are they consciously aware of the fact that they are missing the point? I doubt it. From what I can tell by browsing through seminary marketing materials - there is little (if any) emphasis put on the actual spiritual health of the student.

Seminaries teach virtuous lifestyles. Seminaries teach doctrine and theory. They even teach study methods. But wouldn't it be better if seminaries could help usher in an intimate relationship with God Himself? Wouldn't it be best if seminaries could help their students have a fresh encounter with Christ? Wouldn't students benefit more if seminaries could help them be filled with the Holy Spirit? Perhaps they could even be taught how to maintain their own relationships with God. Now these are the things that would make seminary most worthwhile!

For those of you who are contemplating seminary, in seminary, or have been to seminary - my hat is off to you. It's a bold undertaking and I have great respect for those who put forth such extraordinary effort. At the same time, my prayers are with you. Don't miss the true calling of God in your life --- to be in an intimate relationship with Him consistently. More importantly, don't miss that fact that most seminary curriculum are not designed to take you there either.

No, the real challenge for the theologians of this world is to be move that head knowledge a short distance south ... to their hearts!

1 comment:

  1. Very good post. Personally, I would love to learn as much as I can about God. I happen to already be missing the relationship with God, so I have nothing to lose there. I love studying though, and I love to learn about God. I'd probably be happy as a clam there. :)