I’ve had reason to question lately why I bother studying divinity. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love it, but is that enough?
I always say I that I couldn’t spend four years studying anything else. Sure I’d love to do a few courses in just about everything – the geek in me wants to learn it all but there’s no way I could spend four or five years doing medicine, engineering, politics or geology.
Why is theology any different?
Theology is defined as “the rational and systematic study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truth” (Princeton WordWeb). There’s a key phrase there: “it’s influences”.
Your theology, whether it be Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Pagan, Communist, Scientific or even Financial, affects everything you do. It’s in these things which you find your purpose and your ethics. They will affect everything from what you do with your time and money, to how you raise your kids and contribute to society.
I study the Christian faith because it supplies my theology and the theology of approximately 2 billion others. 2 billion people who could change the world for better or for worse. If we’re not studying and interpreting scripture appropriately then our theology will be skewed and our actions won’t be honouring to God. If we’re not continually assessing and re-evaluating the theologies that have already been written we can be following blindly that which is wrong. If we don’t look to the history of the church we can’t learn from its (many) mistakes and be inspired by its triumphs.
I heard that, according to UNICEF figures, if everyone in the world who currently calls themselves a Christian was to convert one person a year, the world would be converted in two and half years. And, if everyone who calls themselves a Christian was to tithe ten percent of their income, we could immediately irradicate world poverty, do everything we already do in financing the church and still have 76 billion dollars left over.
That’s a lot of power in the hands of 2 billion people and why we are all responsible for theology. It has to be studied and challenged and learned and taught.
It might not be as immediately obvious as medicine or environmental engineering or social work but theology changes the world too.
Even in the past two hundred years alone, it’s been part of the abolition of slavery, the resistance against the Nazis, the relief of the poor throughout South America, the Civil Rights Movement in America and the abolition of Apartheid. But it was also used to defend slavery, to legitimise Apartheid, it was partially responsible for the plight of the poor in the first place and many churches just stood by as the Nazis ravaged Europe.
You cannot say, in light of this, that theology is inconsequential.
Good, accurate, God-honouring theology is of paramount importance.
That’s why I study it.
(HT to Kieran for the UNICEF figures)