Thinking of pursuing theological studies? Here are five noble objectives to consider.
If our goal of pursuing theological studies is to merely satisfy our intellectual curiosity or expand our intellectual capacity, then we have misplaced priorities.
What are some noble objectives to consider before embarking on formal theological education?
Firstly, it is to know what God considers good and desirable so that we are able to please Him and glorify His name (Ezra 7:10).
Secondly, it is to impact the world around us, whether in a small way through our social circle or in a wider context. This can take the form of witnessing, loving deeds or written works.
Thirdly, it is to apply theology to practical, down to earth issues such as career, marriage, family life, personal finance, inter-personal relationship and balanced wholesome living (Luke 2:52).
Fourthly, it is to help us to be more confident and better prepared in giving an answer to anyone who asks us what is the reason for our hope (1 Peter 3:15).
Fifthly, it is to help us maintain a steady course in our spiritual journey so that we can obtain the ultimate reward of salvation, eternal life. Otherwise, we may start well but fail to end up in paradise due to various factors such as failure to overcome sin, deception and persecution (Matthew 24: 9-13).
Similarly, the purpose of this blog is to help believers fulfill all the above goals:
- Studying the Bible first-hand, like the Bereans, scrutinising any teaching against scripture (Acts 17:11).
- Making the truth simple and easily understood for believers.
- Helping people in their day-to-day living by showing the relevance of ancient scripture.
- Developing confidence in sharing and defending the faith when approached by pre-believers.
- Helping people cultivate perseverance in their spiritual journey. In particular, strong emphasis has been laid on recognising deception and discerning false teachings and false supernatural manifestations that mimic the works of the Holy Spirit.
Need for balance
Whilst renewing the mind is an important key to spiritual transformation, we must not put intellectual pursuit on a pedestal and neglect other key areas like love, obedience and the role of the Holy Spirit.
George Verwer of Operation Mobilisation recalled the time when he went with someone to the office of Billy Graham. None of the office staff noticed them except the receptionist. They were too pre-occupied with an evangelistic campaign to pay attention to outsiders. Then Graham walked in and started shaking hands with everybody. He went over to greet both Verwer and his friend. Though much busier than the office staff, he had time to spare for others. He was full of warmth and love. Similarly, ministers and theologians must remain down-to-earth and be able to connect with ordinary folks.
For all his scholarship (he wrote most of the books in the New Testament), Paul was neither cold nor aloof. He demonstrated unconditional love for the believers at Corinth:
“I will gladly spend myself and all I have for you, even though it seems that the more I love you, the less you love me” (2 Corinthians 12:15).
Jesus was equally at home whether he was preaching, attending a wedding, dining with sinners or blessing the children—equally spiritual and human. He had no difficulty connecting with people from different social strata. Even so, we must not allow intellectual superiority or prowess to create a barrier between us and ordinary folks.
Recognising the role of the Holy Spirit and being able to sense His leading are just as important as renewing our minds with the Word. Someone rightly puts it: “Too much Word and you dry up, too much Spirit and you blow up, the Word and the Spirit and you grow up”.
We need to check ourselves if we have been long on doctrine and short on practice. At the end of the day, head knowledge must grow in tandem with loving acts and practical ministry.
Ivory tower mentality
If we merely stay in our ivory tower of intellectual excellence—not allowing scripture to touch or change us and the people around us for the better—we have wasted the years we have arduously spent pursuing formal theological studies.
In itself, the pursuit of knowledge—even formal theological education—cannot be seen as a believer’s highest and most desirable goal but only as a means to an end. Man’s chief goals in life are to know God, enjoy His presence, make an impact in the world and glorify His name.
Caveat: We should love God not only with all our heart and strength but our mind as well. As such, this post is not to discourage those who aspire to improve their understanding of the Bible through pursuing formal theological studies. Rather, it is an attempt to help them think through their goals and what they hope to achieve—armed with a theological degree.
MAKING TRUTH SIMPLE, RELEVANT AND PRACTICAL
“People are not quite interested in the amount of theological knowledge we may have. They want to see to what extent our lives have been transformed by the knowledge we have in your head. They want to know how that knowledge can be applied to practical issues everyone faces in everyday life such as crisis, finances, broken relationships, worry, anxiety and depression. They need to understand how theology can help them overcome temptation, deception and the wiles of the devil. They want to learn how to persevere and finish well in their spiritual race. They want to be better equipped in sharing their faith. And, finally, they want to see how well we can communicate deep theological issues and concepts in simple terms that even the layperson can understand. It is inconceivable and illogical that we should keep theology within the classroom, away from the issues of everyday life, and keep it so high up in the “spiritual stratosphere” that a layperson can never hope to access, let alone grasp.” – Porridge for the Soul
Is the impact we make in this world directly proportional to the number of theological degrees we have under our belt?
Serious personal Bible study a la the Bereans is needed so that we will not be deceived or put to shame. However, there is no harm learning from others who are gifted in teaching.
Teachers are specially gifted in the study and exposition of scriptures. That said, is it possible to have understanding that surpasses that of teachers?
How to develop discernment and escape the clutches of destructive heresies.
We know the truth, not only by the reason, but also by the heart. Man cannot know God through the rational process—no matter how great his intellect. Faith, the means by which man comes to know God, is not against reason; it transcends reason. Reason may help to build faith but it (reason) can never ultimately bring a person to know God.
More than ever before we need to be like the Bereans in our approach to understanding the truth
Note: Dr Lim Poh Ann is a medical practitioner. He was the former editor of Asian Beacon magazine (Dec 2008 – Oct 2011). He can be reached at his Facebook page, www.facebook.com/AskDrLi
SOURCE OF ARTICLE: http://limpohann.blogspot.my/2016/12/why-study-theology.html
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Dr Lim Poh Ann