So, it’s been a year since I began my formal theological studies as a part-time student at TEDS (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School). More specifically, it’s been a year of consistent studying of systematic theology (both fall and spring semesters). What did I take away from this past year of studying systematic theology? Was it a good year spent well worth the time, effort, and money that went into it? I’d say in a heartbeat, yes.
As a student of systematic theology, I got to read interesting books and hear engaging lectures (which, absent the formality factor of being enrolled in a program, I certainly could have but probably wouldn’t have). I got to share with many others about my own views of God, sin, man, salvation, church, and even the end times stuff. Hearing from others who came from a very diverse range of backgrounds is always a challenge and a deep joy. And being able to write my first papers on systematic theology has been a blessing and a tough challenge as well.
When all is said and done, though, more than anything else, I think I’ve learned to appreciate the much contemplated, polished, and debated thoughts and arguments that have been compiled over the past two millenniums around God. I am starting to see that thousands of others have probably already wrestled with the thoughts I have as a follower of Christ, to arrive to an answer as to how we, as followers of Christ, might live this life to its fullest, loving God and our neighbors, both where we are and where we are being sent. I appreciate that, as a student of theology, I also had the opportunity to appreciate all of the work that has been already done up to this point in time.
I have read in an Atlantic article that studying theology requires not faith but empathy. I disagree in that I do think it requires faith to believe that God exists, but I agree with the author in that it also requires a great deal of empathy to humble ourselves before one sits down to read and write about theology. Empathy prompts humility, and that humility enables thoughtful review, discovery, and discussion of what those who have gone before us may have once wrestled with.
Am I quite humble enough to continue studying theology (yet)? I would certainly hope so. And I pray that God might bring about more ways to humble my own heart from this day and on.