In recent years a number of people have expressed to me their interest in pursuing theological training. It is great to hear their journey and desire to study the Scripture and theology. Our conversations have prompted me to think about sharing my thoughts on theological training in a series of blog posts.
In this first post I want to ask the critical question: Why bother? That is, if theological training does not help us to embody Christ's life, death and resurrection in real life, then why bother?
But before I finished my theological training, I was asked to join the pastoral team of my church. And in a few years I was ordained. Life was really tough at the time. Ministry was hard work, and emotionally draining. We had little money. My wife had to work full-time. I also had to work part-time outside the church for extra income. At the same time, I taught as a tutor in my Bible College. In addition, I continued with my own theological studies, and started an MPhil, in which I engaged in serious research in Biblical Studies. The hectic lifestyle eventually took its toll, and I resigned from ministry to concentrate on my studies.
In the meantime I did more part-time work while I finished my research degree. The subsequent years were more part-time and full-time non-church-related work. I found it a valuable experience to be in the real world again after years of theological training and pastoral ministry. I viewed my work differently, for my studies in the Scripture had helped me to understand better the world that God created.
Years later God gave me a new job to work in an overseas relief and development Christian organisation. Soon I started my PhD on Biblical Studies as a part-time student, while continued to work part-time in that organisation. I am now half way through my PhD. I am not sure whether I am smart enough to finish it. But I will give it my best shot.
So much for my story. But as you can see, in all these years I have had the opportunity to engage in the real world in one way or another. I get to see people from all walks of life, including people from different faiths. I get to talk with them and listen to their cry. And at the same time I engage in theological training. This has been a very enriching experience. I find myself engaging in the Scripture and the real world at the same time. It is not just about theories, or merely about "what works in practice". It is about critiquing the world and its culture with the Scripture, and at the same time allowing real life stories to enrich my own understanding of the Bible.
My own experience is that I can never be prefect when it comes to these things. But it has been a profoundly enriching experience. The Scripture comes alive when we engage with real people in the real world. If we do theological studies for the sake of study alone, why bother?