Sunday, 22 August 2010

Reasons to Study Theology and Religion at University

University Theology and Religion Departments. Ok, ok, I’ll give you a second to snigger to yourselves and imagine lots of strange-looking, tweed clad men smoking pipes in the corner of a lecture room. But surprisingly Theology and Religious Studies has become pretty cool of late. I suppose we have Dan Brown and the conspiracy theorists to thank for that. Just try going into your local pub and starting a conversation with the locals about God, heaven, what happens to bad guys when they die, how the universe began etc and before long you will have folk standing on the tables and ranting at each other. I’ve seen close ‘theology is booooring’ friends come to blows during these discussions and loved-up married couples at each others throats. It’s great sport if you’re bored one evening...

Besides, anyone who says that Theology and Religion is uncool has me to answer to. I have a BA and PhD in Theology from The University of Birmingham and I’m far from a weirdo! And, horror of horrors, I’m not at all religious. I have an interest in the area, but that doesn’t mean that I subscribe to everything that I study in the same way that studying World War II doesn’t make you a Nazi SS officer. But the academic study of theology and religion has taken a bullet recently as cuts in higher education have led to reports of staff reductions and the planned closure of some Religious Studies departments. Recently my colleagues and I were (willingly) forced to rally round and attempt to save Sheffield University staff from losing their Biblical Studies department. The support on the Internet for Sheffield BS Department was overwhelming; a Facebook group was started, many BS bloggers blogged their disgust on the matter and a number of emails were sent to the Vice Chancellor. Thankfully, in this case, the department was saved.

Biblical Studies appears to be a soft target for cost cutting and yes, while it’s not exactly carrying out cutting-edge research into cancer fighting treatments, it is a real, tangible subject area with a dynamic publication rate and a huge scholarly base. Besides, I worry that if we keep beating the beast long enough, it’s going to die. Biblical Studies, and maybe Theology in general at this rate, will cease to be taught and it will become one of those weird and arcane sounding subject areas that were taught in the Universities of the Italian Renaissance. So why should we continue to promote the teaching of Theology and Religion in Universities? To begin with, let’s address some misnomers about the subject...

Is the study of theology boring? 

No. Not all theologians are dusty professors or geeky, nose-in-bible students. Yes, there are one or two stereotypes haunting the corridors, but by and large things are far from what you might expect. The modern theology student is indistinguishable from his/her fellow student studying in other academic disciplines and Theology lecturers are as friendly and approachable as the next professor. I graduated with a PhD in Theology three years ago, so do I consider myself to be dusty and outdated? Hell no. Would I spend six years studying a subject that I found boring? Hell no. Did I enjoy my studies at The University of Birmingham and explore University life to the full as much as I would have experienced it in any other department? Hell yes!

Is the study of theology relevant? 

Could it *be* any more relevant?! Switch on a prime-time news programme and count how many times the words ‘faith’, ‘culture’ or ‘religion’ are mentioned. It is an in-your-face-daily hot topic. And it’s not just a local issue, it’s a global issue. A basic understanding of religion and religions is indispensable knowledge for anyone functioning within a contemporary, multicultural society and an awareness of cultural sensitivities is an essential tool, particularly for the modern businessman or businesswoman who may communicate with unfamiliar cultures and needs to avoid making any offensive, deal-breaking gaffs.

Should theology still be taught within Universities? 

Yes! Why would any academic institution that prides itself on training the next generation of serious thinkers and intellectuals bloody its own nose by eliminating one of its most cerebral subject areas? And particularly now that there is a monster on the horizon that is threatening academia in general...

Any self-respecting cultural commentator will agree that teenagers are becoming increasingly brainwashed by the Glee-factor. ‘Making it’ isn’t about being the best in your field or making headway in research anymore. It’s not even about switching on your brain in the morning. It’s about getting that big break in showbiz, belting out a ballad for Simon Cowell or street dancing on reality TV. Or when academic study is absolutely unavoidable, teens are attracted to subjects that might - *might*- lead on to a big break in the TV, movie, fashion or beauty industry. No matter how you feel about Theology and Religion as a research area, you must admit that the rise of new, numbskull, ‘leave your brain at the door’ degrees (especially the ‘Heath and Beauty’–esque/new media degrees) give you an urge to scratch out your own eyes....

In a society where our kids are being encouraged to shun traditional academic study and instead ‘follow their dreams’ (most often blindly down the drain) surely any academic subject – regardless of its specific content – should be encouraged and supported to the hilt rather than having its wings clipped?! Being a student of Theology says to the world 'hello, I have a brain and I know how to use it. And not just for storing information and learning patterns, but for thinking critically and creatively too'. We need to keep our kids brains ticking over…at all costs!

There is so much more to say. I could go on to sing the praises (excuse the pun) of the interdisciplinary aspect of theological research, or expound on the benefits of true critical thinking, or reminisce on how lovely the folk at Birmingham were to me during my studies, but I’ll stop here before I get ranty (and for the record, I don't belong to any religious faith so I do not have an axe to grind in that sense). But don’t just take my word for it…

This blog post is a shout-out to all the theologians out there. A show of unity between academics and students alike contributed to the survival of the University of Sheffield’s Biblical Studies department when it was threatened with closure. It was a warning shot over the bow, if you like, for any predatory cost-cutters swinging the axe over other theology departments within the UK. Since the vultures are once again circulating over theology departments across the country, now is your opportunity to tell the blogosphere - and any budding theology students out there - why the study of theology is a worthwhile exercise and why it should remain firmly within the Academy. Please scroll down and post below your reasoning, observations, anecdotes, links and pithy sales patter that you reel out at open days (!) explaining why you feel that theology is a valuable academic subject. You can be a serious academic, a student or a keen amateur in the field. Submissions can be anonymous or please add your name if you would like to be credited. Hopefully a united discussion will provide the rationale for return fire the next time an academic institution hovers precariously over the ‘delete theology’ button…

17 comments:

  1. What about: because you can't understand human society without taking account of the religious aspect of life. This works at pretty much every level.

    If you're a Christian, then you probably believe the Bible is a record of God's dealings with humankind, his revelation of himself to the world, and you almost certainly believe that what God wants to say to the world is worth listening to. But what does all that actually mean in practical terms? How can it (should it?) affect the way we live, think and act? Should it change our ideas? Theology is the discipline that enables us to reflect critically on what we think the Bible tells us about God, and what the Church has concluded as it has reflected upon his self-revelation over the centuries. In that case, it matters in terms of understanding the Christian faith and what Christians perceive to be their relationship with the divine and their place in the universe. Pretty important stuff then.

    At the other end of the spectrum: imagine you're a secular humanist who thinks that religion is a tool of the oppressor, intended to frighten the population into submission to the ruling classes. Perhaps you think religion, and Christianity in particular, has held back the development of a fair and equitable human society for generations, and long for the day it will be banished to Room 101. I think you're wrong, but that's a view that you're perfectly entitled to. Well, leaving aside for now the argument that, purely out of fairness, you owe it to the religious to give at least some consideration to their deeply-held beliefs before you dismiss them out of hand, even if you want to demonstrate the (in your view) folly of faith, you need to understand what that folly is, and respond to it with an appropriate level of critical evaluation and scrutiny. 'You're stupid, everyone knows there's no god' is not a logical argument, no matter how many web forums it appears upon in that alleged guise. To deal with theology and religion fairly and appropriately as modes of discourse - even if they are modes that you find illogical, incoherent and repulsive - you need to deal with them on the basis of agreed methodology and with due critical reflection. And critical reflection on theological issues is called, errm, theology. Furthermore, modern theology departments are not places where doctrine is subliminally planted in the fertile seed-beds of student minds, but places where the nature of faith and its relevance to society are explored critically via agreed methodologies, so what we do is relevant to those who question the need for religion as much as those who are in the mosque, church, gurdwara or synagogue every week.

    Part 2 to follow ...

    ReplyDelete
  2. ctd ...

    For those who follow other faiths, or would consider themselves agnostic, well, wouldn't you like to have the opportunity of considering some of the alternative worldviews to help you understand what is distinctive and important about your own? At Birmingham we have a lot of Christian students who take classes in Islamic Studies, and plenty of Moslems who take modules in Christian theology too. Mutual understanding, especially in today's world, has to be a good thing - and the university is a far better place for this kind of dialogue to take place than the confessional colleges that train students for religious office and have of necessity a doctrinal line to push. Furthermore, if meaning truly comes from difference, then perhaps you can only understand the significance of your faith by looking at it in the context of others. And because religion is more than just a social phenomena, simply investigating the sociocultural aspects of community relations really isn't enough. You need someone skilled in the study of religion, and they work in university theology and religion departments.

    Basically, what I'm trying to say is this. Like it or not, religion is part of human society and human existence. It has guided our history as a race and still governs our present - and may well dominate our future. Even if you are repelled by the very idea of religion, you cannot get away from its all-pervasive grasp, and it needs to be studied and understood and expounded by those who understand how to go about those tasks properly (i.e., theologians and scholars of religion). Far from the most dispensable of programmes, theology is one of the most important subjects we can ever subject to critical analysis. It may not help us build bridges or cure terrible diseases, but it does help us, as individuals and as a race, to build a better understanding of who we are and what our place in the world is (and can be).

    Andrew Davies
    University of Birmingham

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'll try to keep it short: As long as there are men of faith in the world, as long as the Holy Books are read—and as long as there is need for clerics!—, the professional study and practice of theology and religious sciences will be inevitable. I've always enjoyed reading books, historical treatises and text criticism coming from theologians, because they are most valuable for my work as a historian. Their works are among the most ambitious, scrupulous and precise out there. After all, their authors are writing about (and often working for!) nothing less than our gods, and with the gods you really should avoid to make many errors. :) As a historian I may ignore the theologians' interpretations of the facts, and often enough I must ignore the way they try to creep around disagreeable facts, but their basic work, especially the processing of source material etc., is very often outstanding and useful, including also their general approaches to a topic (at least sometimes.)

    (I just wish that the people's religious traditions received more emphasis—especially because they are often threatened with extinction in godless ages like ours. Compared to textual studies and philosophical treatises they are underrepresented and widely neglected, although tradition is one of the pillars of every religion. Is that our global Protestantized culture taking its toll?)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Taking a theology degree has profoundly altered and shaped my life. It has given me key tools, not only for my work (which includes running a business as well as my work in academic spheres), but also skills to engage with life at a far deeper level. It would be a fair argument to say that these skills are attainable through enrolling on any degree course; however, I strongly feel that theology provides an unparalleled environment in which to develop these skills.

    One of the strengths of theology is that it touches the core of what it is to be human – that means that at some point those studying it will address issues that directly affect them (whether positively or negatively); long held ideas will be challenged, arguments to which they ideologically opposed must be fairly and constructively considered. Through this process the student learns to deal with data, theory and argument with a self-awareness and application of constructive criticism; listening without fear or prejudice to the ‘other’, being open to dialogue, whilst also being rigorous and critical in their analysis of their own positions and those of others. I can think of few other disciplines that present the student with opportunities to interrogate issues that can sometimes be highly theoretical and abstract while at other times deeply personal – and I speak here as one outside the ‘faith communities’.

    As an undergraduate, one of the most challenging aspects of theology that I experienced was the wide range of areas to which I was expected to apply critical and analytic thinking. In the morning we could be looking at the broad canvas of the nature of evil or philosophical concepts of belief and in the afternoon examining (often) minute textual differences in textual variations or synoptic relationships. For me, it is this wide range of critical engagement that is theology’s greatest strength. Whether I am discussing business strategies, deciphering a business-speak laden report, or listening to a neighbour, those tools which theology has given to me are invaluable.

    ReplyDelete
  5. The academic study of theology lies at the heart of any humanistic study of a culture. As a medievalist, I deal with the widespread conviction that the study of medieval theology is the least relevant subject possible. My response is that the phenomenon of the Modern and the ideal of the separation of "church" and state is a product of medieval theology, rising out of scholastic arguments about the provinces of faith and reason, and the respective authorities of scripture and "unassisted" reasoning. Further, the ties between classical literature and our own society are nowhere more plain than in works such as Dante's Divine Comedy, the ideal depiction of the medieval self in relation to its theological foundation. This is not simply antiquarianism: what is happening in Islam as we speak is precisely the struggle to understand the self in relation to theology at a period when the tension between scriptural faith and human reason has challenged the Muslim world very dramatically. Not to mention the widespread conviction that Darwinian thought is incommensurable with belief that Torah is divinely inspired in the U.S....
    Stephen Lahey
    University of Nebraska Lincoln

    ReplyDelete
  6. Some Disjointed Thoughts:
    The study of religion -- called Religious Studies in the secular institutions of North America -- is also under siege (we say "circling the wagons"). We have to catch the students who might choose to major in Religion/Religious Studies/Theology in the classes that satisfy a requirement. The more students, the better the claim for survival.

    To the prospective student, the study of religions can be a journey of discovery, that leads in many directions, as exciting as the discoveries of science. How to find the potential majors? In an introductory class that satisfies a requirement, or in a first year seminar class with an intriguing title.

    Another threat, not mentioned above, is that other departments encroach on religion, teaching "philosophy of religion" or "psychology and religion" or "literature and religion." This is in contrast to the support from "languages and literature" departments, where classes teach religious texts; that's usually in conjunction and with the support and cooperation of religion/theology departments. Courses are cross-listed and included in the majors of each.

    A century after Freud wrote _Civilizations and Their Discontents_ , predicting the gradual elimination of religion, there has been no decline, no elimination. There *has* been a fashionable shift to declaring a personal religion that is "spirituality," or the belief in "something more." An academic note: "something more" is William James's phrase, from _Varieties of Religious Experience_

    We need, I think, a Second Millennium _Varieties_, to express the excitement of plurality, the philosophical challenge of constructing truth out of diversity. That doesn't mean the elimination of religious diversity -- James himself said his "something more" was a philosophical solution applied to personal religion, not a particular and specific recipe for religion.

    Our major references for theory in religious studies and theology -- other than James -- are absolutely terrible, though. Nineteenth century German theologians, or Freud, or twentieth century European philosophers may apply to the training of ministers, and are interesting and sometimes necessary background for critical thought in the study of Christianity. In religious studies we are training stock brokers and captains of industries and parents and school board presidents and medical professionals and psychologists, who particularly need exemplars of diversity.

    ReplyDelete
  7. just briefly: another important reason why academy should pursue the study of religion and theology is that if they won´t, others will and will most likely do it badly. look at the fundamentalists all over the world from all kinds of religious streams and traditions. I myself happen to be a Christian who feels quite strongly about some of his confessional positions (though less strongly about others, to be sure), yet I get annoyed to no end when I see pseudo-arguments of people such as Textus Receptus admirers (since textual criticism is something that intrigues me a lot). one could go on and on, yet this is a very important reason why academic institutions had better not give up on the theological and religious studies.

    ReplyDelete
  8. The study of the Bible is important because most of the U.S.A, a good proportion of Britain, Europe, South America, and Africa, not to mention everywhere else, have been influenced by it for several centuries minimum. It is fundamental to politics, law, philosophy, spiritual and material culture, the history of the built environment, and no doubt lots of other stuff. Very similar things could be said about the Q'ran. In terms of our cultural heritage, if we do not understand these books properly, we don't understand very much at all. And importantly, there is no chance of ever reaching a point of full knowledge, because every age has to come to terms with this stuff in its own context. There must always be a study of key religious texts.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I'd probably have a different answer for this on any given day, but here's today's shot:

    The blogger Blue Gal, in the episode "Blago, Old Boys, and Bad Foreplay" (around minute 18:45, link below), makes a point that I paraphrase thusly:

    Behind the pressing political issues du jour--the "ground-zero" community center, immigration, economics--lies a theological question for the country's majority who claim a religious faith: Is the God-given “good” meant for everybody, or is it only for a few? And how is your answer logically coherent to the faith you claim?

    Marker 18:45 of "Blago, Old Boys, and Bad Foreplay" at the Professional Left. Not Safe For Work!!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Why all this about Theology? What about Religious Studies? The latter is much easier to defend, in a largely secular UK context, as it describes the scrutiny of an important aspect of cultural life. The former, it strikes me, less so - as it is inherently confessional. As someone with a degree in RS, one in Theology, and a PhD in New Testament studies (which I consider a sub-field of Religious Studies), I am still unsure what exactly 'theology' is and what the distinguishing features of 'theologians' are.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I'm sorry to say that I couldn't see anything in this but special pleading, plus some category confusions. I know people are scrabbling for justification. But is there any?

    The first question any discipline might ask is what the constituency is that these subjects serve. (For chemistry it is the oil and pharmaceutical industry, for instance.) I suppose Christians might support departments of theology, in normal times. But there have been such a number of programmes run by the BBC and Channel 4, fronted by someone described as an academic theologian, proclaiming that Christianity is bunk, that I rather doubt they will (or should). Why fund your enemies? And what is called theology has been the enemy of Christianity as long as I can remember. The only constituency I can think of is that portion of the establishment which seeks to keep Christianity in its place, and, as the KGB used to do, deliberately appoints drunken bishops and fornicating clergy. But Christianity is so small a threat today that I rather doubt that unedifying element in the British establishment would lift a finger.

    We ought to remember what tax is. It does not just happen. It is money being taken by force from taxpayers, mostly not very wealthy, under pretext of providing defence, policemen, doctors and pensions. That much of this is diverted need not concern us here. But is there a justification for exacting money from the poor in order to fund a bunch of people who do not share the religious views (or lack of them) of the people paying? If so, what is it?

    It is doubtless possible in theory that an objective religious studies might exist. The trouble is that it is filled by humans, all of whom have their own views, and which has remarkably few ways of descoping prejudice in any direction that is fashionable. All of the humanities tend to reflect the opinions of those who control university appointments, and theology more than most. Do we need a pseudo-objective department of God to back up those opinions? If so, why?

    The claim that "religion is important so we need to fund people who believe it is crap to study it" runs into difficulties if you try to turn it into something concrete, and ask just what this means. Just what does it mean? That if Billy Graham runs a crusade we need some fornicating middle-class jerk who lives off the taxpayer to remind us that getting drunk is a really good idea? Really? An academic who gets involved in politics seldom adorns his discipline, and something like this is not really any different. Or do we mean that, if a Hindu temple is built in Surbiton, anyone who agrees/disagrees is a Bad Person (insert choice depending on establishment views)? Really? Why? Or what about "Islam is a threat to us all, so we had better have some people who understand it and can tell us when they are likely to attack"? Well, in the age of 9/11 there would be some merit to that (although I bet no-one is willing to make that argument). But that would seem to require about three people at most, and could be funded from the defence budget, not the education budget. And we all know that this is the last thing a theology department would study anyway, being obedient servants of the liberal consensus! So ... what precisely does this argument mean? I suggest that it means nothing, it is merely warm words.

    One further question occurs to me. If we fund university disciplines for what they contribute to the learning of mankind, what quantifiable contribution can we name in the last 30 years that has been made by the state-funded study of religion? If we can answer that, surely that is the place to start?

    These are questions, not assertions. But I suspect they are common questions. Fudge is not really an answer.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Following on from Peter Malik's comment, it seems that human beings can't stop being religious, and even tend to hold political and scientific opinions in 'religious' ways. It also seems that religion can be magnificent and life-enhancing; but has a tendency to slide into madness.

    For those reasons, I think we need to have theology: religion is too important to be left to the bastards and the nutters who want to use it to hurt people.

    Theologians get told off (in all religions) for complicating people's 'simple faith' and for the tendency for the study of theology to cool religious passions. If that is in fact what they do, then they should be encouraged at every opportunity. Anybody who causes the stoner of an adulteress or the bomber of an abortion clinic to pause for a moment and ask whether this is REALLY what God wants is fine by me.

    ReplyDelete
  13. The Christian would study theology primarily in order to know God, on the premise that knowing God is the ultimate blessing in life. Also perhaps to understand God well enough to proclaim his goodness to those around.

    Someone more secular, interested in it from the standpoint of "Christian thought about the world and ethics", might have a few interesting things to learn and it might serve something of a cultural purpose, but if it's pigeonholed like that then it has lost the power to transform the culture or create the hope and the love for neighbor that Christian theology was originally intended to create in its hearers.

    And when the atheists run it, it is often simply disingenuous: Christianity's most outspoken enemies claiming objectivity in order to grab control of the narrative. The sad thing is how many people actually buy the line that the mortal enemy of Christianity is somehow objective about it, despite the complete lack of evidence for that objectivity.

    So the conversation of whether it does good has to be asked in context of the purpose of the teacher and the institution as well as the students.

    ----------
    Anne K.

    ReplyDelete
  14. First post: A few arguments in favor of the academic study of theology and religion. When I say "Theology," (capitalized) I am using it in the British sense of biblical studies and related areas plus what Americans call "theology" (lower case), constructive philosophical discourse within a particular religious tradition.

    1. Theology (caps) is a rare truly interdisciplinary area, involving history, languages, exposure to different cultures, philosophy (ethics, metaphysics), counseling, public speaking, etc. Someone with an undergraduate degree in Theology (i.e., dealing with both "theology" and biblical studies) will have substantial training in most of these areas. How many other degrees can say that?

    2. Theology contributes to and trains in a global perspective. A basic understanding of religion and religions is fundamentally important for international and multicultural understanding. Hinduism and Islam are obvious cases. These might come under Religious Studies, but having actual Hindu and Muslim theologians in the academy is also desirable. It's not just a Christian area. In any case, knowing about, say, Evangelical Christianity is equally important, since it has considerable international political and social influence, particularly but not exclusively in North America. Catholicism likewise in much of Europe and, increasingly, in Africa. Knowing about these traditions and their history can give one an edge in international business, journalism, etc.

    3. Theology provides training in lots of basic skills that transcend fields and are highly useful in the real world. These include critical reasoning, people skills, writing, speaking. This is an ancillary argument, but one important in the current British political scene.

    4. It's worth noting that the international importance and prestige of UK Theology departments is illustrated by the large number of overseas students enthusiastically seeking to come to UK to study Theology and being willing to pay high fees for the privilege.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Second Post: Replies to Objections (1).

    Roger:

    Theology (caps) and Religious Studies have numerous constituencies. Some people want to study their own faith from a more intellectual perspective and stretch themselves with new ideas. Some just want a degree in the humanities and like Theology because it lets them sample lots of different areas and approaches. Some people just think religion is cool. You seem to have an odd perspective that Christians (or whoever) should or do find critical questioning of Christianity (or whatever) threatening. Some Christians (or whoever) do feel that way, but many, many do not. They also have sense enough to know that BBC and Channel 4 documentaries can be very good or very bad, and neither a religious tradition nor an academic field about a religious tradition should be judged by them. You yourself don't seem to take very seriously your conspiracy theory about the Establishment Cabal trying to Undermine Christianity, so I won't waste pixels on it.

    I fully agree with your libertarian views about taxation (must ... not ... rant) and I would love to see the UK universities go private. And I think Theology and Religious Studies would hold their own under those circumstances. But it ain't gonna happen anytime soon. But under the current system, your objection to Theology is specious. The point of Theology and Religious Studies is to bring some academic rigor to the (emic and etic) study of religion. I'm sure there are some people who find this threatening, but it needs to be done and that sad minority should not hold us back.

    You say "The claim that 'religion is important so we need to fund people who believe it is crap to study it' runs into difficulties," and so it does, which I imagine is why I've never heard anyone argue it. I suspect this is a straw-man formulation of my argument at the end of the previous paragraph, and if you would like to address that argument, we can discuss it.

    Quantifiable contributions to the learning of mankind from "the state-funded study of religion" in the last thirty years? Let's see, off the top of my head: the Charlesworth Pseudepigrapha translation volumes, the complete publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls, advice to the US State Department from specialists in apocalyptic religious traditions on how to deal with religious terrorism (a friend of mine does this), substantial progress in publication of the texts from the Cairo Geniza, publications of numerous Jewish mystical texts in good and usable editions, excellent English translations of the Greek Magical Papyri and the Nag Hammadi Coptic Gnostic library, numerous volumes of critical texts of the Septuagint books, an excellent new English translation of the Septuagint, countless excellent critical commentaries on the biblical books, substantial progress in our understanding of ancient "Gnosticism" (including the deconstruction of the term), substantial progress in our understanding of the early development of the biblical text, volumes in a new critical commentary series on the works of Josephus. Need I go on? This pitiably incomplete list is obviously the product of my own specialist's myopia, but endless comparable advances have been made in theology and in various areas of Religious Studies. Perhaps other specialists would like to add to it.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I'm currently studying Theology (in Jim Davila's capitalized 'T' sense) neither in a university nor one in UK. In my geographical context, there is no Theology program provided in local universities.

    I have no intention to be a clergyman when I decided to resign from my career life of seven years to pursue a theological degree full time. My resignation was due to two reasons:

    1) A deep interest and passion in the subject.

    2) Plan to build a career that suits the interest and passion.

    Along the way, I find that Theology is such a significant and resourceful subject that have direct relevance to the contemporary world, to help us make sense and interpret the world.

    Some have already commented that Philosophy is sufficient to provide that sort of ressourcement. However, Philosophy as a subject is so wide and ambiguous to the extent that it is no longer a subject by itself but has to be broken down to sub-subjects, with these sub-subjects further broken down to sub-sub-subjects (for eg. philosophy-->philosophy of science-->philosophy of biology). To treat the subject with its sub-subjects and sub-sub-subjects in the same way is confusing the individual for the whole, crippling the search for clarity and hence counter-productive in education.

    For this reason, Philosophy itself is unable to include Theology, its vast concerns and problems.

    ReplyDelete
  17. If God does not exist, though nothing changes in this life, the sheer exercise of disproving God's existence is of inestimable worth to the growth and vigor of the human mind. If, on the other hand, God does exist, then everything changes. Everything! From science to history to mathematics (dare I rehearse the history of the disciplines here?), no detail passing through the human mind is left untouched by the heavens. Warfield comes to mind here.

    "The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father. There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, “Behold I am wise.” But when we come to this master-science, finding that our plumb-line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought, that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass’s colt; and with the solemn exclamation, “I am but of yesterday, and know nothing.” No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God....But while the subject humbles the mind it also expands it. He who often thinks of God, will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around this narrow globe. He may be a naturalist, boasting of his ability to dissect a beetle, anatomize a fly, or arrange insects and animals in classes with well nigh unutterable names; he may be a geologist, able to discourse of the megatherium and the plesiosaurus, and all kinds of extinct animals; he may imagine that his science, whatever it is, ennobles and enlarges his mind. I dare say it does, but after all, the most excellent study for expanding the soul, is the science of Christ, and him crucified, and the knowledge of the Godhead in the glorious Trinity. Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity. And, whilst humbling and expanding, this subject is eminently consolatary."

    ReplyDelete