Monday, April 20, 2009

Theology important for Christian education?

Yesterday my youth-group had 2 new members. They joined us in studying John 15.1-17. The proceeding was simply and easy. Each of us took turn to read 5 verses until the passage is read.

Then we look at the few main words and themes in the passage. Words like "love, God's glory, remain in me, etc".

In the midst of the study, one of the members raised a difficult question. And after that, other difficult questions were raised. I wasn't prepare for that. But I tried my best to share with the group my thoughts over their questions.

And in my sharing, I began to talk abstractly which resulted a few to drop their jaws. But I couldn't help it because their questions are complicated and rather abstract in nature. For eg. when they asked the perennial question on the existence of evil, I (being theologically Reformed) had to talk about the nature of the creation. And I can't talk about that without talking about it as the contingent reality which was brought into existent out of God's sheer act of love in Divine's own absolute and boundless freedom.

And from there, somehow we moved to the implications that this theology has on other religions' teaching about the world, like some religion teaches that the world is god etc.

At the end of the session, even though many questions left unanswered, I trust that the group had a good learning, including myself. We had a brief theological reflection together.

This experience confirms to me again the importance of theology in Christian education and the life of the Church. Many Christians disdain this subject for its profundity. Many others think that it is not practical. Still many others think that it is uneccesary. Some of these dissenters are seminarians! (see Kar Yong's predicament)

The bad news that I have for them is that they are damn wrong. No doubt that theology is profound, yet that doesn't make it impractical nor uneccesary.

Fundamentally theology is a distinct Christian understanding. And hence Christian education must be theologically oriented. At this point, some might argue that they are fine with theology being the content of Christian education, yet it shouldn't be 'too academic' (in Kar Yong's word).

And the following are my views on this group of people:

First, usually those who complain that theological studies in seminaries or theological colleges are 'too academic' don't know what do they mean by that phrase. Kar Yong has shown this well in the above mentioned post.

Secondly, those who complain are usually those who don't know much about the faith. Hence they feel intimidated when they realize that their faith encompasses such a wide learning. On one hand, they deem Christian faith as an easy faith that doesn't worth to be studied at deeper level. On another, they are afraid that the more they know about the faith, the less liberty they have to domesticate it.

Thirdly, those who complain are usually those who are apathethic to their surroundings, as in the socio-political & economic issues. Hence they think that the Christian faith is all about the caring of the inner souls and have nothing to do with the larger world outside the church building.

Fourthly, those who complain are usually self-contradicting. They affirm that Christian must continously learn, love, and know God. But that simply means go all the way in our pursue even if it means pouring over tomes of literatures and endless reflections over God again and again, especially so to those who are in the seminary.

Fifthly, regarding the issue of the alleged impracticality of theology. All those who complain that academic theology is impractical simply is ungrateful and take for granted all the significant things that have been endowed to them. Things like religious rights, democracy, education, equality among humankind, medical ethics, etc. All these do not came to our current world out from a vacuum. These are immediate privileges grounded in so-called academic theology to our benefit which often without us knowing it.


Israel Lee said...

At times like this, you wish that we could think and speak like Paul, able to make sense of huge theological stories to a wide range of audience.

Robin Teo said...

i think you hit the core on this subject. R.C Sproul wrote a booklet a while back entitled "Going on to Maturity" if I am not mistaken giving a number of reasons why Christians need to study theology. Ligonier Ministry was founded to educate the lay people to be equipped to serve the church through theological education. I think more importantly theology needs to be of the whole person, the mind, the heart, and the will.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Israel,

Yes, certainly we hope that the Holy Spirit could work whenever we need to speak clearly, like how it helps the apostles.

Robin Teo,

I visited Ligonier's ministry website. They seem to be doing a wonderful work among those in its context. Thanks for sharing about this. Previously I heard about it but already haven't been looking it up until your mention.