Sunday, August 02, 2009

Don't enrol into theological college because you have mid-life or quarter-life crisis

Hedonese commented at Pearlie Gates' blog that he has heard of people who had hard time at theological college or seminary because they went there due to identity crisis like those of quarter or mid-life. Reason is that these people had "disillusioning time" if they enrolled for other reason than to equip for a calling.

I think he has a good point there. I don't encourage people to enrol into a theological college merely because he/she wants to find identity and life's purpose. Hedonese's comment worries me. I'm afraid that I might be making the idea of theological studies too romantic to some, to the extend that they hastilly leap into theological studies. And ended up disillusioned.

The first reason for anyone to study theology formally should not has anything to do with any of that. The first reason should be what one wants to do with theological education.

Although sometimes I sounded as if I am clueless as to why am I in a theological college, yet don't get the impression that I am in a theological college because of some identity crisis. Although I don't know how my days after my studies will be like (actually no one knows for sure), but that doesn't mean that I don't know what should/can I do with the education that I'm receiving.

So don't send in application form to seminary just because you don't know what to do with your life. If that's the question you are facing, the best place might not be theological colleges. Taize may suit you better.

If you think that I'm in theological studies because I have nothing better to do, well, you are right. I have been interacting with theology on my own in the past 5 years. My passion for theological studies is unusual. Previously I didn't know. This is a gift that I just realized and confirmed.

After being in a theological college, I came to reckon that there are none among my peers who engages theology at the level that I engage in. I've been doing some casual tests among my seniors to see their level of theological engagement and I found them wanting. It's obvious that I was desperate.

There was also this incident during the orientation day, I overheard a senior talked about his academic subjects to a MTh student. And he talked as if from the textbooks. And I know probably whose class he has been attending. This incident stuck with me because I was taken aback over the fact that I actually knew what that senior was talking about. Again, if that demonstrates anything at all, it betrays how desperate I was for theological studies previously.

So don't decide to jump into theological studies simply because you've read a guy's blog about his days as someone who's clueless over his future after his theological studies. Unless you are as desperate.

13 comments:

reasonable said...

Joshua is indeed exceptional. When Joshua failed to be admitted into TTC two years ago I was saying to myself "what a waste!" Base on my personal experience, there would be very few students in TTC with his degree of intense passion for such academic pursuit. And academic is a good word (some Christians treat it as if it is a negative word).

One of the best conditions for one to pursue theological studies would be having a strong passion in theological studies. Sometimes the so-called "God's calling into full-time ministry" may not be as good a condition. Many who perceived themselves have a calling into full-time ministry do not have the passion in theological studies itself. I am not saying they should not go through theological training; they should of course. But my hope is to see more normal students to have a passion in theological studies itself. And after that to promote/teach, formally or informally, more sensible stuff to both the Christian community and the community beyond to correct the deficiency commonly found on the ground.

Joshua has the advantage of having a brave and independent mind. Bravery in critical thought is important so as one would not be blindly conform to what is commonly accepted as "orthodoxy/orthopraxy" but to be able to shout out "THE EMPEROR IS NAKED!".

Joshua also has the advantage of being really in touch with the ground, going places where other "righteous Christians" who may be afraid to go. So it is not just an ivory tower exercise for Joshua.

I wish Joshua all the best in the development of his critical mind.

Shalom & Metta...

Sze Zeng said...

Hi reasonable,

That's a lot of kind words of encouragement. Thank you for being a friend and also dialog partner all this while.

Actually what i find most intriguing is that it is not always from books that I learn, but from interaction with people. And in some instances, I learnt things that I didn't come across through books (Of coz my exposure to limited books is also a factor).

You wrote, "my hope is to see more normal students to have a passion in theological studies itself."

I share the same hope.

Tremonti said...

Sze Zeng (or you go by Joshua?) & Reasonable,

Anyway this is an interesting post (that sounds so steriotypical of me to say that but really is an interesting post).

I actually started loving theological studies when i was in bible school itself. I only thought that going to bible school or college or seminary was solely to prepare for ministry as was addressed by 'reasonable':

"Sometimes the so-called "God's calling into full-time ministry" may not be as good a condition."

Reading this made me think of my experience...i in this frame of mind at that time. But in the process of studying it opened my mind to another more interesting endeavor, theological academic pursuits. I know i have a bit of catching up to do in terms of critical thinking but there is nothing like tearing through theological books and reflecting on them, simply exihilerating!

And it is simply a sad fact what 'resonable' noted here:

"Many who perceived themselves have a calling into full-time ministry do not have the passion in theological studies itself."

Sometimes i ask why this happens.

Anyways Sze Zeng, all the best for your endeavors in the world of theological academics!

Blessings

reasonable said...

"...in the process of studying it opened my mind to another more interesting endeavor, theological academic pursuits. I know i have a bit of catching up to do in terms of critical thinking but there is nothing like tearing through theological books and reflecting on them, simply exihilerating!"

Happy for u, Tremonti :)

Steven Sim said...

I just wanna say, Josh's the few example of "transformed by the renewal of the mind" I've ever seen in my life.

One great theologian in the making, no doubt. But I hope more than that, an activist-theologian, a Barth or a Bonhoeffer or a Wright with Desmond Tutu & MLKJ's passion for social transformation.

Insyallah

Steven Sim

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Tremonti,

I'm known as Joshua, my chinese name is Sze Zeng.

Good to hear about your passion for academic theological studies. Perhaps we can start a theological fraternity in this part of the world. All the best to you too!

Sze Zeng said...

Steven,

Insyallah...

scruffy said...

Dr Josh, i totally agree that you are streets ahead of your peers in terms of the level of engagement... as one who hopes to engage in some sort of meaning full theological discourse and reflection, i can only hope to hone my mind and spend more time in reading and reflection - so please don't leave us behind okay?

:D

jiayou!

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Scruffy,

I'm on the learning process too! So, it's not like anyone will leave anyone behind. But everyone should help each other to go accordingly :)

Are you my classmate??? Mind to reveal yourself?? :)

Arthur KohsL said...

Hi, Josh, it is great to see you being enrolled in TTC, and being molded in the process of taking classes and writing papers. Along the way, there will be moments where you feel that "there are none among my peers who engages theology at the level that I engage in... I actually knew what that senior was talking about." Everyone has their strengths and different theological orientations. God bestowed the Holy Spirit among His followers, and these made up a very diversified community on the face of Earth with the mandate to witness Him. May this be a process where God speaks to you through others, and where God uses you as an instrument in ministering to others.

May the LORD our God smile upon you, keep watch over you, and grant peace upon you.

scruffy said...

Dr Josh! I am Nat... :D and yes, i agree we should help each other.. i'm not sure i'll be of any help to you, but i'm sure talking through stuff with you will be of immense help to me ^_^ enjoy the weekend!

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Arthur,

It's great to hear from you again. Time flies! Now you still left one more year to graduation.

Thank you for the blessings and well-wishes. Send my regards to Vivian.

Blessings to your current journey at Boston.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Nat,

Each member of the Church should lookout to release the gift of the other person. So, we help each other through this way.

We have different gifts to offer each others :)

Have great fun over the long weekend too!