Why should you study theology?

Part of being a student is being asked where you study and what you study when meeting new people. When I say “I study at Cardiff University” they usually say that it’s a great university, to which I agree. They then ask “So, what do you study at Cardiff?” I answer “Theology”. The answer that I give is definitely a conversation starter or stopper. If you see what I mean. Though many people who find out that I study theology ask “What are you going to do with it?” or they ask “Why do you want to know about theology?”

I’m going to try to answer these questions in some form in this blog post.

So, firstly, why would I want to know about theology? Well, we’re coming at it from the wrong direction. Let me explain; I don’t want to know about theology at all, in some senses. Don’t get me wrong – I love studying different theologies and seeing how they relate to various things, but the main reason why I want to know about theology is because I want to know about the God I love, worship and adore; Jesus. The primary reason for theology is to study not theology itself, but to study God. Theos meaning God, and the ology part meaning “The study of”.

Should only Christians study theology? No, definitely not. And the reason why I say that is because I’m sick of debating with people who tell me a load of stuff about God and the Bible and they don’t have the first clue about what they’re talking about. To be honest. In fact, a lot of these people make theologies up out of thin air, it seems to me. Don’t get me wrong, I try to explain to them. But some of them refuse to take notice, and insist on their theology. To get rid of this ignorance, the study of theology is essential. At least if you’re a hardcore New Atheist you will at least have some theological grounding as to understanding the role of the Old Testament and the Atonement, without making sweeping remarks about food laws and stoning people to death etc etc.

What am I going to do with my theology degree? Well, there’s two answers really. My first answer is that I’m going to be a vicar. I didn’t know this clearly at the start of university, but the last year has made it crystal clear that to be a Vicar is the vocation that God has called me to. My second answer is that my theology degree is going to help me to draw near to God. That’s the aim of theology; to learn about God and to draw closer to him.
Now, I want to say a few more things:
Sometimes, Christians who study theology at University get a complete shock the more they study theology. Some lecturers might not be Christians, and you will be subject to liberal teaching which tries to discredit the Bible in whatever way it can. Sometimes you will be forced to make changes to what you believe. Sometimes you will be torn between different beliefs. Theology can be destroying at times. If you’re feeling like this, I want to say that theology isn’t everything. Theology is not God. Doctrine is not God. God is God, and that’s the way it must stay. Theology changes, God does not. The main point of the Christian faith is the reason why the study of theology is about – to draw us closer to Jesus. The most important thing in your life is your relationship with Jesus. Not some dodgy theologies that you might hear about!
The flip side of this, of course, is that theology does matter. Let me explain with an illustration. Suppose you are sailing on the sea, and you want to go somewhere. You cannot, by any stretch of the imagination get to your chosen destination without a map. The map is the aid to your experience on the sea as you get to your destination. The sea isn’t the map, and the map isn’t the sea. If you went to sea without a map, then I should imagine that you may find yourself in incredible danger. If you had a map but never wanted to commit yourself to the sea, you would never reach your destination. It is the same with theology and God. Where the sea reflects God, and the map reflects theology. I know this illustration is probably flawed, but when one tries to explain the nature and wonder of God by using picture language, one always fails to capture the true meaning of God’s reality.
To close, if you’re scared of theology, don’t be! It’s merely the study of God. And any sensible person would want to study theology in some degree! If you think you don’t need theology, think again. You may not need theology for salvation, but it’s only by theology that you’re going to learn more about God and understand various things about him. Just remember the illustration of the sea and the map! If you’re not a Christian, then it may be worthwhile to study theology; you never know what you may learn!
What do you think? What are the challenges for you if you study theology? What are the barriers to studying theology if you don’t already? Get in touch by commenting and interacting!

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Dean Roberts

Dean is a Minister in the Anglican Church. Currently he is Curate in the parishes of Bedwas, Machen, Michaelston-y-Fedw and Rudry in South Wales. He was born and bred in Wales, is married to Megan, and has two dogs called Taliesin and Melyn, and two cats named Sinsir and Hâf. He graduated from Cardiff University with a BA Hons. in Theology & Religious Studies, and has studied for an MA in Theology, Ministry & Mission at Trinity College Bristol. He also holds a Cert.RSCM from the Royal School of Church Music. He loves playing music, walking, reading, blogging and horse riding as well as going to the cinema and theatre. Read More @ http://deanroberts.net/about

  • I’m glad you are studying theology. You’ll make a great pastor/preacher/priest.

    If you want to hear some great preaching by a terrific pastor/theologian/preacher-teacher…go to my site and click on Pastor Mark Anderson.

    http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/category/pastor-mark-anderson/ 

     

    God bless you!

    • Thanks Steve! That’s a really nice thing for you to say.

      Will definitely check that link out, and will subscribe to your blog. Please do keep reading and commenting – your reading of the blog and input is always appreciated! 🙂

  • Alex Mentzer

    I’m really thankful for your blog, Dean! It is encouraging to hear how God is using you, challenging you, and spurring you on to love and good deeds… halfway around the world! Recently, I have realized the importance of theology; “I want to know more about the God I love, worship and adore; Jesus.” Very well put! We are called to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your MIND, and all your strength,” (Matt 12:30). Learning more about God- His character, His promises, His commands, and the context behind them is one of many ways we can obey the command of loving Him with all of our mind. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Dean! SO encouraging!

    • Thanks for the words of encouragement, Alex 🙂 Really glad that you fin the site useful to use and read!

      Please keep on reading an interacting! 🙂

  • I like this post, Dean 🙂

  • I appreciate people maintaining an interest in learning about others’ beliefs and ideas. I’ve enjoyed reading about yours, even when we disagree. Though it’s not a theology, per se, perhaps you’d be interested to read about my belief structure:

     

    http://rgoatcabin.blogspot.com/2009/11/drowning-in-logic.html

    • Thanks for the link, Rhomboid! Will have a look! 🙂

  • Other Relig student

    Hi Dean, I’m at Cardiff doing Religious Studies with Theology, I’m in your year. I’ve been glancing on and off at your posts because you feed them onto fb. This one however is the only one I feel qualified to comment on. I am a non-believer, yet have chosen to study theology at degree level. I am usually met with the same responce you are when telling others what I’m studying. However, I’m usually asked ‘Are you going to be a nun?’. I am not. I’m hoping to teach Religious studies at Secondary level. I obviously look at theology in a completely different way. I don’t feel it reveals God to me. Infact it often does the opposite. However, in my theology lessons I feel it teaches me something about humankind and history. It also often explains how other religions interact with eachother.

    • Thanks for Commenting 🙂

      Really value your comments and hope you pop back again! Speaking specifically about Cardiff Uni, the theology we get taught isn’t specifically aimed to get us to know God, because we’re in a Secular University, and therefore it’s no surprise that it doesn’t necessarily reveal God to you.

      However, there are plenty of theological books which won’t be on your reading list that will magnificantly reveal God an how he’s worked through History and how Prophecy has been fulfilled. Of course, with prophecy, you will be fed the 3 Isiah theory along with some other stuff which I think is rubbish, and for good reason; though often, secular university lectures will never reveal to you why these theologies that can be to the detriment and belittling of God can be wrong, and why they may be wrong.

      You may also notice that any sort of ‘faith’ is hardly talked about in theology, apart from the whole Justification by Faith doctrines and theologies. There’s no requirement to have faith yourself, if you see what I mean. Though I would invite you to look at some theological books that are written by Christians as opposed to secular scholars; you may be surprised!

      Really lovely to have you comment on here 🙂

  • Most interesting thing I’ve found, as a church worker and a theology graduate, is that while some people specifically study theology, EVERYONE thinks they know about it.

     

    For instance, if my car breaks down, I take it to the mechanic. I have no opinion on what’s gone wrong with it, because combustion engines and I do not get one. However, Theology is the one subject where the ‘experts’ are not necessarily the ‘qualified’, if you follow. Everyone has an opinion about God. Hopefully, as we discuss the what and who of God, we point them in the right direction.

    • David, yeah I totally get you! But isn’t that our natural state as humans. We have a theology of God that is warped and gives us everything but the truth. If you ever gander at a lot of Atheist blogs, you’ll see some really dodgy theology there 😉

      But you’re right – it’s up to us to shine the light of life.