• « Back to all Blog articles
  • Studying theology and loving God

    As a theology student I always get asked questions like ‘doesn’t studying theology make your relationship with God an academic exercise?’ or even ‘doesn’t it make people stop believing in God?’ Usually asked with a hint of concern about whether I am one of the Christians who doesn’t believe in miracles, the divine nature of Jesus, or just God altogether.

    Studying theology and loving God - primary image

    Photo by Dwight Stone

    If you are about to start studying theology, whether it’s at a Christian college like LST (which is where I am) or at a secular university, you will probably come across questions like this from Christian friends and family. Firstly, don’t get frustrated. They are just asking you these questions because they care about you and your spiritual walk. Secondly, remind them that currently about 75% of students who start university as Christians fall away (most of whom won’t be studying theology). Finally, offer them this: Theology literally means God (Theos) study (logos) in the Greek. When studying God you are embarking on the ancient quest that many great Christians (and Jews) have embarked - to stare at the vastness and infinity of God. Theology should cause you to worship, not fall away.

    You will be following in the footsteps of John Stott and Terry Virgo, Martin Luther and John Calvin, Augustine of Hippo and John of Damascus, Paul of Tarsus and Peter of Galilee. In fact the 12 apostles took 3 years out to study theology under the best theological teacher the world has ever seen!

    However there will be times while studying where your Christian walk will be strained, and for a variety of reasons. For myself I had trouble in first year, my spiritual life was dry, worship felt like an effort, and the Bible felt like a textbook not God breathed words. People’s warnings against faith becoming ‘too academic’ were fresh in my mind so I was actively trying to separate my devotional time and my time studying. I was actively trying to not allow what I was learning at college to affect my faith or my view of God. In my head I was protecting myself from putting God in to an academic box, but what I was doing in reality was protecting my anti-academic box from the infinity of God! What I was doing wasn’t showing respect to what I was learning, and wasn’t showing respect to God who had brought me there to study it.

    We are told in Deuteronomy 6:5 that ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength’, but then Jesus adds that you should love God with ‘all your mind’ as well (Mark 12:30). Now I am not saying that you need to have a theological qualification to prove that you are loving God with your mind, but I am saying that it seems God takes pleasure in his church seriously spending time working out deep theological issues.

    Allowing deeper study of the Bible and theology to affect our view of God can however be an uncomfortable thing to do. What it will often do is tear down long held views, and dogmatic thought that we have built up. But this is so that God may build up a stronger, more sustainable, and fuller view of him and his Bible. Unfortunately some brothers and sisters are so caught up in their tightly held views being torn down, that they don’t realise God is building something in its place, and so end up walking away from the faith. This is sad but it doesn’t mean we should avoid deeper study. Jesus reminds us that the gate is narrow and the road is difficult (Matthew 7:14) in all aspects of our faith, so we shouldn’t be scared off when the difficulties arise.

    After I had opened myself up to God, I went through a difficult period. What was most difficult was the feeling of that God wasn’t talking to me anymore. Fortunately God has provided me with a supportive wife and excellent friends, who encouraged me to keep praying, keep worshiping and keep persevering through it. Prayer and worship are so important when God is building something new in your life. In the Bible we see countless times where people want to give up because it’s too hard. Like Samson we forget our vows made to God, and the vows God has made to us, but like Samson, blinded and bound, we should cry out to God in prayer and worship. Our relationship with Him must be a two-way thing for it to work.

    When I was going through this time, God reminded me of Job 23:10 ‘But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.’ Studying theology definitely feels like God is trying you. But by prayer, worship and applying what you have been learning to your own life and in the life of the church, you will come out as a strong person of faith.

    So don’t be scared of the exercise of theology, it’s just as captivating as it is exhausting. Just come to the study with a prayerful and humble heart, and allow God to change you to be the wise and mature person he wants you to be.

    Entry Tags

  • Comments

    Join the conversation, let us know what you think.

    Write your comment

    Please enter the word you see in the image below: