Last week our students wrapped up all classes for the year. Now they’ve entered their practicum, preparing to serve and lead this summer. I was able to have a little pep-talk with them last week, on the last day that I served as their instructor for this year. We talked about the point of Bible study and theology, about what theology is for. It reminded me of this blog post from Stephen Holmes:
I think a good theologian prays well, first. No theologian who doesn’t has even begun to understand the discipline. And then s/he serves the Church, and his or her particular part of it (down to a local congregation) in humility and faithfulness. Theology belongs to the Church; any theologian divorced from the Church is a bad theologian, however brilliant or knowledgeable. A good theologian has a grasp of gospel values, and would swap everything s/he has written to see one sinner repent, or one broken life healed. A good theologian writes and speaks only to help the Church be more faithful to the gospel, bringing whatever knowledge of the tradition, whatever insight into contemporary modes of thought, and whatever native cleverness s/he may possess, all into service of this one end. A good theologian is marked by humility and cheerfulness, knowing how far short of the mystery of God and God’s works his/her best efforts fall, and knowing that in the good grace of God something of lasting worth may still come from them. A good theologian, finally, does know something, and has some capacity of thought, and so can make a contribution through his/her God-given vocation.
I agree with Holmes, and I think he makes his point well. A good theologian serves. This is what theology is for: to love God, and to love people. When theology does this, it produces wise, kind-hearted, generous men and women who love to listen, who reach out to the hurting, who stand against wickedness and embrace holiness. Theology gets a bad name when we see men and women who only care about being right, about winning the argument, about browbeating others with their intellect and education. I reminded my students that this would be a perversion of theology. God gave teachers to the church, but it wasn’t so that they could exercise power over it. Rather, it was so that they might lovingly shepherd, guide, and correct, that the church may grow up in all things into Christ, who is the head (Ephesians 4:15).
This is what we want at the School of Discipleship, the goal of every class and assignment and paper. We want our men and women to be the kind of people who serve and love with all their hearts, with all their might, and with all their minds. Love God, and love people. That’s the whole point.