Theology is a lived experience
As I think of a well-worn quotation by Epictetus, which says, “only the educated are free”, I also consider how our society has the tendency to idolize education for education’s sake. Don’t get me wrong. I hold education in high esteem, and believe that access to quality, free or affordable, empowering opportunities is one of the foremost concerns plaguing our society today. What I am speaking of is a bit different. Education has life-changing power.
As seminary-trained religious leaders, we are tasked with bridging the gap between the church and the academy. We walk with others in their own search for truth. This work can empower God’s people to cultivate and trust their own connection to the divine. You see, our learning should not be about earning yet another degree, but that we might be transformed to transform the world. Then education becomes a freeing, life-giving tool. Our seeking education should not be self-serving, but for equipping so that we can make life better—worth living for a circle beyond our immediate reach, and for generations into the future.
Dr. Frank Tupper’s Fall Convocation address at the School of Divinity last week was and is particularly kairotic—a moment of truth. As religious leaders seeking theological education, the seeking is not just for self or for the sake of seeking, but for the good of the communities we are called to serve. In his address, Dr. Tupper, professor of theology, made the case for why theology matters. He tasked the audience with considering how religious leaders do what they do, or why they should be doing it.
No matter what we learn, synthesize, or imbibe through our real or not-so-real osmotic powers, theology and the experience necessary for formation as competent religious leaders requires more than classroom knowledge. It also requires a willingness to be shaped and to shape, and to give and take—all in a delicate relationship between the self we knew yesterday, a reverence for God’s creative work that will be fulfilled in and through us tomorrow, and an awareness that today stands in the gap, ready for living. It is a lived experience.
All the classroom theorizing cannot help us, as today’s religious leaders, heal the hurting world beyond the hallowed halls and well-worn classroom walls of a seminary, or the otherwise comfortable places in which we find community. “Genuine theology”, to which Dr. Tupper refers, is embodied and internalized. In all of our humanity, to be faithful to the task of theologizing – in all of its complexity and profundity – is to bring forth our questions, put them into conversation with our understanding of the disciplines that shape our faith, and allow this to speak freely in light of a dynamic understanding of God’s work in the world.
As we embark upon a new academic year, we would do well to consider how we might live and lean into a genuine and personal theology in our communities, and in our own hearts.
Andrea N. Edwards
Assistant Director of Admissions and Recruitment
Andrea is the Assistant Director of Admissions and Recruitment. She enjoys all things dance and looks forward to opportunities to express herself through creative movement. She is also passionate about health of the total person and finds meaning in accompanying others on their path to wholeness. Andrea is looking forward to telling everyone she can about all the fabulous people and opportunities that make Wake Div a one-of-a-kind place! She is an ordained Baptist Minister, serving her home congregation in Greensboro.