Why Study Theology? -- By: Andrew T. B. McGowan

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 11:1 (Winter 2002)
Article: Why Study Theology?
Author: Andrew T. B. McGowan

Why Study Theology?

Andrew T. B. McGowan

The question of why we should study theology is asked by a number of people, especially these days. It is a question often raised, especially in a context where theology seems arcane, unpractical, and overly academic. It is raised in a variety of contexts. Does it really matter in the end? Why or why not?

Sometimes this question is raised by young students, anxious to get into a pulpit or away to the mission field, who regard three or more years of full-time study as a waste of valuable time. Sometimes it is raised by those of more mature years, who wish to serve as pastors but who regard theological training as superfluous because, they argue, they have read quite widely over the years and have considerable experience. Sometimes it is raised by rather naïve Christians, often in a somewhat supercilious manner, who suggest that an acquaintance with Scripture is sufficient for anyone preparing for Christian ministry and that to study theology is both unnecessary and probably unwise. It is even raised by those who are asked to support potential pastors through theological college and who grudge the expense, believing that the necessary training could easily be “picked up” while serving as an assistant pastor. Sometimes it is raised by those who are fearful of what might happen when a student is exposed to theological writing which is not (by their standards) orthodox.

One can understand why these arguments might be raised against the study of theology. Certainly in the case of the last example one might well have some sympathy. Ultimately, however, none of these arguments stand up to serious scrutiny, because the study of theology is so important to the life of the church and because there are, on the positive side, so many good reasons for engaging in the study of theology. I would like to consider six.

1. To Understand The Scriptures

The first reason for the study of theology is that we might obtain a better understanding of Scripture. If we believe that the Bible is the Word of God, that it is breathed-out by God (2 Timothy 3:16) and that those who wrote it did so because they were being carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21) then we will want to learn what it teaches. The study of theology, at its best, is a structured attempt to obtain knowledge of God. In order to do so, we must understand the Bible and reflect upon its teaching.

Now, as we noted above, there are some people who believe that theology is a dangerous subject, which should not be studied by anyone! The reason given for this view is t...

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