August 31, 2010

Why the Church Needs More Christian Women Scholars

Studying theology helps us to participate in our relationship with God. It isn’t about gathering a ton of unnecessary knowledge that will never make a difference in your life, but about committing to knowing God in the deepest way possible.

But even the process of doing theology has intrinsic value as it trains the mind to welcome ideas that are reasonable and glorify God, and to reject ideas and ways of thinking that hurt us and contradict truth. Doing theology helps us to become critical thinkers in every area of life.

As women, it is especially important for us to do theology, not because there is something about us that makes us intellectually deficient or different from men, but because attempts to encourage non-theological thinking have become so widespread in the culture of women’s ministry. We often think and meditate on a single verse or short passage at a time, a practice which can be detrimental not only to understanding the bigger picture, but can equally undermine our ability to practice what we believe in every area of our lives. We do not want to be fragmented in our approach to living, but that is a real risk if we study the Bible in that same way. 

Many women’s bible studies and gift books encourage this fragmented way of thinking due to the relatively short meditations they contain, or through spoon feeding which generally does not model an appropriate method of interpretation because the work has already been done (and we hope correctly). When the most probing questions direct the student to look within themselves—“how does this make you feel?”—the time has come to assess our discipleship materials.

Analytically similar, yet dependent on biblical theology, is the area of systematic theology. In case this is a new term to you, systematic theology is the process of “draw[ing] together into one coherent whole what the entirety of Scripture says on a given topic.”[1] From the onset, we are expected to limit ourselves to the biblical text, working hard to avoid conclusions based upon the ideas we bring to the study. A study of various passages that speak to the topic of God’s love, for example, allows us to draw a partial mental picture of that aspect of God based on the given passages.

The use of analytical thinking in the study of God’s Word has practical benefits that reach in to all areas of life. Many passages in scripture exhort us to know who God is, to seek his will, to try to discern what pleases God…the list could go on. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we are led to many decisions in our lives. But the role and activity of the Holy Spirit and the life of the mind should never be pitted against each other by the suggestion that we don’t need to become better thinkers. The lack of reasoning skills in church and culture is abundantly apparent and results in decisions that people “in their right mind” would normally refrain. For the Christian woman in the 21st century, being equipped to effectively engage scripture will also train her to effectively engage the ideas of culture, and to more consistently consider how to answer many of life’s difficult questions. Having a Christian worldview means being able to navigate between scripture and life, from precept and principle to practice, to have godly wisdom about matters mentioned in scripture, and about things never mentioned at all.

Being a student of scripture and bringing its themes into a logical ordering in our minds is some of what it means to do theology. In personal conversations, it has been said that not every women is at that place in her walk with the Lord that she would want to pursue him rigorously, that she may be perfectly content with materials that don’t challenge her to grow. Obviously, no one can be forced to read her Bible and work at putting all the pieces into logical order. But for the woman who simply doesn’t know this to be a pursuit beneficial to her spiritual growth, for the woman who doesn’t have this modeled for her, it definitely will be difficult for her to arrive there on her own.  

[1]  Erickson, Millard. Christian Doctrine. 2nd Ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001) p. 16.

No comments: