What Does A Theological Education Actually Do?

Make every effort to supplement your faith with [a list of awesome things]… for if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 1:5,8


Be doers of the word, not just hearers, deceiving yourselves.

James 1:22

I remember hearing a story my pastor shared with me about how a young man received a calling from God to go into ministry. To this, his parents obliged, but conditioned his pursuit by saying, “If you want to serve Jesus, you need to get a PhD.” And great sadness came to my pastor’s voice when he shared how, by the time that man spent years and years and years in theological education, he had already lost his passion to serve Christ.

What is it about a theological education that can make us unfruitful or ineffective in our service to Christ?

For a seminarian, this is a very significant question to ask because, honestly, no where in the Bible does it instruct us to go to seminary. Or Bible school, at that. That’s, of course, not to say those things are bad, but it should at least give us caution about being in an institution that is forming and shaping us in ways that may or may not be Biblical.

Of the many things I’m sure we should be cautioned about, I will only bring to attention one particular aspect about a theological education that God has been showing me that may yield a recipe for unfruitfulness, and it’s this:

Knowledge does not equal obedience.

Just because we know something, doesn’t make us more faithful. And just because we’ve learned something, doesn’t make us more obedient. We’re in an place where our primary mode of training for ministry is being instilled with knowledge. Great knowledge, I’ll add, but as Paul said, “Knowledge puffs up…”

Knowing is only the first step in obedience (if needed at all, really). That’s why Paul continues that statement with, “…but love builds up.” He’s highlighting a disparity between knowing and doing.

Because in the end, God is not going to judge our lives based on what we know, but by what we do. If what we know is not fleshed out in what we do, then I’m sorry, it will not count towards us on the day that God judges the fruit of our lives.

And if we, who are in an institution that is focused on learning more about Christ, do not actually come out looking and acting more like Christ leaving, then something is really amiss.

There is just a strong conviction on my heart that spending hours reading, researching, and writing means absolutely nothing if those hours do not change my character, in the way I love Jesus, and in the way I love others in real practical ways. If i learn more about Christ’ victory over death and it doesn’t compel me to tell others, or for me to be more worshipful, then I would honestly be better off not learning it at all.

Knowledge is meaningless without action.

And theological training is meaningless too, if I leave having just known about who God is and what he wants me to do, but never actually doing anything about it.

Phillip Chan

Phil has been writing for 10 years. His passion is to grow in his love for Jesus to obey his purposes in our generation.

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