It had been on my mind for a few years already – the wish to study theology. At some point in my life. Maybe. But when? And why? After some thoughtful consideration, I decided at the end of August this year that I should do it, starting in September. Now is as good a time as any. I am sure there are many other useful things I could do instead, but this is what I feel called to do now and it is something that fits with who I am and what I am good at. So I started two weeks ago with a 4-year course of Biblical Theology, through the distance learning programme of the (Dutch) Evangelical Theological Academy (ETA).
Theology is the study of the knowledge of God. A major part of Christian theology is the study of the Bible, also called the ‘Word of God’. This is where we find the knowledge of God, as it has been passed on to us through many generations. The central figure in Christian theology, or in Christianity as a whole, is, of course, Jesus Christ, the ‘chosen saviour’. The first part of the bible, the Old Testament, tells us everything what happened and what was said about God and by God before this Saviour came. The New Testament shows us the life of Jesus and how the church developed after his death and resurrection.
One of my favourite bible verses is this:
Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
Although the languages the bible was originally written in (Ancient Hebrew and Ancient Greek) are ‘dead’, I believe the actual Word of God, translated in whatever language, is indeed ‘living and active’. It is powerful, relevant and meaningful.
I think it is interesting and challenging to study theology, or even simply to be a Christian, in this time and age. In Western countries, Christianity is often seen as something from the past, something that is no longer relevant. The world would be better off with no religions at all, is what many people believe. I believe differently. While studying theology, I want to look for the relevance and meaning of the Christian faith and Christian ideas for this world in this time and for people living now – including myself.
Coming from a ‘traditional’ Dutch reformed church, I grew up with the idea that men and women are equal, but only men can be pastors and women cannot. I have recently been re-evaluating these ideas and I realised that this way of thinking has influenced the way I read the bible and the way I look at myself and the possibilities I have to serve in the church and in the world. A book that was very helpful in rethinking these ideas, was ‘Why not women’ by Loren Cunningham and David Hamilton. Interestingly enough, I found a Dutch translation of this book in a small, traditional church we visited during the holidays in The Netherlands. God has funny ways to point us in certain directions sometimes. More about this book later!