Real Theology Is Lived Theology
As I walked through the doors at Fuller in September of 2010 my mind raced with questions: Would I be able to handle the rigorous academic work required at the graduate level? Would I have enough time to simultaneously be both a good student and a good father and husband? Should I pursue a career in the ivory towers of academia or follow a path leading to the work of ministry? To be honest, as I reflect on this last question it seems odd (and slightly embarrassing) that I ever attempted to make such a distinction. My time at Fuller has shown me that to separate academic life and/or the study of theology from a life of ministry is to entirely miss the point of any and all theological reflection.
The marriage of academic theological thought and ministry hit me in a profound way. Although it may not seem profound now as I’m describing it, realizing the necessity of theological reflection to be grounded in praxis caused me to have an “aha moment” that could not be easily ignored. This moment came as I was sitting in the last row of Dr. Ron Sanders’ Intro to Christian Ethics class. I’m not particularly sure if it was the way Dr. Sanders presented the material, if I was simply paying more attention than normal, or if Fuller put something in the water that day, but the reality hit me that theology, if it lacks practical application, fails to be what it claims to be. Theology without praxis becomes something else altogether. For theology to be theology it needs to be expressed. It needs to be lived out. Failure to apply theology to everyday life is failure to do theology at all.
The question with which I first came to Fuller (should I pursue academia or ministry), as I look back on it, seems to be a question that misses the point altogether in that it assumes that the two categories can or should remain mutually exclusive. Life at Fuller—through interaction with both students and faculty—has shown me that the question should not be between academic/theological reflection or ministry, but rather, in what ways is God calling me to take what I’ve learned and apply it to serve the community in which He has currently placed me? Christian theological reflection must be lived out and a Christian life must have theological reflection at its heart. The two go hand in hand.
All this is to say that my time at Fuller has taught me that regardless of what God has for us in the future (an academic career, career in ministry, or any number of other vocations), we need to be constantly looking for ways to minister to those within the community in which we presently live. If our thoughts on theological matters remain disconnected from the way we live, interact, and minister to one another then we are actually failing to engage in theology at all. However, when we allow our theological reflections to shape and mold our everyday lives, something beautiful happens: The God of love is made visible through our lives.
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