Bible college09 Mar 2023
Hello, fictive reader. Blog’s been quiet for years.
Working in government has significant chilling effects on public speech, but suffice to say Canberra has been an (unexpected) blessing in terms of work. We’ve been here about seven years and it’s been a great journey in design, tech, climate – and consultancy scale-ups.
This year looks a bit different.
I finished up at Pragma and am taking the year to study ✨theology✨ (no, not astrology!). The Jesus kind.
Getting to the point of ‘quit your job and study the bible’ is a bit of a journey. More to be said than is said here, so do reach out if you would like to chat!
You’re studying what now?
I’ve enrolled full time at Ridley College, based in Melbourne, but studying online.
Theology is studying God and religious belief - in this case, consistent with Christian faith. Ridley are ‘reformed evangelical’ and (self-describedly) world class theological education. The academic rigour is real (more below). I’m just a few weeks in now and it has been wonderful learning from their staff. I know only a few people who have studied there, but it’s been widely recommended as the best distance option. (There are, of course, caveats on distance that are in some measure predictable in our COVID-weary world - ask and I’ll tell you!)
Too jargony? Parse ‘reformed/evangelical’ as ‘a focus on how God has spoken to us through the bible, and historical Jesus’ life, death and resurrection’.
Can’t you just read the bible?
(Or, my fav variant on this question: don’t you already know what is in the bible?)
One of the New Testament letter writers sets the frame for this: “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb 4:12)
There’s an imperative to read again, and again. But it’s a fair question. Full-time study isn’t the ‘real world’, and isn’t forever. In day-to-day Christian life, we read the words of God, and probably use a bit of what we’ve heard in faith settings as a lens to understand how they fit tighter.
This sentiment is pretty familiar: “…some people today believe the [writers of gospels] took divine dictation: they were merely stenographers, the secretaries of the Holy Spirit.”1
Part of the humanities bag-of-tricks is considering context and form. Part of the rigour is piecing together what smart people, who wrestle with the mess/age of history, know about the academic reality of how we get these texts, and beliefs.
The reality is real people wrote the words of life, to particular people at a particular time.
What’s the driver?
A number of things, best told in person, got us to this decision point in late January.
This is a strange choice. But the bible describes a strange people. The main game is to understand God’s salvation without dull eyes, ears or heart, to persuade about Jesus in the Spirit’s power.
I am trusting God will graciously use this year for greater understanding and transformation. Now, ‘knowledge puffs up’. If you talk to God, please ask it doesn’t give selfish pride but the fruit of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
People I’ve told this have, broadly, responded with “you do you, you’ve got to look after yourself” (self-actualisation, I suppose?) 2 or perhaps presumed it is a bit of a nerding-out exercise, maybe lacking in rigour. Others still wonder if it is credentialling - accordingly, I will be bored.
To be honest, I am grappling with the firehose of content right now. Perhaps common to new endeavours, perhaps God already answering that prayer about pride.
While humanities study isn’t new, theological education, and full-time study, is. Transitioning from 4-day-a-week work to a full-time course load has also been genuinely difficult to keep up with. Kids of course doesn’t pause, started a new school this year, have their own full little lives, and the rest of life remains busy and (a little unpredictably) full.
But God is not far off, and so I pray in the Spirit for perseverance in studies this year!
deSilva, David A.. An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods and Ministry Formation, InterVarsity Press, 2018. ↩
I doubtless contributed to this thinking, maintaining a professional interest in instructional design from an organisation who have done a bunch of good thinking about online delivery! ↩