Theology is a Scary Word

IIn a few short months, I will have finished half of my seminary education. I will be halfway to my M.Div. degree, halfway to no more papers, midterms and finals. I will be halfway done with paying tuition and halfway closer to getting a full-time job in ministry. It seems that this would be as good of a time as any to pause for some reflection…

This week, an email was sent out to the student body announcing the finalization of the Spring Course Schedules and Course Information. I opened my student records to see what distribution requirements I would need in order to graduate.

Biblical Studies: check.
Practical Theology: check.
History: check.
Theology: still a long ways to go.

I’ve already taken classes that have interested me, such as East Asian Christianity from 1500-1800, American Religion and American Literature, Sermons of the Civil Rights Movement and Justice and Social Ethics in the Old Testament. Now, there’s theology left.

Theology is a scary word.

When can what I learn be applied to what I am sure I am called to do?
It makes me think of books that are too big to read, ideas that are too big to grasp, papers that are too rushed to articulate clearly, people who are too old to be relevant. It’s no wonder to me that the church is losing its relevance, when what we are taught are stories and thoughts of old, with no application to the present, and no foresight into the future.

It appears to me that we seminarians pride ourselves on the intellectual knowledge gained in the classroom; what have we have read, how much we can recite, when can we be published. All the while, we are told over and over again that the Church is dying, and that the Church needs us–young people.

Is there a disconnect in the messaging? When can what I learn be applied to what I am sure I am called to do?

One of my professors said to us that organized religion lost Jesus. He paused, repeated the statement, then looked at us seated around the table and said, “You seminarians are organized religion!”

I pray it not be so.

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Joseph D. Kim

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Joe Kim is a student at Princeton Theological Seminary and pastor to young people at Salem United Methodist Church in Harlem, New York.


Photo Credit: Image used under Creative Commons from Andrew Eason. Cropped from original.