The Revd Dr Raewynne Whiteley, Warden
‘A theological college? What’s that?’ That’s the most frequent response I get when I tell people that I live and work at Wollaston Theological College. Theology is not a word in most people’s vocabulary. But thinking theologically is something we’re all engaged in as Christians.
The word theology comes from two Greek words, theos, meaning God, and logos, meaning words or thought or thinking. So, theology is words to do with God. In its formal sense, it’s the study of God, or, as Richard Hooker put it in the 16th century, ‘the science of things divine’.
All of us have thoughts about God. Each of us understands God a little differently, because of the ways we have been taught and the experiences we have had. When I was in Year 8, I was cast as God in a play – I was dressed up in a white toga (bedsheet) and a cotton wool beard. As an adult, my understanding of God has changed so that I think of God less in terms of a costume and more in terms of our relationship. Today when I imagine God, it’s often as someone sitting in an armchair beside me in front of a fire, sharing a thoughtful conversation.
But our faith isn’t just in our heads. Being a Christian is also about how we live.
Thinking theologically is not just thinking about God: it’s learning to live our lives with God in mind.
In a Bible study on Colossians 3:12-17, we were talking about forgiveness. Forgiveness sounds great, until it comes to forgiving someone you who has wronged you. So how do we forgive people who hurt us? The conclusion of one group member was to make a commitment to pray for the person who had caused her so much pain. That’s thinking theologically.
A few years ago in a Sunday School class, we read 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, which describes the church as being like a body. I asked the kids what part of the body they were. One eight year old, the clown of the class, said, “The funny bone!” (He also told me that when he receives communion, he thinks of Jesus and how he loves us and died for us.) That’s thinking theologically.
And just last week I heard a business executive and former SAS Commander, speaking about the way his faith has shaped his professional decision making. That’s thinking theologically.
Thinking theologically is what we do when we look for the connections between God and our lives.
Sometimes we’ll begin with God, and say something like ‘If God is like _____, what difference does it make for the way I live?’ Other times we’ll begin with something going on in our lives – a struggle, a joy, a dilemma - and ask, ‘What has God got to say about this?’ or ‘What would God have me do about this?’ or eve ‘How is God responsible for this?’ – and in that case ‘How do I respond?’ Thinking theologically is at the very core of how we live out our faith as Christians.
That means that theology is for everyone, not just clergy or academics, but each and every one of us. And a great way to grow in your understanding of theology and how it relates to your life is to study.