You might expect a Master’s Student of Biblical Theology to disagree with the title of this post; and you’d be partially correct.
As one studying the faith in a classroom setting, I understand that the statement, “theologians are lousy at praying,” does not have to be true— and that in fact the opposite ought to be true if theology is really studied “from one’s knees” as it should be. The more you know, the more you love— right?
But more personally: as one studying the faith in a classroom setting, I know all too well how very true the above statement can be.
It’s not just because when you study the faith there’s a tendency to think that you’re “good” because reading the Bible is your homework. Most of us are too smart to fall for that one. Besides, if reading the Bible was really only seen as “homework,” and not something that we truly wanted to do to grow in faith, then we probably wouldn’t be studying this field in the first place.
No, what really gets us— or I should say what really gets me, since I can’t speak for everyone here— is that often times, rather than allowing the things that I learn to be paved roads on a sturdy foundation to lead me into deeper truth, there’s a tendency to build walls and even shackles of a certain kind with what I have learned. It has sometimes gotten to the point where I’ve found myself in conversation with Jesus in adoration and suddenly the academic voice in my head jumps in saying, “Are you sure you’re allowed to pray for that?!”
Even if you’re not majoring in theology, I bet you can relate. How many of us, when our study of the faith has so (correctly) convinced us of what a great offense our sins are, end up too ashamed to even approach God in prayer after we fall? Theologically speaking, we know the facts: mortal sins mean we have cut off the life of grace within our soul. If we die in mortal sin, the faith teaches that we’d go to Hell. Therefore it only follows that God wants nothing to do with me from the moment after I sin until I’m in the confessional.
God is so much bigger than the boxes we’re constantly trying to put Him into. And I’m finding that, invariably, my boxes always seek to limit His Love for me.
Basically: I’m pretty sure that if I were in the boat when Jesus was out walking on the water, we’d all be reading the incredibly dull story of how Little Mary Lane thought timidly to herself about how neat it would be if Jesus would call her out of the boat, but then thought better of it and wrote a blog post about it instead. BORING.
So what’s the solution? I’m dropping out of school.
Just kidding. :) Despite the struggles that come with being an introverted personality studying the faith, I still find that each new thing I learn about Jesus truly is something that I love about Him; and I know that we’re never “done” learning about the faith. Yes, I’m still wrestling with how to balance radical, childlike zeal for the faith with more academic knowledge; but what I do know is that it’s a false dichotomy invented by snobby people with little faith that forces you to choose between the two.
Until I find the answer, I’m going to continue to pray for the intellectually impossible. A theology that can be contained to the confines of my intellect is too small to be worth studying anyway.