How Much Theological Education Do You Need? image

How Much Theological Education Do You Need?

How much theological education do you need? It depends, obviously. If you're a pastor, responsible for preaching and teaching God's Word, you need a lot more than if you're a group leader, who might in turn need a lot more than a new convert. But whoever you are, you are called to grow in the knowledge of God, without in any way thinking that your knowledge makes you any more saved than anybody else. It can be a tricky line to walk.

My friend Dimeji Téibo has a wonderful way of thinking about this. Pilots need to know a lot about aeronautical engineering. They are responsible for the safety of the people on board their plane, and that means that they need to know not just the basics, but how to navigate dangerous crosswinds, land in hostile weather conditions, and so forth. A rudimentary knowledge is insufficient when you have other people’s destinies in your hands. For that reason, pilots spend years studying every possible eventuality - even the ones they think and hope will never crop up - so that if and when they are confronted by a dangerous threat, they can respond to it wisely and protect their passengers.

The cabin crew need to know a fair bit less. Plenty of practical eventualities will face the pilot that they will never encounter. There is also a bunch of theory, crucial for pilots to do their jobs properly, which is simply unnecessary for performing cabin crew tasks well. But at the same time, they need to know a lot more than the average passenger, for the simple reason that they are the people to whom the average passenger looks for reassurance and clarity when things get bumpy. They need to know what to do in the case of a crisis. They need to know the difference between minor turbulence and serious danger. They need to be able to handle awkward and obstreperous individuals, calling for help when necessary.

Ordinary passengers need to know very little. They might know a lot, but they don’t need to. They might only know the bare minimum: that even if you don’t grasp all the mechanics of it, you can trust this plane to take you safely to your destination. Ultimately, it is that faith that saves them, whether or not they can explain it in language that a pilot would find compelling. Indeed, they are carried by the plane every bit as safely as the pilot - despite the vast difference in levels of aeronautical education - for the simple reason that your knowledge cannot make you fly. Only entrusting yourself to another can do that.

Whoever has ears, let them hear. (And if you want to do some in-service training to sharpen your aeronautical awareness, our THINK conference next July is focusing on the Gospel of Matthew. Just saying.)

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