Christian higher education is a worthwhile endeavour. Sadly, most pastors, preachers and church leaders particularly in Africa, fail to heed the call to theological higher education. I remember over two decades ago when I started learning the Bible, most people used to say to me, “Beware of these theological staff you are always reading. You will get lost one day”. Oh really? Does studying theology cause one to get lost in the faith? I always wondered what that phrase meant since no-one was there to explain it to me. However, later in my theological career, I learned to understand what that meant. I then discovered that people often make such cautionary remarks for two reasons: 1) they don’t know what true biblical Christian theology is, or 2) they have become victims of a bad theology.
To be honest, we are all theologians in this world. Our talk of God and His relationship to His creation is all but theologizing. However, theology can be good or bad depending on who the teacher is, its source, spirit and objective. Good theology is based on the Scriptures and finds its spiritual vindication from the Scriptures carefully examined. It is not based on a proof text or on some denominational thinking or some authoritative historical teacher or theologian. In its true spirituality, theology seeks to bring man to Christ and built Christ in people. If for any other reason we fail to see the pre-eminence of Christ in our theology, then our endeavours will yield nothing of spiritual value. True Christian theology is done in the power of the Holy Spirit for He is the Spirit of theology. In other words, we cannot understand what the Bible teaches and translates that into our lives to bring fruit apart from the presence and ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Having taken my studies at various theological schools, I have come to realize that some schools are just but schools of men who have a low view of the Scriptures, Christ and the personal ministry of the Holy Spirit. Others have well guarded the most cherished theological Christ centred principles and have not divorced the Christ of the Bible from the Christ of Christianity. I am happy to have different theological backgrounds over the past two decades I have been studying theology and I greatly appreciate the work of my professors, some I have agreed with and some I have disagreed with, and yet, they have helped me to become the person I am today. I have on several occasions pointed out that no matter what bad theology of good theology you learn, the bible student should have an objective mind and should be willing to take every theology to the Word test. This is very important since in our days, most people have wandered from the faith once delivered and have been pursuing strange and false doctrines.
In Africa, we really need sound theological higher education to equip the pastors, church leaders and all gospel ministers for world harvest. As we study theology, we should take note that man’s opinions and traditions are not superimposed on the people since they become burdens and spiritual stumbling blocks that drains the life and vitality of the Church. In most cases, people have ignorantly turned to spiritualism and mysticism and have overlooked or underestimated the role of true biblical Christian theology to transform people’s lives and help them be Christ-like in character, conduct and conversation. Pastors and church leaders who have shunned biblical training have been well renowned for their twisting and perversions of God’s Word. We must study and be diligent to be approved to God as His workman who does not need to be ashamed. Our task is to correctly and accurately handle the word of truth as we feed Christ’s sheep to which we have been entrusted.
In the past, it was not easy to get theological training since it involved packing your bags, leaving your family, work and ministry and spent 3 or 4 years of full time theological school training. However, with the arrival of the internet and distance programs, a serious church leader can make a maximum use of the resources freely available in the world today. The most important thing is to study to know the Word of God and being able to minister to the Church. As a result, one will find most free or cheap and affordable theological schools not accredited by secular governments. This does not mean that unaccredited theological schools offers cheap staff or have compromised their standards. Having theological schools myself in over 10 African countries, I have heard most people accusing our unaccredited schools asking where do you think you graduates will go with unaccredited theological qualifications. To be honest, in Christian ministry, theological accreditation is a work of a denomination not an board or agency. I am not trying to undermine the good work such institutions are doing to help schools become more credible and have students get value for their money, but I also have to say most heretics have arisen from such theological institutions.
Many theological schools are out there some offering tuition free programs and a wise minister should make use of such privileges before they are gone. You don’t study to earn a degree, you study to learn the word of God and be relevant to your people as a global theologian. While there is no perfect school, of course, each school system and curriculum has its strengths and weaknesses, but having a diversified theological background can be helpful. There are some things we have been told are heresy while they aren’t. Likewise, some beliefs we have held so dearly when thoroughly investigated in the light of Scripture have been found wanting.
To be continued……