When I was a student at college, I was a young man in love. I lost my heart to a beautiful woman, to theology and to the Lord and His cause. There had been pale reflections of those loves before but this was the time of full blossom, reality.
We have to guard against the hyper-rationalisation of theological education. It is not just about thinking. It is about feeling and committing as well, it is about love.
So where does love come into theological education? Speaking in more general terms, are not the three great loves of the theological teacher; people, subject and God?
If we do not love students, we should not be in the job. For sure, you can deliver information from the front, even make them think, but it is unlikely that the connection between you and the students will be made if you do not love, and it is that connection which promotes real learning.
If we do not love our subject, we are teaching in the wrong area. Theology, Bible, Church History, Mission and so on, need to be landscapes we enjoy wandering in, workshops we enjoy creating things in, areas we want to show to our students so they will love them too.
If we do not love the God we serve, what is the point of it all? Without this as the main reason for teaching, our job becomes a selfish exercise, or at least a bit of benevolence to poor empty students.
Now, of what use is this little meditation on love to a hard working theological educator?
- It asks the question as to whether, amid all the administration, marking of papers, faculty meetings and emails, we have lost our first love – the emotion and commitment to our students, our subject and our God.
- It helps us assess applications from those who wish to teach in our institutions. It suggests that we do not only ask what they know but also what they love.
- It guides our staff development programmes. They have to be targeted towards the restoring and developing of love as well as knowledge. Principals and academic deans have a responsibility in this area.
- It gives a new perspective on the concept of integration in theological education. We seek an emotional integration as well as a conceptual integration We each only have one heart. Our loves cannot be kept entirely separate. We love students for God’s sake, we love our subject because it is rich in God-issues, guides and prompts to discipleship. We love our students and our study as an outlet for our love to God.
- It helps to define our objectives – helping our students to love others, the truth and God with an un-divided heart.
So can we say with the Beatles “Love is all you need”? Not quite, but theological education would be a miserable calling without it.