Grey Hair Theology

Grey hair theology

How old should a theological educator be? The old adage that students keep you young and make you old all at the same time hides a few important truths.

Firstly, that much of what we do today in our classrooms is cross-cultural teaching; from the culture of an older generation of teachers to the culture of a younger group of students. Different countries and situations have varying respect for the older person, but none escape the difficulty of bridging the generation gap. In many classrooms, a teacher brought up with enlightenment attitudes to the value of theology, a generational pattern of being a Christian and a bundle of methodologies and attitudes from a previous generation, has to work hard to perform his or her job well among contemporary students. Teachers in that situation need to understand the dynamics of contextualisation, the importance of listening and humility. And, I am sorry to say, schools sometimes have to appoint younger lecturers.

Secondly, there is (or can be) a special value in older teachers. There are many ways to describe this but let me use the concept of significance. In one way, very very few people have enduring significance in a world of 6 billion people spread across a vast globe. But an enduring theological teacher, year after year influencing the lives and thoughts of students who will carry that influence into many places near and far, has a special significance.  This does not happen to all. However, there are teachers who so influence their students by the demonstration of core values of what it means to belong to and serve Christ, to think carefully and well, to be relational with students, who have a ripple effect over great historical and geographical  planes. Such a teacher, significant for these factors over a long ministry, has gained not just respect but value for their students today as demonstrations of enduring values, spiritual, academic and ministerial. And the students of their students rise up and call them blessed.

So there are two questions to be answered.

  1. Am I humble enough to try to genuinely understand my students and practice as far as I can good contextual teaching?
  2. Am I willing to be what I should be in myself as a Christian teacher and go on being that in front of my students year after year as a significant marker of enduring values?

Then some of our students will move from being suspicious of grey hairs to become grateful for them.

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One Comment on “Grey Hair Theology”

  1. Perry Shaw Says:

    A friend once described wisdom as knowledge tempered by experience. Robert Banks reports on some field research that found: “What most people coming into theological institutions desire is the opportunity to get to know their teachers personally, and learn from them in ways that will help them grow spiritually and minister effectively. … While as teachers we regard academic concerns as the most important, students are equally or more interested in the personal and practical implications of what they are learning.” Grey hairs with wisdom can be a great gift when offered in humility.


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