Theological education in a post-international world

Theological education in a post-international world

We are in an era where walls are being built between nations rather than bridges, the UK is cutting its ties with the rest of Europe and new laws are being enacted all over the world to keep out migrants from other countries. This is a challenge to theological education in three ways;

Firstly, it impedes the travel of students and lecturers between colleges and countries. For instance, it is difficult enough nowadays to welcome students from outside the UK into UK colleges and Brexit will make that more difficult, especially for students from countries in the European Union. Protectionist immigration laws anywhere also make very awkward the task of colleges and seminaries in appointing the best teachers regardless of where they were born. In some instances, participating in international visits and conferences has become more difficult. This does not apply presently to all countries but increasing government legislation in some is making it harder and harder to maintain international classrooms and staffrooms in our colleges.

Secondly, it challenges the very theology of the Church that we teach. The concept of the nation state with all its protectionist immigration policies could be challenged politically as not the best thing, or even biblically as not necessarily supported by scripture, but this is deeper. There is only one Church spread across the world and, for a Christian, the nation they happen to belong to is of far less importance than the spiritual kingdom they belong to (although some politico-Christian rhetoric recently hardly reflects this biblical position). To teach such theology in our classrooms (and we must) is inhibited by a growing world view in many of our societies that as nations we are separate from other nations and must put ourselves first, that the stranger is somehow lesser than ourselves. Our societies are moving increasingly in a different direction to our theology.

Thirdly, the whole idea of the nature and place of community in theological education is threatened by this growing world mood. While each college and seminary has to develop community within itself, theological education as a whole should also develop the worldwide community of theological education in general. We need to continue the momentum towards the idea that the hermeneutical community which reads scripture together, does theology together and talks together about how best to train for church service is as wide as the world. Thankfully technology is helping us here, only a few nations at the moment impede the free travel of ideas across the internet and some organisations are working industriously in the area of bringing us together although they are, in places, cycling against the wind.

In theological education, as in cycling, when the wind is against you, you peddle harder. Let us, each college or seminary, think through what we can do to increase the international element in our education. Let each international organisation re-double its efforts and see if we can express together the basic nature of theological education – as a task which naturally reflects the fact that God so loved the entire world.

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2 Comments on “Theological education in a post-international world”

  1. Jim Murdoch Says:

    Thanks Grahame for a very timely and thought-provoking article.

  2. Brian D. Dix Says:

    Ever since reading Ott & Netland’s Globalizing Theology ten years ago the internationalization of theology has been a passion for me, one which our team is working hard to facilitate daily. Thank you for your encouragement as we “cycle against the wind.”


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