In his book, After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters, N.T. Wright tells the story of one of his students “who spent his whole summer holiday working in a sub-Saharan African country. When he came back, the head of the college asked him what he wanted to do when he graduated. He replied that he was hoping to work in international development, to bring help and wisdom to the poorest parts of the globe. The head of the college at once asked him why, in that case, he was studying theology rather than politics and/or economics.
The student didn’t miss a beat. ‘Because theology is much more relevant’, he replied.”
Because theology is much more relevant. Aside from wishing I had this quip in the back of my pocket while attending SPU, I’m now realizing how unfortunate it is that students (or anybody for that matter) studying theology are automatically associated with solely wanting to do ministry in the context of a church. Admittedly, I originally enrolled in the major with the hopes of doing pastoral work, but that vocational ambition died hard by the end of my first quarter (7th grade youth ministry got the best of me and ruined the whole spectrum). However, despite this experience I stuck with the major because there was something much greater going on outside of biblical exegesis and reading histories of German theologians.
Theology speaks to economic ideologies, social hierarchies and power structures, business transactions, political policy, psychological and sociological analysis, healthcare models, media networks, and racial, ethnic, gender, and religious relations.
Jesus not only provided life for his creation, but addressed how one may live their life as a new human in association with creation.
All that to say, I don’t think people study theology because they want to be purposefully incompetent (when working outside of the church). I think people study theology because they want to be richly holistic. So I encourage anyone curious of pursuing a theological background not to think about what they are compromising on, but instead to look forward to the encompassing knowledge they are about to receive.