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Thinking about God

A YOUNG man who attended a Lutheran school was going out with a girl who was educated in a Roman Catholic school.

He was amazed to discover that she had never heard of Martin Luther or the Reformation.

What do you think should be taught in a church-based school?

What do you hope the graduates of our Uniting Church schools will know about Jesus, the Bible, theology and other world religions?

As I reflect on my own experience of formal theological education, I realise how lucky I was to spend three years studying full-time at Trinity Theological College.

We attended college four days per week.

Each morning we started with worship, except on Thursdays when we concluded at lunchtime with a celebration of Holy Communion.

Most of us were also finishing degrees at the university concurrently.

From Friday through Sunday was our Field Education.

This changed each year so that we had a variety of supervisors and we were exposed to different models of congregational life.

I remember the way the then Principal, Rev Prof Rollie Busch, explained the purpose of theological education.

"We are not here to give you a Bible study.

You will read and study the Bible as part of your personal devotions or in the life of your congregation.

We want to give you the tools that you will need to proclaim the Gospel and to use the Scripture to help you frame the questions about God, the church, life and our place in it.

We are not here to just give you the content.

We are here to help you develop a methodology."

You don't have to be a theological student to wonder, "Where is God in this?" or to ask, "What are the characteristics of human beings that this Bible story underlines?"

For me, the dialogue between candidates and professors was just as instructive as the many chapters we read on church history, theology and mission.

Making the links between what happens in life and the teachings, traditions and rituals of the church is the ordinary work of every follower of Jesus.

I would hope that students who emerge from our church schools will be able to make connections between the stories of God's people in the Scriptures and their own lives today, identifying what is the same and what is different.

Our culture is the lens through which we interpret what we read.

Theology is just a word for "thinking about God".

We all do it in some form or another.

My own spiritual life has often been enriched by a thought or insight that I came across while studying.

I am often encouraged to fi nd that ministers and chaplains are giving people the tools to explore the Bible's landscape.

Some are introducing a variety of books for comment and criticism.

As I move around the state I meet lay people who are studying theology through the courses offered by Pilgrim Learning Community or Trinity Theological College or by distance through other institutions.

Perhaps some of our Year 12 students might consider using their gap year to deepen their understanding of the Bible and Christian life.

What about studying one of the biblical languages?

And perhaps a family camp could include learning some tools for reading the Bible?

Whatever stage of life you are in, I hope God stirs in you a hunger to learn and grow in your Christian faith.