How Do You Learn?
Of course, we must approach various scholars’ views with an open mind and go through the process of acceptance and criticism through rational judgment. However, I want to talk about a slightly different matter here. Here, I want to talk about the practical discrepancy between scholarship and faith and how to overcome it (in other words, apologetics of the Christian faith). As mentioned earlier, theology is an academic discipline. Its foundation is “reason.” Scholarship must be scholarly. We should not suppress rational judgment in the name of faith. Some “believers” living in the 21st century still believe that the earth is flat because of their “faith” (flat earthers). How foolish is it! Being a believer does not mean giving up reason. Nevertheless, I want you to remember that faith is not in the realm of reason. Perhaps we can say that faith is in the realm of mystery. Therefore, it should be recognized that your new way of viewing the Bible restructured through theological education cannot provide the correct answer to faith. Reason cannot analyze the realm of mystery. Therefore, there is an apparent discrepancy between faith and academic theology. We must recognize this and pursue scholarship as scholarship and faith as faith.
However, as you divide the realm of mystery and reason, you may feel that faith and theology are getting further and further apart. This discrepancy cannot be infinitely large. Therefore, beginner theologians must make efforts to narrow this gap. Just as you can argue that your faith is not shaken even though the earth is, unlike what the Bible implies, not the center of the world nor flat, you should be able to narrow the gap between faith and scholarship through your own apologetics.
One of the first methods of apologetic reasoning is to recognize the uncertainty of existing knowledge. That is, you can become somewhat free from an obsession with the historicity of the Bible if you realize that what you had previously understood as a historical fact in the Bible was actually a result of a misunderstanding. In fact, most lay believers think that certain events in the Bible are historical facts only because they do not know the Bible well enough. For example, if one approaches the creation account in Genesis 1 as a “historical fact,” it would mean that God created “light” on the “first day.” However, based on current scientific knowledge, the concept of the “first day” must presuppose the existence of the present-day solar system and the earth’s rotation. However, the “greater light” (the sun) and the “lesser light” (the moon), which govern day and night, were not created until the fourth day. Therefore, the concept of a “day” could only be created after at least the fourth day. How can this be a historical fact? The passages on the creation in Genesis 1 reveal that they cannot be approached as history. Therefore, believing in “on what day God created what” is already an error and inappropriate. We must find divine truth in the Bible text regardless of its historicity.
Nevertheless, some may still be interested in the actual history that the Bible contains. It is not easy for those who have never separated truth from historicity throughout their entire lives to give up easily. Such people should ask themselves philosophical questions and struggle with them in order to prove their faith to themselves. For example, one can ask questions like these.
- Why should a doubt about the historicity of the Bible shake us up?
- The belief that the Christian faith can only be valid if the Bible is historically accurate is not necessarily desirable. If the Bible’s record is not based on historical facts, and yet believers believe it is, then Christianity becomes a house built on historical distortion.
- Is it true that the Bible’s truth can only be recognized if its historical accuracy is guaranteed? How is this idea really justified?
- Can truth be found only in historical facts? Is it impossible to convey God’s will through fiction?
These are some example questions that individuals must raise and grapple with to verify their own faith. In bridging the gap between scholarship and faith, what is essential is to keep asking these kinds of questions.
Remember, the historicity of the Bible is just a topic that can be examined through scholarship, not the foundation of the Bible’s truth. You learn theology as a scholarship, requiring you to rigorously analyze the Bible with rational thinking. This approach demands a fundamental shift in our perspective on the Bible, which can be confusing at first. This process is similar to the emotional experience people had when they realized that the earth was not the center of the universe and that it was part of the solar system, and that the universe was much larger than they had previously believed. Theology equipped with scientific thinking has fought against distorted knowledge that has been uncritically accepted for a long time. The so-called “faithful people” have condemned theology as “sacrilegious” and refused to change. However, the desirable attitude of a theologian is to overcome anti-intellectualism in the disguise of faith. Beginner theologians, who are training to become leaders, should be able to read the Bible rationally. At the same time, they need to be able to engage in apologetics and redefine their faith.
Finally, the advice on how to learn can be summed up in the saying, “Learn from one another.” Having chances to discuss academic and religious concerns with one another is a rare privilege. Even now, someone may encounter academic theology through some path outside formal theological education and be confused about how to deal with it. However, seminary students spend considerable time with many peers with the same concerns. This is clearly a privilege. Therefore, it is necessary to actively expose oneself to opportunities to utilize the chances. Theological schools are places where people from various local churches gather. People who have only been associated with one or two churches may find it difficult to break the framework of their own thoughts. Still, even such people can come into contact with others who have had diverse experiences in their faith lives in theological schools. This gives them opportunities to reflect on themselves more frequently. As they talk about how each person has lived out their faith, they will learn that even though they all have the same Bible, people’s thoughts differ more than they thought. This exchange helps them put their own thoughts aside and ultimately helps them to learn, and moreover, it is an important way of learning because they can become guides for each other on the path of exploring the mysterious world of faith.
I hope that this article has been of some help to beginner theologians in their academic and spiritual progress.