Theology Degrees And Spiritual Growth has some interesting articles and videos; I’ve included some here before. But a piece that was highlighted in their daily email the other day bothered me.

The content of the post is fine. A man called Rick Howerton argues that pastors should not assume that because they have a Theology degree they are spiritually mature. Churches seeking new ministers should also not be seduced by that error. Spiritual growth is demonstrated in the fruit of the Spirit and increasing embrace of kingdom ethical standards, amongst other things. Quite right, too.

The problem came with the headline: ‘Are Theology Degrees Keeping Pastors From Spiritual Growth?’ It didn’t seem to me that was quite the thrust of the article. Moreover, a headline like that risked playing into the anti-intellectualism of some popular evangelicalism: “Don’t go to theological college, you’ll lose your faith.” Yes, the issue of pride in one’s academic knowledge must be confronted, but at best I want to argue good theological knowledge can enhance spiritual growth, when detached from pride. When I read a Tom Wright book and his vision stretches me, I end up in worship. Didn’t Jesus call us to worship with ‘heart, soul, mind and strength’?

For me, George Carey put it best. When he interviewed me for a place at Trinity College, Bristol, he told me, “Trinity is not just about information, it is about formation.” I think the two can hold hands. What do you think?


  1. It is a mistake to think that only the theologically illiterate can be spiritual. There are lots of different sorts of spirituality and heart-spirituality is not necessarily better than head-spirituality, or vice-versa. The church needs both! If the church is to pursue a mission among the theologically educated, it needs people who can speak their language.


  2. A significant number of people (and I think the number is growing) in Australia think that theology is a “non-subject”. So, to reach these people, taking pride in a non-subject would be a bit counter-productive.


  3. But, Pam, being educated theologically might make a pastor better able to counter that belief that theology is a non-subject! Those who argue best are those who have fully explored the beliefs of those who disagree!


  4. the problem in large part is that modern protestant seminaries (at least in the US) have been modeled after secular universities where in the sciences one has theoretical fields (say systematic theology)and than applied-fields/engineering (preaching, counseling, Christian ed, etc) but this logic makes no sense in theo-logos, where figures like St.Paul and St. Augustine (echoing the life story of Jesus) lead the way in reflecting on, and through, experiences and work to develop disciplines/habits that grow out of experience such that there is no difference between knowing about and knowing how. We too need to develop such a pragmatist’s approach, and to the degree that Wesley was more like William James than say Descartes or even Kant, than his model of education grounded/tested in spiritual disciplines (methods) seems to be an an excellent prototype to update as needed.


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