Why study Theology? This question has been posed to me many times. From a purely secular vantage point, the study of theology does not make any sense. How is Theology going to possibly help support your family? How are you going to make any money from the study of Theology? Why waste your time with something so impractical? The unspoken premise behind these questions is that all goods must be material goods. However, none of these are the reasons I would pursue the study of theology.
I did not come to study theology on a whim. I have been studying for a long time. I have spent many hours reading Scripture, Aquinas, and Augustine. As a religious educator I have spent many hours teaching children to think with the mind of the Church. These hours have been engaged in the practice and study of Theology. Therefore, I would argue that the question being asked should not be why study theology but why study theology formally? The answer is quite simple: to serve.
Many people find a desire to serve to be insane. Who would want to be a servant? Servile labor is what one receives a higher education degree to avoid. It is easy to prefer the good of an easy life, one without service to something outside of oneself. The value found in service is lost in our modern, secular world. It is even more alien to spend time and money on a pursuit that ends only in the role of a servant. The only sane reason to choose the role of a servant is for the love of the master. The study of Theology is to put oneself in the service of the master, Jesus Christ, by serving truth and serving His Church.
Truth cannot be separated from God. Josef Ratzinger says “the object of theology is the Truth which is the living God and His plan for salvation revealed in Jesus Christ” (Ratzinger par. 8). God has placed reason at the disposal of men for the sake of knowing Him more completely. We can observe the world and reason up to God, but even more importantly, we can see what God has revealed and work to improve our understanding of the glory which He communicates to us.
Once armed with the truth we now have the tools at our disposal to serve His Church. Just as our pursuit of truth can never truly be completed in this life, our service to the Church is a lifelong commitment. My task is to serve my pastor and through him to serve my bishop who has “been entrusted then with the task of preserving, explaining, and spreading the Word of God of which they are servants” (Ratzinger par. 14). My work is to serve the servants and through such service help the Church proclaim her mission throughout the world and serve God Himself. Even if my service is of only the smallest value, at the end of my life I long to hear the words of the Master, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25.21, RSV).
When I am asked why I study theology I have a simple answer to give. I study so I might serve. I serve God. I serve the truth. I serve the Church. I let God work through me to bring as many people to love Christ and His Church as possible. I serve out of love and true love is only possible by knowing the beloved.
The Holy Bible. Rev. Standard Version, Meridian, 1962.
Ratzinger, Joseph. Donum Veritatis. The Vatican. The Holy See, 1990. 3 Dec. 2019, http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19900524_theologian-vocation_en.html.