By Cody Peterson –
*Cody is a senior at Concordia University Irvine. After graduation, Cody will be attending Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.
I believe that the study of Theology is a fundamental part of any liberal arts curriculum worth its salt. On its own, Theology is a worthy field of research, but it truly shines when it serves as an informant to the other academic disciplines. Maybe you would say that I am being silly and that Theology has no place in the natural sciences or the arts. However, consider the Evangelist’s identification of “the Truth” being Christ himself (John 14:6). Then reassess your evaluation accordingly.
The Christian university, of all places, ought to fully understand the staggering implications of these claims. Theology is overtly unitive in the sense that no aspect of creation is left untouched by its own presuppositions. When I say that Theology should inform the academic disciplines, it should actively filter information through a lens that maintains the truth of God and His love that is revealed in Christ.
Theology asks that the natural sciences determine whether their conclusions demonstrate life or death, a most-natural love or an unnatural hate. Theology asks that the arts remain temperate, portraying the wickedness of man and the righteousness of God in a way that neither exaggerates nor understates our experience in the world. Most importantly, Theology unifies the academic disciplines in a way that no other field possibly could; the concrete is used to solidify that unity, being the divine love of God that is revealed to us in Christ.
The medieval church was spot on when they bestowed this sacred discipline the title of “the Queen of the Sciences.” The Golden Age of the Christian university lasted from the Counter-Reformation to the end of the Renaissance, and was ushered in by the Jesuits. It was during this time that Theology held her rightful place as “queen” in the university.
Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, whose members we call “Jesuits,” understood the importance of a Gospel-oriented education that made a place for Theology among the natural sciences, the humanities, and the arts. Beginning in the latter half of the sixteenth century, the Jesuits established schools and universities that offered free education to the poor all the way from the British Isles, across the Germanic provinces, to Poland, Japan, and China. Some of these schools have grown, thrived, and continue to serve as places of learning to this very day.
It is no secret, then, that Ignatius held this form of education in high regard. He observed its instrumentality in intellectual and spiritual development, and gave it kingly status in Jesuit life and practice. With thirty-five established universities by the turn of the seventeenth century, missional minded members continued to travel and establish similar institutions around the world. Roughly two-hundred years after the Society of Jesus was founded, the Jesuits had produced more than eight-hundred universities worldwide.
The Jesuits had the right idea. We, like Ignatius, must recognize the critical role of theocentric education in spiritual, as well as intellectual, development.
In a post-Christian society, it has become all-too-easy to divorce the study of God from its rightful partner, the sciences and the arts. Christian universities everywhere ought to embrace their marriage with Theology and understand the wisdom that follows from this blessed wedlock.
The book of Proverbs reminds us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10).
It is time for our academics to once again allow Theology to serve as “queen.” This rulership is neither cruel nor stern; but rather, it is characterized by the never-ending inquiry into the mystery of divine love.
I am fortunate enough to have studied at a university that recognizes this hierarchy among the disciplines. The experiences I have had at this particular institution, both inside and outside of the classroom, have had a profound impact on how I view God, neighbor, and myself. And do I credit this to the integral role of the Gospel within the university and its curriculum? I sure do. God help me if I had gone to UC Irvine.
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