what am I studying for?

The jacarandas are in full flower, which means that exams are upon us — and for me that means the end of College (God-willing)! So, like a good procrastinator, I’m on the look out for distractions. And the pièce de résistance of distractions is to question the whole process. Which I’m about to do.

jacarandas

When I ask What am I studying for? I’m not taking aim at the validity of exams. Rather, I’m asking about the process of studying for ‘the ministry’ — which includes, but is obviously bigger than, what goes on at College.

Now I’ve some sense of what I’m not studying for:

  • I don’t think I’m studying specifically for full-time ministry. As I read it, Jesus’ call to discipleship — ‘Take up your cross and follow me’ — simply is a call to full time ministry (ie. service).
  • Nor am I studying to be ordained for ministry in the Anglican Diocese of Sydney. Not just because I’m not an ordination candidate. But because (I take it) we don’t think that’s the be all and end all of full time paid Christian ministry.

But beyond this I find I lack a clear, positive picture of what I am studying for. Precisely what will I be qualified to be in a few short weeks?

Or, to come at it from another angle, I’m just not sure I can decisively say what would disqualify me from attaining the goal of all my studying and preparation? Actually, I do have some idea of this — if the moral and faith requirements for elders outlined in the Pastoral Epistles are anything to go by. But is what I’m studying for an Every Christian Really Should thing? Or is it only suitable for particular kinds of people? (And, if so, what kinds of people?)

I suppose I should have figured this one all out already. (Perhaps it was one of those depths plumbed at Anglican Candidates Conference). But maybe you can help me. What am I studying for?

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6 comments

  1. next to MJ’s answer, my response seems pretty lame, but given I’m procrastinating too…

    I wonder whether part of the answer to the question lies in the differentiation which exists amongst God’s followers as well. Of course you are right to point to the unity in which all Christians should be putting to death the old man and putting on Christ. However, the same spirit which enables this also gave some to be…

    So, could you be studying in obedience to Jesus’ call to be a faithful steward of the spiritual gifts with which he has entrusted you? It’s not the only way that you can be obedient to his command, but in our cultural context, it seems like a great way to do it. Especially for you, O noble blogger and theologian-at-large. 🙂

    1. Michael, WHO I’m studying for may well be the question. But I’m still not sure I have the answer! Any suggestions?

      Dan, I like it — although it feels a little individualistic, and I’m not sure how it speaks to the more general question of what ‘studying/preparing for ministry’ (as we loosely refer to it) is supposed to produce. This of course is the question I was really asking, thinly concealed by the device of the first person pronoun (like Paul in Romans 7, right?)…

  2. i’m steering well clear of any debate on the pronouns in Romans 7…although I am sorry I wasn’t answering the question you were asking

    i’m also not sure about whether talking about gifts is overly individualistic, given its wider context (which I should have made clear) – being a good steward of the gifts with which God has entrusted you is never the end in and of itself, but only and ever for the purpose of loving Jesus by building up his body, the church.

    I’m not sure that you can easily quantify either the individual gifts or whether you have been faithful with them. But ultimately, why should the product of studying be measured intrinsically? (That, to me, sounds individualistic…) Isn’t the fruit the growth of the kingdom as God in his mercy chooses to use the gifts he has given us? And doesn’t that mean that our study is not primarily framed in terms of achievement (despite the degree awarded), but in submissive response to him?

    1. Right on, Dan! Of course gifting shouldn’t be an individualistic thing (although my experience with talking about gifts in church settings has sometimes tended to be).

      I’m not sure that I was suggesting that ‘the product of studying be measured intrinsically’ — as opposed to making reference to the fruitfulness resulting from faithfulness. I guess I was merely trying to take a virtue ethic ‘way in’ to the question that you’re answering from a more action ethics standpoint.

      So I’d love to hear you reflect a little (and maybe even get concrete) about what kind of people, with what kind of gifts, skills, passions and habits we hope to be as a result of ‘studying for the ministry’.

  3. i agree about the way we treat gifting…perhaps we should repent 🙂

    Also, I fail to see how a virtue ethical approach to theological study can be measured any way other than intrinsically. However, that is probably just showing my ignorance. Of course, I don’t want to accuse you of ignoring any teleological approach within such an ethic. Yet framing it in terms of virtue feels like it will flatten out differentiation of gifts, which I guess I was reacting to in my initial comment…

    In terms of pragmatic outworkings, my hope would be that at the end of college, the men and women leaving would be better equipped to express (in convictions, attitudes, habits and practice) their spiritual gifts for the edification of the church. Given the focus of college, I would say that these gifts would centre around handling the Word of God correctly, and through this, shepherding the body of Christ.

    In short, I would want to say that we don’t come to college to become anything more than what God has made us. But we come to college in order to better express it.

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