Women play a very important role in family, church and the society at large. We influence the lives of many as mothers, wives, colleagues, neighbours, friends, and through many more of such relationships. Even though women play an important role in uplifting the family, church and society, they are not recognized as they should be by virtue of living in largely male-dominated societies. Opportunities are not given to them to share ideas and their decisions. Amidst being sidelined, many Christian women continue to be a light in their own ways. In such a situation, why should women choose to study theology? What really are the benefits of doing this?
We need to first clarify something before we begin to answer these questions. A theological education need not be pursued purely to prepare for ministry or church leadership. This is something that we should get out of the way. While we recognise that women in leadership is a debated topic in the church at large, and while it would be great to see the day when women and men are truly co-workers in the gospel, even now—without the chance at being full-fledged leaders—a theological education will make a profound difference to our lives and the impact we leave in the lives of others.
For women, studying theology can be an exercise in Christian identity where we explore what the scriptures have to say about our Triune God. As citizens and co-heirs of our Father’s kingdom, we don’t need to be stunted in our understanding of the scriptures or the various disciplines of theological studies. To put it simply, it is only rightful for a child to know about her Father’s business and everything it entails, and there is nothing really holding any woman back if she chooses to do this. You can be a women’s group leader, a Christian worker, a corporate professional or a homemaker with a deep desire to disciple your children in the ways of our Lord Jesus—a theological education can change the way you do things. For some it might even be an exploration in calling and vocation which can change the entire trajectory of their life.
There are amazing benefits to theological studies. A typical evangelical seminary would have so many branches of study—Systematic or Dogmatic Theology, Church History, Pastoral Care and Counselling, Mission, New Testament Studies, Old Testament Studies and Religious Studies, to mention the commonly offered specializations. These become various angles at looking at the manifold glory of God’s grace to us in the church. We are talking real theology here—God-talk of the church, a genuine talk about our God who called His church into existence. This sort of God-talk is simply not the product of a Bible study or some women’s group discussion. This can only be the product of learning at the feet of teachers and learned scholars who are masters in their areas, and alongside students who yearn to explore what the world of theology has in store for them.
For women, studying theology can be an exercise in Christian identity where they explore what the scriptures have to say about our Triune God. As citizens and co-heirs of our Father’s kingdom, women don’t need to be stunted in their understanding of the scriptures or the various disciplines of theological studies.
In short, you need to be part of a learning community that can combine high-quality learning and praxis to be able to do theology that really matters. You can never be just a naïve believer once you are part of this life. Take, for instance, the aspect of disciplining children. You are exposed to so much in terms of what the word of God offers and how to see it from various ways that you aren’t simply throwing proverbs at your children. You can understand their issues better and perhaps even learn to hear them out better. You will have creative solutions to their problems and encourage them in different ways without even quoting scripture and yet mirroring the life of grace the gospel offers. It would only be superfluous to mention the depth a woman theologian could bring to Bible study or small groups.
From another angle, a theological study enables you to weather emotional storms and various problems because you have spent time ploughing the depths of God’s word. In a sense some experiences can be quite overwhelming that no amount of preparation can help. Yet, there is a profound sense of hope and the deep desire to see the empathetic smile of the son of God in the Word if you have been a student of theology. You have read about the experiences of other saints. You have delved into the scriptures and it gives you the strength, more than anything else, to hope beyond hope till God breaks through and pulls us up.
All this goes to show that the quality of life that one gets as a result of theological education is really richer and deeper. Theology is not going to change us into one of those armchair theologians—no, not us women. We deal with many more issues and challenges than we are given credit for and we are all the better if we can take up this challenge of doing theology.
The Lord Jesus commended Mary for sitting at his feet and learning from him in a culture where women were never encouraged to study the Torah. It is no coincidence that she was the first one to meet the risen Lord in person. Don’t we too have the responsibility to take our calling seriously? Perhaps famous Christian author Elisabeth Elliot said it best: “The fact that I am a woman doesn’t make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian makes me a different kind of woman”. And doing theology is going to make a lot of sense in being that different kind of woman.