What do you think of when you hear the word ‘theology’? Long, impenetrable books? Overly-technical discussions of issues which have seemingly no application to your life? For many of us, theology can seem inaccessible and irrelevant. And for those who are interested in engaging with theology, it can be difficult to know where to begin.
Engaging with theology is one of the most important things any of us can do. Theology seeks to ask some of the most important questions we can consider: Is there a God? If there is, what is this God like? What can we know about God? And how can we know God? For Christians, or those interested in exploring the Christian faith, theological questions are integral to all that we believe and do.
I don’t think there’s a better time to explore these questions of meaning, truth, and significance than at university. Amidst huge changes in circumstance, you are also very quickly exposed to a world of different voices, opinions and views. Whether that’s housemates, course mates, lecturers, or just one of the many random people you meet every day at University. You quickly find out that people think very differently to you—both in the Church and outside it. What kind of person will you become? Whose voice will you let shape you? How will you respond to differences of perspective? These are questions we all have to face at some point in our lives, but at University these differences are amplified, and the pressure to answer these questions intensifies.
When we’re faced with different perspectives and different voices, we’re forced to think about what we believe and why we believe it. That can be a really exciting process, but it can also be a painful process. For many (and for me), University can be a time of doubt, confusion and disruption, in which the things we took for granted about God are shown to be believed without reflection, or good reason. And it’s not just those who oppose our faith that challenge us. Some of the most difficult conversations I had were with people who were inside the Church—people whose theology did not align with my own, and people who made me question everything I’d taken for granted. By engaging with theology we get the opportunity to honestly wrestle with the questions of our faith, to come to a greater understanding and awareness of God, and to grow in confidence in how we articulate this understanding to those within the Church and outside of it.
In my job, as a lecturer at the Logos Institute at the University of St. Andrews, I spend my time thinking about some of these big questions in conversation with scholars from all over the world. But if theology just stays within the walls of the university, it is entirely pointless, we need to you to join in this conversation. Over the course of 7 small group sessions, I’ll introduce you to a number of academics, whose job it is to think and write about theological questions. Theology, done properly, can’t just be an academic subject—reflecting on who God is and how he relates to us, is deeply connected to how we live, how we think, how we worship, and how we relate to one another.
Together with Fusion, we’ve created a helpful guide to so you can run small group sessions which raise important theological questions, but which aren’t just dry, academic discussions. There’s space for discussion, and theological questions, but also time for reflection, time to worship God, and to study the Bible together.
Whether you already have an interest in theology or whether this is entirely new to you—we look forward to exploring some of the core beliefs of Christianity. Our hope is that these sessions will whet your appetite for how important and exciting it is to engage with theology; increasing your confidence in exploring both these ideas as well as giving you a toolkit to think theologically beyond these topics. Whoever you are, wherever you are in your journey of faith, theology is for you. And we look forward to exploring this together.
To learn more about Engaging Theology, follow this link: https://www.fusionmovement.org/smallgroups/category/engagingtheology
Dr. Joshua Cockayne is currently working on the philosophy of spiritual practice. He is writing about the role of the community in our knowledge and experience of God, our ability to engage with God and the way we understand the actions of the Church. He completed his PhD in 2016 in the Department of Philosophy at the University of York. His research focused on the spiritual life and the writings of Søren Kierkegaard. Prior to coming to St. Andrews, he worked as an associate lecturer in Philosophy at the University of York. He has published on Kierkegaard, the philosophy of spiritual practice and Christian spirituality. He was awarded the Religious Studies essay prize twice, in 2014 and 2015.