What is a Theologian?
So the other day, a few friends of mine and I were walking around campus when we came across one of the priests. He and I know each other, so I stopped to talk to him. We talked for a second and I introduced my friends. As it so happens, I was with several other Theology majors. Now, this priest gets a real kick out of asking questions to see what people are thinking. He decided to quiz us to see if we were all REALLY Theology majors. He posed a simple question:
“What is a theologian?” he asked. “Define that term.”
You guys should have seen the look on Father Hart’s face as we tried (in vain) to define “theologian”.
“Well, a theologian is one who studies religion,” answered one of my friends. Father shook his head.
“Okay, then. A theologian is one who studies God,” offered another friend. Father smiled and shook his head.
“Um…a theologian studies both God and religion,” we tried again. Another shake of the head.
We finally gave up. “Tell us what a theologian is, Father,” we said in resignation.
And then Father Hart said something that I’ll never forget–the hands-down best definition of a theologian that I’ve ever heard in my life.
“A theologian,” Father said, “is one who has had a personal experience of Christ, who has laid his head upon the Master’s breast, and who is driven by love to share that experience with others.”
That definition makes so much sense. Theology isn’t about some study of God or of religion. Theology is all about experience. You don’t study Theology because there wasn’t another major that interested you. You don’t study Theology because you want to be rich someday using that degree (although it would be really funny if that was your plan). You don’t study Theology because you’ve fallen in love with the material, even. No. You study Theology because you have fallen in love with someone. You study Theology because you have had a personal experience of God in your life and you desire to know as much as possible about this One whom your heart loves so deeply. You study Theology because love burns within you and compels you to share that love with other people through teaching, preaching, and other forms of ministry.
If that is true of Theology, then how could we ever think that a theologian is simply one who studies God? Far from it! Father Hart’s definition is much closer to the truth than the dry, lifeless definitions that the dictionary offers.
That definition just solidifies the calling I feel and affirms it. I want to be a theologian.