Tips for Ridley studies
Dean of Ridley Online, Andrew Malone shares some tips for studying at Ridley.
When I enrolled at Ridley twenty years ago, only God guessed that I’d still be here two decades later! I suspect if I’d known I’d now be a teacher, I would have been faster to pay attention to what my own teachers said and how they said it. What else might have I benefited from knowing in my early years of learning?
- Unlike some disciplines, teachers at a theological college don’t provide all the answers in class. It was only after several years that a senior student explained just how much learning is expected to take place through private reading and further discussion. I need to set aside a good amount of time for learning outside of class hours.
- There’s no shortage of facts and interpretations and applications to explore. I usually need to be coerced to greater depths of plumbing – but it’s also important to know when and how to gauge that I’ve invested sufficiently for this week’s class / essay / sermon.
- The Bible offers God’s answers on topics he thinks are important. He’s not beholden to address my concerns. When I fail to discern this and to adjust my questions appropriately, I get contorted in all sorts of interpretive gymnastics trying to align the two.
- Indeed, there’s not always a single correct answer to find and prove. Some topics are about evaluating shades of grey rather than wielding white truths to fend off black errors.
- All these disciplines enable me to feed myself rather than remaining dependent on the experienced gurus at the lectern. The sooner one learns to self-feed a healthy diet, the faster and more mature one grows.
- Diversity is to be valued not feared. The variety of denominations and traditions at Ridley (and elsewhere beyond my ghetto) can feel challenging – but that discomfort is because I’m forced to refine what I really believe, and why.
- The Old Testament has Christian value beyond mere moral tales, to be discovered and praised.
- The New Testament remains an ancient document, which needs investigation and ‘translation’ before hasty application.
- God isn’t some acquiescent specimen. While we celebrate his self-revelation, especially through the incarnate Jesus and the written Scriptures, he’s not subordinate to my academic curiosity or pastoral desperation. I’m often constrained to learn at his pace rather than mine.
- There’s no substitute for time. I can make something sound passable with limited effort. But three weeks’ cogitation and a walk around the block always produce additional insights.
- Given enough time, engineers can string together a coherent written argument!
- It’s fine not to know up front where God is taking me. I’d love to have the future mapped out, but God is frustratingly economical with Andrew-specific guidance. Two decades later I can (sometimes) see a little further into the distance, but never as far as I’d like.
- Careful study fuels worship. I entered college committed to avoiding a dry, cerebral theology. Of course that trap exists, but a good use of Scripture leads to (not away from) a passion for God and his work in Jesus.