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.