Why study theology? Theology as a resource in Christian discipleship

Thomas O’Loughlin

The first of three articles on ‘why study theology?’ which are intended to give reasons why formal study is valuable. Thomas O’Loughlin is Professor of Historical Theology at the University of Nottingham. He hopes these articles will be a useful resource for those trying to recruit students to the study of theology.

Words have a sparkle as well as a meaning. For many Christians today the word ‘discipleship’ – a notion that has a very wide range of meanings – has a very positive sparkle. It captures a sense of personal commitment, of life as a movement of growth and learning, and seems to fit very well with a sense of belonging within a Church that imagines itself as the pilgrim people of God. ‘Theology,’ by contrast, has little sparkle; indeed, it seems a dull word relating to a rather boring and obscure academic pursuit. But let us look at a series of situations – scenes that confront us as Catholic Christians every day – and see if looking at them with the resources of theological speculation can help us to do three things.

First, theology can help to reposition these problems so that they might be seen as opportunities rather than roadblocks.

Second, theology can help us to relate to them differently as individual disciples and as a community of disciples, the Church, and thus find ways ‘through’ the problems.

And third, theology can provide us with alternative ways of talking about what we hold precious as disciples and so help us in the task of evangelisation.

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