‘Theology lacks academic rigour'

Wanyeki and Mary Mahiaini

Last month we were invited for a meeting at a new university near where we work in Kenya. The purpose of the meeting was to work out a course outline for students of Theology. During the consultation we learnt that courses in Theology are losing out to ‘more relevant’ courses such as IT and Development Studies. It was argued that the Theology course should be purely academic, because ‘Theology lacks academic rigour and will therefore not attract students.’ They said, ‘The future belongs to practical degree courses not to bible based studies.’

Some people point to all the new buildings in Kenya and exclaim, ‘Look what massive strides Kenya has made since 2002 in education, manufacturing, roads and public health facilities!’ In the church, our church buildings are our pride - everywhere we go we meet Anglicans putting up more buildings. There seems to be little memory of a conversation Jesus had with his disciples: ‘As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings?” “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”’ (Mark 13:1-2)

At our meeting at the university, the local Bishop reminded the sceptics of Jesus’ words in Mark 13 – ‘Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.’ He said, ‘We do not want to copy what others are doing. We want an institution which has the authority of scripture and discipleship at its centre.’

In many Anglican churches, academic degrees, bricks and mortar trump discipleship and bible teaching. It is tough to see this sort of thinking because, in time, none of the foundation stones on which it stands will be left on the other. A friend summarised it well, ‘Our church needs to understand that although we do need new buildings and the degree courses that are valued so much at the moment, we must understand that that model has been tried before and it failed. Please pray that the Kenyan church would hold to the gospel balance between working on magnificent buildings and discipleship.’

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