Theological Education & Faith
Bishop Keerthisiri Fernando reflects on theological education in Sri Lankan context. He reminds us that theological education is not only for the people getting ready for the full-time or ordained ministry but also for all believers. Theology means the way we practice our faith and therefore, we all need to have education to strengthen our faith.
Today as the theme of my reflection I would like to concentrate on theological education in the present context of Sri Lanka.
What is Theological education? Before we look into this question, let’s try to have an understanding of education in the background of theological education. We can have multiple definitions on education. But today let’s have a definition, which is appropriate and meaningful in our present situation.
In our society, there are some people who use words but fail to implement what they speak. This can be called Verbalism. There are others who are good at acting or implementing but this group fails to reflect on their actions. This could be called activism.
But effective and meaningful education is neither Verbalism nor activism. It should be both action and reflection. This is called the Praxis model of learning. Even our faith belongs to this model. Because our faith is not mere Verbalism or activism, but a combination of both reflection and action.
With this brief introduction on education, I would like to concentrate on theological education in our present Sri Lankan context. Here we have to remember that the theological education is not only for the people who are getting ready for the full-time or ordained ministry. It is true that they need a special theological education but the fact remains that theological education is for all believers. Because in simple words, theology means the way we practice our faith.
Again here, we can have many interpretations to understand this reality of theology and theological education. Theological education starts with the Word of God. We comprehend this Word in three different modes. We have the written Word, the Bible. Then the Word of God, which is revealed to us. The revelation of God. Also the word incarnate, Jesus Christ our Lord and Master. All these three modes are important for any theological education.
We understand these three modes of God’s Word through our experiences. We comprehend our experiences through our culture, tradition and reason. This is how we are involved in theological education and develop our theology.
This is how Jesus was involved in his theology and theological education. To understand this reality, I would like to draw your attention to one parable narrated by our Lord and Master.
Look at the parable of the Prodigal son. Jesus mainly narrated this parable to show the importance of the theological reality of repentance. The concept of repentance is a very important theme in the Scripture that Jesus used. That is mainly the Old Testament. Then he used God’s continued revelation to interpret this into his culture through his experience with his own rational understanding.
In his society, there were stories about a father and two sons. Then he used a story from his culture to show the importance of repentance. Also by narrating this story, he highlighted the truth about our merciful God. Often we stop here. But if we look into this story carefully, we can see the contrast of the elder son who refused to accept his brother.
Do you see how Jesus created his theology? This is called the theologizing process. All of us are called to do this in our own context.
If we take this same theological reality of repentance, we see the importance of this for our own post-war context. If we think theologically, we can understand the necessity of repentance for both the younger and elder brother. Some people need to have repentance because of their visible evil acts and others need repentance because of their arrogance and refusing to accept the need for repentance.
This is what is called theological education. We all need to have this education to strengthen our faith. Therefore in our day to day life, let us get involved in this process of theological education to serve God and his people by becoming citizens of this Kingdom.
Rt. Rev'd Keerthisiri Fernando is the Bishop of Kurunegala in the Diocese of Kurunegala, Church of Ceylon, Sri Lanka
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