Everyone is a Theologian: An Apologia for an Upper School Theology Curriculum

“Everyone is a theologian,” the saying goes, “the only question is whether or not you are a good one.” As a Christian classical school, one of our core values is training our students to be good theologians. Now by this I don’t mean “theologian” in a proper vocational sense (that’s generally reserved for the more eccentric among us). Instead, I’m referring to the reality that everyone thinks things about God, even if those thoughts dismiss his existence. As followers of Christ, our school has the responsibility, alongside our families and churches, to pursue right thinking about God and train our children to do so as well.[quote style=”boxed” float=”right” source=”OUR VISION for a Classical Christian School”]In holding fast to the core doctrine of orthodox Christianity, we also recognize the diversity and divisions within Christendom and approach these differences with honesty and respect. This shapes not only the content of the doctrine that we teach, but also our approach.For example, when it comes to teaching the history of Christianity, the primary goal is to gain under- standing and appreciation of various past thinkers and actors in the church, not merely to glean support for one’s particular view or theological confession. This gives us freedom to study and learn from those in the past, even if we ultimately find their positions in conflict with our own.[/quote]

Understanding Our Highest Authority: Scriptural Foundations in Grades 7 & 8

But where do we find guidance to be good theologians, or those who think rightly about God? The first and primary source is God’s revealed Word: the Scriptures which are his revelation to his people. Here God speaks about himself, not in the abstract, but through his actions. God’s character is displayed in his creative and redemptive actions on behalf of the world he has created. Thus, in the upper school alone, we devote two full years to the study of the story of Scriptures. In seventh grade, we survey the Old Testament, emphasizing the big picture storyline of Israel’s redemptive history as it foreshadows the coming of Christ. In eighth grade, we survey the New Testament, considering the story of Jesus in the four Gospels and its implications for the church in the book of Acts and the epistles. This overview of the biblical narrative serves as a foundation for all other theological study in the upper school.

Understanding the Reflections of the Church: Historical Theology in  Grades 9, 10 and 11

Of course, our understanding of God’s Word doesn’t come to us in a vacuum. Rather, we are the heirs of a long tradition of reflection on God’s Word which constitutes the discipline of theology. This points us to our next source for thinking rightly about God: the theology of his Church over the millennia. The study of God and his actions comes from his Word, but is also passed down through the theology of those who have gone before us. The Scriptures themselves always retain the place of highest authority in determining sound doctrine. However, this historical sensibility reminds us that we are part of a larger community, the church universal, and cautions us against taking up the latest fad in thinking about God. Instead, our understanding of God is rooted in what his people have believed about the Scriptures and what has been established in the confessions and councils of the church.

For this reason, the ninth, tenth, and eleventh grade theology classes devote their time to studying historical theology, or the development of theology over the history of the church. The ninth grade looks at early Christian theology, focusing on the challenges the early church faced in seeking to articulate Christian doctrine. The tenth grade considers medieval theology from Augustine and Aquinas, up to the Reformation. The eleventh grade looks at Reformation and modern theology, tracing the emergence and growth of Protestant theology in all its diversity. We encourage our students to consider each of these eras of historical theology through the lens of the beliefs of their own family and church.

Living Our Theology: Worldview & Witness in Grade 12

6th grade medieval festival 076On the list of goals for my theology courses, one goal is always at the top of the list: “That students would grow in their worship and adoration of God.” Being a good theologian and thinking right thoughts about God is essential—but it is not enough. Even demons can have good theology (James 2:19)! Right thinking about God must be joined to faith in the person of Jesus and a posture of worship. Theology is meant to be practical. It is meant to be lived! Thus, our twelfth grade theology course considers the two main topics of worldview and witness in order encourage our students to consider how their theology can be applied in their present cultural context. This final theology course is meant to be a capstone to the entire Bible-theology curriculum, with the goal that we will graduate young men and women who are competent articulators of a Christian theology rooted in the story of Scripture and who have begun to think critically about the implications of a Christian worldview for all of life. In many ways, this class is meant to be a lab in which students can test out their worldview as they prepare to graduate and head out into an increasingly hostile world.

We know that the majority of our students are not going to become professional theologians or pastors. But the discipline of theology is of great value for all Christians as it prepares us to think, speak, and live in a world that is growing more ambivalent to the gospel of Jesus Christ, alternatively dismissing and condemning the value of the Christian worldview in the public sphere. We hope our students will be passionate, persuasive, and winsome articulators of the gospel in whatever place he calls them.

Mr. Kyle A. Keating – Upper School Bible and Theology Teacher/Athletic Director