Reflections on a year of theological college

Well, I’ve done it. I’ve completed a year of tuition at Oak Hill. Unless I have to do any retakes, academically this year is over for me. “For me, ze year is over…”

It’s gone scarily quickly, and I can’t quite believe we’ve reached this point. It feels like hardly any time is past since we packed our bags, waved goodbye to our friends in Colchester and came to the Big Smoke. Anyway, I’d just like to post up a few reflections about how I think I’ve changed since being at college for a year.

Firstly, the thing which I feel has really changed is my confidence in the Bible and the Christian faith (and, of course, the God behind both of those things). At Oak Hill in particular, it feels like everything is based around the study of the word. It’s been great to look at some of the reasons why we can have confidence in the Bible, all the way from apologetics to church history to archaeology to Biblical theology. All in all, it has given me a real confidence in the way that the Bible comes together as a coherent whole. Although I feel like I’ve changed in other ways, I think this confidence underlies pretty much everything else – it’s the base point from which to judge everything else.

There are a couple of specific things which I feel have spoken to me particularly:

  • It was fantastic to study the Old Testament and get to grips with how it hangs together. Particular highlights for me were studying the Pentateuch in term 2, and Isaiah in term 3. Our Old Testament lecturer is so enthusiastic about the Old Testament, it’s infectious! And it’s been incredible to go a bit deeper into books which, to many, are perhaps somewhat obscure and impenetrable. I feel now like I’d be much more comfortable to preach from the Old Testament, having a more solid picture of how it fits together.
  • I’ve really enjoyed studying church history and doctrine (at Oak Hill they are taught as one course – historical theology). I think having an overview of how, for example, the doctrine of the Trinity came into being has opened my eyes to systematic theology and how the different doctrines of the church came about. One particular highlight for me was studying the doctrine of God – asking questions like “how do we know God is trinity?” and “what does it mean for God to be love?” Beforehand, I think I’d had a view of systematic theology as something fairly dry and academic – things which people do in ivory towers (I paint a picture blacker than it actually was, but it wasn’t far away from that). What I’ve discovered is that actually learning more about God intellectually has helped me in my own faith. Learning more about God has just elevated him in my mind, to something far greater than He was before.

All in all, I think it’s been a good year! I still feel woefully inadequate to serve as an under-shepherd of God’s people, but slightly less woefully inadequate than I did last year. Now there’s a testimonial for you!

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