In her article, “Study Theology, Even If You Don’t Believe in God,” author and theologian Dr. Tara Isabella Burton argues that you don’t need to believe in God to study theology.
According to Burton, “To study theology well requires not faith, but empathy.” She expands on this point, saying:
“The study of theology offers us a chance to study history and events ‘from within’: an opportunity to get inside the heads of those whose beliefs and choices shaped so much of our history, and who…still shape plenty of the world today…It requires a willingness to look outside our own perspectives in order engage with the great questions—and questioners—of history on their own terms.”
ACU’s mission is to educate students for Christian service and leadership throughout the world, which includes forming students’ spiritual and intellectual development in a distinctively and unapologetically Christian environment.
But, Dr. Burton’s article raises an important point: studying theology isn’t just about becoming a better Christian. In fact, studying theology can be about becoming a better human and all that entails. Earning a degree in theology—especially from our Graduate School of Theology—can impact everything from your faith to your career to your educational interests to your relationships and more!
So, with an expanded view of what theology can offer, let’s get more specific. Why should you get a theology degree?
Develop Soft Skills Valued by Employers
In a survey on employer-desired skills last year, the Financial Times reported the most important skills for work in the 2020s were adaptability, creativity, emotional intelligence, tech-savvy, and building your personal brand. Four of these are “soft skills”— character traits that exhibit interpersonal and relational ability, not necessarily industry-specific knowledge. Rather than deal with what people know (hard skills), soft skills deal with what people are.
This is the kind of formation that a theology degree can offer you. For example, in the History of Christianity: Early to Medieval class, theology students at ACU focus on the beliefs, ideas, and religious impulses of the past. And in the Philosophy of Religion class, students reflect deeply on how these beliefs and ideas apply newly or differently to the present.
Consistent inhabiting of the thoughts and ideas of the past leads to a certain kind of disposition being formed in a theology student. As Dr. Burton says, “The study of theology allowed me insight into the minds and hearts, fears and concerns, of those in circumstances that were so wildly different from my own.”
A theology degree teaches you how to think critically, empathetically, and deeply through the thoughts of others. This type of study forms soft skills employers are realizing they desperately need in today’s global economy.
Train with World-Class Scholars
Beyond the practical ‘soft skills’ you gain from studying theology, students in ACU’s Graduate School of Theology (GST) also gain access to leading Biblical scholars—whether online or in-person!
You can learn to read ancient Syriac manuscripts of the New Testament with Dr. Kelli Gibson or Dr. Jeff Childers, both educated at Oxford University. Maybe you’d like to debate with Dr. Amanda Pitmann, from Duke University, on how to resist white normativity in Biblical educational spaces. Or perhaps you’d like to study the Gospel of Luke and its first-century context with Dean Ken Cukrowksi, the history of the ancient church’s views on Scripture with Dr. Brad East, or the modern reception history of Biblical narratives and manuscripts with Dr. John Boyles—all educated at Yale University.
These are just a few of the dozens of incredibly competent, highly-trained Biblical professors teaching in ACU’s online and residential GST programs. Together, they form the academic faculty that makes ACU one of the premier theological educational institutions in the nation.
Experience Deep Diversity
ACU’s theology department is also a place to experience the deep diversity of Christianity and Biblical studies as a field. In the last 5 years, the GST has enrolled students from Ghana, Portugal, Brazil, El Salvador, Australia, and more—demonstrating these programs’ international appeal and its ability to train ministers, ministry leaders, and missionaries from all over the globe.
Our faculty’s influence spreads internationally too. The GST has close ties with African Christian College (ACC) in Swaziland; former and current faculty members have served as full-time and visiting lecturers at ACC. Dr. Ken Cukrowksi, the Dean of the GST, serves on the Board of Directors for the Biblical Institute of Zagreb in Croatia. Dr. Curt Niccum is a renowned scholar who worked on the international team which translated the famous Dead Sea Scrolls and oversaw the translation and production of Old Testament books in Ge’ez, the ancient language of Ethiopia. This all demonstrates how ACU’s theological faculty are committed to learning, educating, and tangibly supporting the broad and deep Christian tradition throughout the world and not just the United States.
Beyond our geographic diversity of students and faculty interests, ACU’s theology programs are spiritually diverse, with students coming from a wealth of Christian denominations. According to Dr. Myles Wertz, Director of the Baptist Studies Center, students in ACU’s theology programs learn “alongside future ministers in numerous faith traditions including Church of Christ, Baptist, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, and Episcopalian, among others.” ACU is proud of its unique heritage within the Churches of Christ—but it also recognizes the value and importance of engaging with the deep theological traditions of other faiths or denominations.
Be Prepared For an Exciting, New Future
Studying theology with ACU, either online or residentially, opens new doors for your future. A Master of Divinity allows you to pursue ordination as full-time minister or pastor in many denominations—while an M.A. in Christian Ministry prepares you for youth, family, children’s, or education ministry. An M.A in Theological Studies is for those who want to expand their Biblical knowledge by equipping students for doctorate-level work and providing advanced study of theological disciplines for those whose aspirations do not include professional ministry. And, an M.A. in Global Service qualifies you for a career in education, social service, or non-profit work.
ACU’s Graduate School of Theology equips you for more than just a career though. Because, contrary to popular opinion, religion isn’t going anywhere. In fact, according to a global study by the Pew Research Center: by 2050, 86.9% of humans will be religiously affiliated. Muslims will have grown to 2.7 billion and Christians will number almost 3 billion. A globalizing, diversifying world belongs to people who are equipped to respectfully and intelligently engage others who hold different beliefs. Students who study theology are perfectly poised to be these kinds of people. It’s not just about a career; it’s about helping build a new, thrilling future.
What’s stopping you? Visit our website or call 855-219-7300 to learn more about our online and residential graduate theology degree programs.