Introduction to Islam. Introduction to the Study of Religion. Defining Jews, Jewishness and Judaism. Introduction to Sikhism.
These are just four of the modules I completed in the first year of my Theology and Religious Studies degree. Within a few months of starting uni I had debated and discussed most of the world’s major religions, written essays on topics I’d never thought about, and had my eyes opened to the breadth of religious experience across the world. I even visited Gurdwaras and Mosques along the way!
But I was also floundering. The worldviews I was encountering challenged my Christian faith which had only really come into force before heading to university, and I was overwhelmed by how content people seemed to be with religious pluralism. Many of my course mates ascribed to the “many roads up the mountain” approach, and I was sometimes tempted to join them.
My course was small, and I was the only evangelical Christian on it. Instead of really engaging with other religions and worldviews, and confronting pluralism head on, I just retreated from the issues. I was scared of the questions that might come up, so I ended up pretending I was fine, putting the questions in a mental box that was hidden away. I kept on going to my seminars and writing my essays without truly engaging my Christian faith with all that I was learning.
If this sounds at all like your current experience of Religious Studies, I hope that you are comforted to know that you’re not alone. Many of us just breeze through the content of our degrees, without giving the bigger issues a second thought.
But I do regret it.
The chances I had to share the gospel whilst studying Religious Studies won’t easily come my way again, and it’s only now, a few years later, that I realise the privilege it was to study with a diverse group of people where we talked about religion and big questions day in day out. I regret keeping the evangelism I was engaged in at CU, and my Christian faith at large, separate from my studies.
In my first year, I encountered the Theology Network. A network specifically aimed at students like me, that could have helped me engage and study my degree for the glory of God. But I didn’t think it was for me because I wasn’t a “traditional” Theology student, I didn’t spend all my time in Biblical Studies lectures or learning Greek and Hebrew!
Please let me tell you the misconceptions I had are not true. If you’re a Religious Studies student reading this, here are a few reasons that Theology Network is for you!
Religious Studies is Theology
Have you ever thought about what Religious Studies as a discipline says who God is? What view does your Hinduism lecture take about who God is? What does your seminar in New Age Spirituality say about scripture? Theology Network is for you because views about God that are not true are being presented to you day in and day out. Theology Network can help you move towards these views that are cropping up on your course, helping you engage your mind and faith together in those big issues.
So, how can you make the most of Theology Network?
Engage with Resources
It can be hard to tackle questions that arise as we study alone. Theology Network is in the process of developing resources that can guide you in thinking through tricky questions that particularly pop up when we study other religions. Is Christianity the true way to God? Do other religions have it all wrong or some things right? Check out this section of the website or sign up to hear regularly from Theology Network to receive resources straight into your inbox.
You might well be the only RS student that’s a Christian on your course, and that can be really isolating. Theology Network even existing means that you’re not alone! There are others like you that want to live and speak faithfully for Jesus on their courses. Theology Network may be able to connect you with others at nearby unis or with a mentor who has studied a similar course.
If there are a few of you why not think about setting up a hub? A Theology Network Hub is a place to engage with the difficult questions that come up when studying Theology or Religious Studies, as well as a place for mutual encouragement, support and prayer!
Stay in touch
If you’re a RS student, Theology Network would love to hear from you. Why not get in touch with the Theology Network Coordinator to have a chat about how you’re doing on your course. The website is growing, so if there’s an issue or question missing that you’d like to see addressed, let us know about that too.
Don’t retreat like I did, move towards those questions. Theology Network is right behind you.