Five Things Every Aspiring Theologian Needs to Know

Five Things Every Aspiring Theologian Needs to Know February 25, 2015

It’s only been a few years that I’ve been publishing books and articles, and have been active in podcasting. In fact, I’m still working toward my PhD at this point. However, even though I’ve been doing this for only a short time, there are some things that I’ve learned, and that everyone going into any public theological teaching (whether writing, blogging, or podcasting) should be prepared for. Here are five things that every aspiring theologian needs to know.

1. Not everyone is going to like you. I learned this rather quickly. Any time you take a public stance theologically, some people are going to criticize you. And sometimes, the people who don’t like you are going to be from your own camp. You can’t make everyone happy, and even if you try and clarify your positions with those who criticize you, they still aren’t going to like you. Sometimes, you might even be called a heretic.

2. Your first book isn’t going to change the world. Publishing a book is a really exciting thing, and its easy to get a little too optimistic about the responses to that publication. You wonder if everyone in the field is going to read your book, thinking that it is going to have massive ramifications in the scholarly world in whatever subject your writing on. But, the truth is, your book is going to be read by some people who certainly will appreciate it (as it is good enough for a publisher to have accepted the manuscript), but no one is going to call you the most important theologian since Karl Barth.

3. You are going to get rejected. You are going to write articles that won’t be accepted for publication in journals. You are going to write manuscripts that are going to be rejected by publishers. But that’s ok! That doesn’t necessarily mean that what you have written is not worthwhile, but simply that it does not fit exactly what that journal/publishing house is looking for at that time. Don’t get discouraged. Publishing is hard, and you have to keep pressing on despite how frustrating rejection can be at times.

4. Christian scholarship isn’t much different from secular scholarship. This was on of the things I was most disappointed in when I first got into the academic theological world. We might expect Christians to interact in a more generous way, be more honest in their scholarship, and to brag a little less about their credentials. However, this isn’t the case. If you are expecting high ethical and moral standards within Christian scholarship, you’re probably going to be disappointed. Theologians are sinners too.

5. You are going to get negative reviews. The first review I ever had published of one of my books was extremely negative. In fact, I could barely recognize my own book in the description given. Every author has to anticipate criticism. Sometimes it will be fair, and other times it won’t. Sometimes people will review your book because they are interested in the subject. Other times, they will review it simply because they want to criticize the stance that you represent.

I’m sure there are many more important lessons that every theologian needs to learn, and I have many more to learn myself! But it’s good not to get overly optimistic. If you want to be a public theological voice, you need to learn to accept the bad along with the good.

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