The following appeared in Truth Aflame.


The Risk/Return Ratio

If you have ever done any reading in investment information you are probably familiar with the risk/return ratio. The ratio of risk to return is a key factor in deciding where you should invest. The goal is to find the greatest amount of return with the least amount of risk. What you often find, however, is that to get a very high rate of return you must be willing (and able!) to risk.

Like financial investment, theological education also has its risks. There is something blissful about ignorance, something secure in never having any of our value and belief systems challenged. And if there are risks, we must evaluate the possible returns in order to weigh the judiciousness of an investment of one's life in theological education.

Perhaps the greatest risk of embarking on the journey of theological education is that of its challenge to dearly held, yet unfounded beliefs. We are not speaking here of the fundamentals of our faith, but the many views which have undoubtedly been passed on to us that will not stand up to closer study and scrutiny. We risk finding that our "life verse" has an entirely different meaning in context than that we have given it. We risk having our theology challenged by other views, often to find that the view we brought to task is inadequate to meet all the evidence. It is a rare semester that doesn't find a student in the office struggling with the fact that something they have learned in one of their classes cuts across a long held belief. In careful theological education we risk the loss of theological innocence, and, as has been said, innocence once lost is lost forever.

A second risk of theological education is a new accountability. Much is required from those whom much is given, and the knowledge imparted in theological education is not benign information to be taken or left. With new ability to work within the revealed word comes a new accountability to live in obedience to it. There is a very real risk that after theological education there will be no return to a comfortable Christianity; awareness of truth and the demands of God will call us to a radical life which can no longer be lived in accord with the value system of this age.

Then too there is the risk of exposure. In theological education we are exposed to theologians of different stripes and denominations, and in reading and interacting with them we risk coming to the understanding that the Kingdom of God is not circumscribed by a particular label or denomination, that God's redemptive activity knows not the boundaries that we sometimes like to set. It is at times unsettling to be confronted with faith in those other groups, to find the line between "us" and "them" is more imaginary than real. Theological education carries with it the risk of finding out the difference between the important and the unimportant in line-drawing.

There are undoubtedly other risks as well in becoming educated theologically. The question that must be asked is: "Is it worth it?" This question can only be answered in light of the returns. The return...[is the] new ability to work carefully and accurately with the word. The capability of communicating well-founded faith to believers and unbelievers alike. An ability to apply the Biblical principals to life in our culture. Is it worth it? It sure is. But it is not without risk.

-The Professor


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