What Is a Theologian?

Dr. Peter Anderson, Assistant Dean, College of Theology

Theologians study religious texts to understand the word of God.

The work of theology serves the life and health of the church through reflecting upon God and speaking about his goodness, truth and beauty. If you aspire to answer this calling, consider enrolling in a theological studies program at Grand Canyon University’s College of Theology or Grand Canyon Theological Seminary, which will provide a formative environment and community to prepare you for a life in service to God and his people.

Formal academic training in theological studies through a Christian Studies degree, Master of Divinity, or other program of study deepens the skills, dispositions and habits aimed toward fostering a passion for God, His people and the good of the world. To paint a picture of how GCU and GCTS train theologians for the church, I want to point to a few ways we work to train students here. Four important elements help us answer the simple but important question, “What is a theologian?” and, in particular, “What is a Christian theologian?”

A Christian Theologian With a Religious Studies Degree Loves God and His Word

First and foremost, theologians possess, and are possessed by, a deep love of — and abiding commitment to — the triune God through a love of the Scriptures. In the college and seminary, we call this being “gospel-centered.” From the Psalms’ beautiful call to embrace and enjoy God’s perfect law, to Jesus’ clear reminder in the Gospels to build our life on his words and teaching, all of Scripture reminds us of the preeminent power of God’s Word to all of life. And because theologians love God and their neighbor deeply, the task of theology becomes the daily submission to the Bible for clarity, correction, wisdom and guidance for all of life (Mark 12:30-31).

A Christian Theologian Lives a Life of Goodness and Virtue in Community

Theology is much more than a discipline of the mind. Theology demands a life of goodness and virtue to complement disciplined study and deep thinking. Reflection, contemplation and moral excellence fill up a theologian’s life with the fruit of the Spirit, shaping a life of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and faithfulness (Galatians 5:22-23). Virtue cannot be cultivated in isolation, so good theologians live in community with others who bring out the best in them while offering counsel and accountability along the way. Theology that does not take virtue in community seriously risks becoming nothing more than an academic exercise, at best, or an isolated, disunifying voice at worst — instead of being a life marked by deep thinking and virtuous living.

A Christian Theologian Serves God’s People and a Watching World

More than ever before, the eyes of the world are keenly set on the church and any who would claim to follow Jesus. As such, a theologian bears special responsibility to offer a compelling, winsome and faithful testimony of God’s love and message to the world and from within the community of the church. We emphasize preparing students who are church-focused and mission-oriented because a theologian serves the church and the world — not the other way around. In fact, God expressly commands that the gifts of the church be used for service, mutual edification in Christ and love (Ephesians 6). Theological studies deepen a love for the church rather than a spirit of divisive, prideful criticism or high-brow cynicism.

A Christian Theologian Lives Humbly, Reads Widely, and Speaks Slowly

A Christian theologian serves God’s people, giving the gift of insight and discernment in a time when measured speech and well-considered positions are rare. Even more, taking the path of intellectual humility means taking a hard road to be endured slowly and carefully over time. Sadly, the church too often rushes to judgment, becomes captivated by unsubstantiated opinions, or follows cult personalities who simply scream the loudest or communicate a counterfeit strength built on fear or intimidation. In contrast, good theologians take the time for disciplined study across a wide range of opinions and resources, cultivating the patience and wisdom to fairly evaluate, accurately represent and carefully critique a position or theological concept. Clear analysis coupled with careful, loving correction or affirmation requires someone humble enough to read widely and patient enough to speak slowly in an effort to serve God and the world with grace.

Ultimately, embracing a calling to study theology echoes a desire to renew the world and serve the God of the universe. At GCU and GCTS, we equip students to live out their call to love God and others through the study of theology (Luke 10:27). We labor to help our students build their foundation on God and his Word, pursue virtue, serve others, and live with humility so they can rightly answer the question, “What is a theologian?”

If a career in religious studies sounds appealing, you can begin your journey by exploring degrees in theology and ministry with GCU’s College of Theology, such as the Master of Divinity, which will prepare you for a career in vocational ministry.

About Peter Anderson, PhD

Dr. Anderson serves as assistant dean and assistant professor of Theology and Christian Ethics in the College of Theology and Grand Canyon Theological Seminary. He holds a PhD from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary with research interests including metaethics and virtue as well as theology and culture. Dr. Anderson is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and the International Jacques Ellul Society. He and his wife, Rachel, have five children.


Approved by the Dean for the College of Theology on Nov. 4, 2022. 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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