How I Got into Analytic Theology (The Long Version)

A while ago I posted a link about how I got into Analytic Theology. That was a shortened version of my story (due to word count limits). Here is the original “long” version.

When I first set foot onto UCLA’s campus, with its Romanesque Revival style architecture and green rolling hills, I was in awe. I knew that at the end of my four years studying physiological science I would be going to medical school (hopefully at UCLA) so that one day I could be a medical missionary. From a young age God had impressed upon my heart a desire to serve and reach those who had yet to hear the message of the gospel. I remember having dreams about being a missionary in places that had not yet heard the good news. The missio Dei was on my heart, so becoming a medical missionary seemed like a really good way to take part in God’s mission. My plan was set, I was going to be a medical doctor. I thought it was a great plan, but I forgot one thing: “The heart of man plans his ways, but the Lord establishes his steps.” (Prov. 16:9, ESV)  I planned on going to medical school, but I quickly found that a weakness that was easy for me to cover up in High School would derail my plans: I was terrible at math. It may have been that the way my brain is wired just isn’t conducive for doing math (at least that’s what I tell myself). Calculus and organic chemistry wrecked me, I got grades in those classes that I had never seen in my entire life. At that point my academic advisor counseled me to try some other classes out. So I looked through which general education courses I could take to fulfill my graduation requirements and stumbled into a Philosophy of Mind class. I was hooked! It was such a change of pace from my math and chemistry courses. The next quarter I decided to take a Medieval Philosophy class, my 19 year old mind was blown. There I was at UCLA, studying Augustine, Aquinas, Anselm, and Abelard. I was doing philosophical theology at UCLA! At that point I decided, I want to be a philosopher. So with the encouragement of some of my pastors (even though some Christians I knew kept throwing Colossians 2:8 in my face), I changed majors. I spent the rest of my time at UCLA focused on philosophy. In my courses we were assigned Geach and van  Inwagen on the Trinity, Craig on Universals, and Plantinga on possible worlds. In other courses we discussed the ontological argument, the implications of the beatific vision for epistemology, how Berkeley’s idealism affected Christology, and how Anselm’s “On the Fall of Satan” sheds light on free will and moral responsibility. At the time I had no idea that what I was doing was actually Analytic Theology, but that is certainly what I was doing.

Before I graduated from UCLA in 2010 I had to make some decisions as to what I would do next with my life. I really enjoyed doing philosophy, but still had the burden of the missio Dei on my heart. So I figured I should do philosophy of religion, that way I could be on mission at a secular university. But I knew that in order to do that well I would have to know theology well. So I decided to go to Fuller Seminary. I applied to their School of Theology, but just a few months before classes began I once again felt the burden of my missionary call, so I switched over to the Intercultural Studies program. Eventually I switched back into theology, and took my first systematic theology class with Oliver Crisp. What I remember most about that class was how much my philosophical training at UCLA fed into our theological discussions. It was almost as though all that I learned while doing analytic philosophy served as a resource to draw from when doing theology. Analytic theology was being used as a tool for doing theology. This was radically different from my previous encounters with systematic theology, which seemed to have a concordance or proof-text like nature to its approach.

Despite stumbling onto a way of doing theology that aligned itself with my love of philosophy, I still had the burden of the mission dei in the back of my mind. Thankfully, during my years of doing college ministry while in seminary my calling got sharpened. I discovered what my role is in the mission of God. My calling is to equip the church for the sake of mission.

Towards the end of my MA at Fuller I was finally able to put all of the pieces of my journey together: I had a burden for mission, I loved analytic philosophy, and I felt a call to equip the church. All these pieces,  fit so well into Fuller’s Analytic Theology for Theological Formation Project.

The project hypothesizes that Analytic Theology provides a rigorous intellectual framework for the training and formation of church leaders…. It brings together theologians and scholars with pastors and church leaders to explore the ways in which theology, and Analytic Theology specifically, may be of service to the life of the church.”[1]

Through the AT project, I am learning how to best put my training in analytic philosophy to use for the sake of doing theology that will help to equip the church for its God given mission.

That’s a little bit about how I got I got into AT – it all started with a desire to serve God’s mission, winded its way through a bunch of classes in analytic philosophy, and culminated in me starting my PhD as a part of Fuller’s AT Project. However, a better question than “How did You get into AT?” is “Why did you get into AT?” The answer to that question is a lot shorter. It is because Analytic Theology is the best way for me to do my part to contribute to God’s plan of making himself and the gospel known throughout the world.

[1] http://analytictheologyfuller.org/about/

 

 

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