What Can You Do With a Theology Degree?

a bible opened on a table

Jul 12, 2019

Dr. Travis Buchanan, Assistant Professor of Theological Studies

I am sometimes asked, “What can you do with a degree in theological studies?” Some degree programs certainly are immune to this line of inquiry. I’m guessing not many pre-med or pre-law students have to field questions from the relatives over Christmas break on what they plan to do with a degree in medicine or law. But theology studies, as an academic discipline, is vulnerable to the pesky “What can you do with that degree?” question. And lurking just beneath the transparent surface of this question is the economic question—how much can you expect to earn with such a degree?

Allow me to make a bold statement: If you are truly concerned with our lives in this world, with our overall well-being as well as our day-to-day usefulness to society and our long-term security, then theology is the most practical of disciplines. Here’s what I mean.

Theology is the study of God and all things in relation to God (as Thomas Aquinas, famous medieval theologian, said). Understood in this way, there is no discipline that can afford to neglect theological thinking. Here are some examples. According to Christian theology God created the soul (pretty important for psychology!). The history of our complex social interactions and various cultures (history, sociology) is only intelligible when one grasps the pattern of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration, and the fact that God is superintending history toward his predetermined plan to bring glory to his name and joy and wholeness to his people. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (philosophy anyone?). God is beautiful (art and aesthetics) and his creation reflects that and many other of his attributes back to him; it was “very good” in the beginning. God is good and the author of the good life, and no life can be “good” without reference to him (ethics). The unique capacity to speak, interpret, and develop language (from Russian to software code) is a mark of the image of God in man and separates him from the rest of the biological world by an un-crossable gulf.

You can acquire a working knowledge of any field of study, sure. But you cannot penetrate the essence of any one subject or the relations between subjects outside of a theological framework. Education pursued without reference to God leaves every subject a mystery at the end of the day, for it has ignored or denied its most important aspect—God as creator and sustainer of all things visible and invisible, as one of our creeds says. So, perhaps the questions, “What can I do…?” and “How much money can I earn…?” are not even the proper questions to ask. Here is a better one: Who can theology connect me with? The answer, of course – and humbly expressed, is God.

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