Double Education

A few days ago, I shared a screenshot from a syllabus from my seminary education at Westminster Seminary California on social media. The purpose of the post was to talk about how in predominantly White Evangelical and Reformed institutions, engaging with non-White male theologians was often framed polemically. Rarely were there instances where we were required to read non-White male theologians as a source of enrichment of theology.

This post piggybacked off of something I wrote back in 2018 about the fact that many Christians of color come out of predominantly White theological institutions with I’ve called a double education: being well-read in White theology and self-taught in global theology.

In light of this, I wanted to provide a couple further explanations about the idea of a double education that I hope may be helpful.

Everyone Does Contextual Theology

Unfortunately, many Christians have this idea that theology is a body of knowledge out there in the cloud that can be neutrally accessed and downloaded into our minds. Because of this, in theological discussions and debates, Christians often will claim that they are “just doing theology,” in contrast to what they would call “contextual theology” like Black theology or Asian theology. But in reality, what many Christians fail to realize is that theology is inherently contextual and appropriational. In other words, it is actually impossible to do theology outside of a cultural context and without appropriating the ideas and the language of the world around us. What this means, therefore, is that there are often cultural blindspots and weaknesses as well as strengths from each theological perspective. Each perspective is like a single piece of stone in a mosaic — it needs other perspectives in order to spot its own blindspots and fill in the gaps.

What is a “Single Education?”

However, many Christians — especially those who come from predominantly White churches or academic institutions — are exclusively trained in a single perspective — a single education as it were — and are trained to believe that their single perspective is sufficient for all of theology as a whole. For example, if you were to audit the syllabi and curricula of any given predominantly White seminary, you would quickly find that the majority if not all of the readings, figures, events, and topics come from the perspective of White, Western European men. Now, let me get this straight: this doesn’t mean there’s something inherently wrong with Western European men. But, it’s when this perspective is equated with the sum total of theology that you run into problems. Using the mosaic illustration, it’s like trying to see one little stone as the entirety of what the mosaic is supposed to depict. Without being informed by and balanced by the other perspectives, the cultural blindspots of that singular perspective run rampant.

What is a “Double Education?”

Contrary to a single education is what I’d call a double education, which is the act of becoming a student of your own theological perspective as well as that of another. This isn’t just for seminary students or graduate students, but it’s for all Christians when it comes to the books that they read, the sermons they listen to, and even the podcasts they tune into. By pursuing a double education, Christians become sensitized to the ways in which they have wrongly assumed their own perspective as being normal, default, or uncontextualized, and the ways in which they have unfairly critiqued other perspectives as being less rigorous or thoughtful. By studying other perspectives charitably, they begin to recognize the hyper-emphases of their own perspective as well as blindspots or errors while seeing the helpfulness of other perspectives.

Towards a Global Theology

So, overall, a double education is what I call preparatory work for a thorough global theology that all Christians are ultimately called to. A global theology creates the space where people from the ends of the earth gather around Christ’s throne to worship Him in our own contexts, cultures, and languages in equitable positions in relation to one another. This is what Christians will have perfectly when Jesus remakes all things, but it’s also something we’re called to strive for even now. It’s an application of what Paul talks about when he calls us “members of one body” and the fact that we need one another. We often think that passage is referring to one local congregation, but I think it is meant to be understood in the broader sense of the church over time and space, and that we, from all of our backgrounds, need one another to grow up into full maturity in Christ.



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