Dr. Matthew Levering on the Journey to Theology

Recently on The Cale Clarke Show, Cale hosted famed theologian Dr. Matthew Levering to talk about the intersection of theology and everyday life. Dr. Levering holds the James N. and Mary D. Perry Jr. Chair of Theology at Mundelein Seminary. He has written several books, including Participatory Biblical Exegesis, The Abuse of Conscience, and Proofs of God, and he is currently working on a 9-volume set on dogmatics.

Dr. Levering, who grew up a quaker, wasn’t always so attracted to topics of the divine and supernatural. He said growing up as a quaker was a virtually atheistic experience. “No Bible, no Jesus, no God.” It wasn’t until college that he began his quest for truth in earnest. He began asking himself questions that he’d never had the answer to.

In his sophomore year of college, he ended up in a hospital in the Swiss Alps for two weeks where he was treated by some Catholic nurses. During his time there, he was provided with a copy of the Gospel of Matthew which he read through, but he admitted he didn’t fully understand it. He was encountering Jesus for the first time without the Old Testament and without any context.

He knew there was something to the Gospel, but he couldn’t quite grasp it. Throughout college, he read plenty of novels by authors like Fyodor Dostoevsky and Walker Percy and saw the convergence of theology and philosophy in a different context. Right after college, Levering himself began to write a novel. But in the middle of writing it, he realized that this work of writing could not bring him the truth. Whatever truths he had been able to realize through his reading could not be realized through this work of fiction that he himself was creating.

So, Dr. Levering made one of the most crucial decisions of his life, that changed the trajectory of his career forever: he made a trip to the Duke Divinity School library. It was there that he fell in love with theology, the divine, and God, and it was at Duke where Dr. levering went on to obtain his Master of Theological Studies.

Dr. Levering is a brilliant scholar. He has a Bachelor’s in History, a Masters in Theology, and a Ph.D. in Systemic Theology. He could have studied anything in the world. Why theology?

“Theology is the contemplation of God and all things in relation to God. It’s founded in revelation because that’s really how we come to know God, and He reveals Himself in Jesus Christ. So, Jesus is the very center, the very core of theology, the deep central mystery. And theology is pondering on these mysteries which we receive in scripture and tradition as members of the Church.”

So, in a way, theology is the study of everything. Everything comes from God and His creation. Every complex, philosophical issue is oriented around our creator, and so are the solutions to those issues. And while philosophy can begin from concepts found in sacred scripture and sacred tradition, it doesn’t need to. Theology does. Its one, central constant is Jesus Christ, God the Son Incarnate, Redeemer of Man, who died and rose from the dead.

If the subject of theology is so important, are we all called to become scholars of some degree? Is the formal study of God a requirement to maximize our understanding? Dr. Levering said that it varies from person to person. Incorporating God into everything we do is a requirement to be sure, but how we implement theology into everyday life is different for everyone.

There are some who will follow in the footsteps of Dr. Levering, bringing theology to the forefront of scholastic study by writing papers and books on dogmatics and scripture. And then others more “active” will exercise theology through corporal works of mercy and missionary work. And still, there are a hundred other ways to face theology.

Cale asked how theology can impact our personal prayer lives, and in a roundabout way according to Dr. Levering, theology can often be the mold that forms our prayer habits. Most theologians spend a lot of their time writing books and teaching undergraduates and seminarians. Some of those undergraduates will go on to enter the seminary. Those seminarians will become priests. Those priests will go on to preach, do speaking engagements, give spiritual direction, and write books of their own. And their teachings, among other things, are very capable of informing the prayer habits of the laity. Through a trickle-down effect, theology could be considered upstream of prayer and meditation.

Tune in to The Cale Clarke Show weekdays at 5pm CT

John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at relevantradio.com and on the Relevant Radio® app.