Talking Theology with Dr. James Dolezal
This past week I decided to sit down with one of our very own Divinity Professors here at Cairn University, Dr. James Dolezal. In this interview, Dr. Dolezal was able to provide a Professor’s perspective on the study of theology, and also provide students with ways in which they can study theology more effectively.
If you haven’t already, check out the previous article “Stop Putting God in a Box,” before continuing to the interview below. This article will give you a better understanding of a student’s perspective on theology, and the problems one can face during his or her study of theology at a Biblical university.
Now, let’s get into the interview!
How many years now would you say you have you been studying theology?
About twenty years.
What theologian do you have the most respect for? What is it that you admire most about them?
There is no way I can limit my answer to one theologian. Augustine I admire for his profound understanding of God’s grace in salvation. Thomas Aquinas I admire for his subtly and sharpness of mind as well as his restrained and dispassionate way of engaging his theological opponents. John Calvin I admire for his deep devotion to grounding his doctrine in the Holy Scriptures and for his careful commentary on the Bible. John Owen I admire for both his intellect and genuine piety. Herman Bavinck I admire as a great systematizer of Christian doctrine. And A.W. Pink I admire for his clear writing and practical exhortations.
If you think back to your freshmen year of college, could you have imagined yourself as a Theology/Biblical Studies Professor at a Christian university? Why or why not?
Absolutely not! Theology seemed boring and too abstract. Also, I did not care for public speaking. Finally, I simply did not have the kinds of grades that would suggest a future in academia. I grew up on a farm and assumed I would probably go into farming.
What made you decide to become a Professor at Cairn University? How many years have you been a teaching here?
I was given the opportunity to teach some seminary course during my doctoral studies and found I enjoyed it. When the offer came to teach at Cairn, I was delighted to accept. The university’s doctrinal statement and curriculum (both theological and beyond) were what first attracted me. I have been teaching here for almost five years.
Did you ever find yourself caught up in the study of theology so much so, that you found yourself placing faith in what you were studying over your faith in God alone?
Calvin once said the human mind is a “perpetual forge of idols.” we can make idols out of almost anything, even holy things. The children of Israel did this with the bronze serpent which had been a sign of salvation to them (2 Kings 18:4). This is certainly something that I must personally guard against, placing my confidence in that which is not God. Scripture and theology are signposts that should direct our hearts to trust the Triune God alone. These holy things do not point ultimately to themselves, but to God. With all of that being said, my answer to your questions is, yes, at times it is possible.
In your own study of theology, have you ever lost sight of God’s character? If not, do you think it is possible for someone studying theology to do so?
In answer to your first question: yes. We each come to study of theology as sinners and therefore the temptations to aim at some good other than God himself is always a very real one. I am not sure this is a greater liability for the one studying theology than it is for the one studying or pursuing other things. We are to do all things for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31) and we frequently fall short of this.
Lastly, what advice can you provide students regarding getting the most out of their time here at Cairn? What can students do in order to stay passionate/dedicated to their relationship with Christ, during a time when the Bible is mainly being used as a textbook?
Read the Bible daily and consecutively. Get to know its message. Learn to pray well (especially to pray the Scriptures). Also, be involved in regular attendance and service at a local Bible-teaching church. These practices should help students to stay passionate and dedicated. Finally, learn to value the use of the Bible as a textbook. It is a great benefit to be forced to regular search the Scriptures. Scripture is holy and powerful whether used for classroom purposes or for public and private worship.