I love to read. It is unusual for me to have fewer than three or four books on the go at any given time. The two topics I tend to read are theology and the Second World War. Strange bedfellows, I agree.
My interest in World War II began in my grandfather’s home many years ago. He was a veteran of the Royal Canadian Air Force in which he had been ground crew for Lancaster Bombers. When I was a child he would often take me with him to the local Legion Hall (where veterans gather to socialize) and after a couple of drinks would begin to tell me stories of his war years – cleaning out the remains of pilots and crew who were injured or killed in their bombers and coming under fire from Stuka bombers at his airfield. I have since asked my parents what they were thinking allowing him to take me out, drink and then drive me home – they are similarly amazed at their actions but can only say that it was a different era. In his home he had the complete Time Life series on World War II – some 50 or 60 volumes of photograph-laden books that described every aspect of the war. I would spend hours reading these books and studying the pictures. As my grandparents got older and saw my love for history they began to send these books home with me, so that little-by-little the collection transferred from their home to mine. In high school I took all the history courses I could find and in college got a bachelor’s degree in history with a focus on the World Wars.
My other love is theology. This isn’t too terribly surprising as I was raised in a home in which the bookshelves were (and still are) laden with theological volumes and great works of church history. Biographies of great Christians of the past sat side-by-side with the books describing the theology these men discovered and taught. The Reformed churches I attended as a child placed great focus on the importance of theology and for many years I studied and memorized the Heidelberg and Shorter Catechisms.
As an adult I have a continued fascination with those two topics. This week (while I’m on vacation) I have read two books on World War II and two theological books.
I have found a striking difference between the two subjects and one that pulls me towards one much more than the other. World War II is an event that occured in the past. Very little new information about the war will ever come to light. Sure a new stash of photographs or historical documents may be found from time-to-time, but the war is over. We can trace the people and events that led to the war, pinpoint a day it began and pinpoint the exact day it ended. No topic in history has been more written-about than the Second World War.
On the other hand, God and the study of God is alive. The study of God will never come to an end. We can trace the time humans began to know and study God but we know that theology will never end. In that sense the study of theology is much more rewarding than the study of history. We are not chasing obscure historical facts, but a living, breathing God and are anticipating His return. Where history is over – complete – theology awaits its fulfillment.
So I am drawn ever-more towards theology – towards the study and knowledge of God. This is not to downplay the importance of history, for we know the old saying that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. Yet as a field of study, I continue to love theology. I love to learn more about God and more about His ways. I spent three years studying history and dream of some day (Lord willing) heading to seminary to spend three or four studying theology.