Jesus was a master storyteller. Jesus’ use of parables was intended to help his listeners discover truth and experience transformation. Jesus used familiar scenes, everyday objects, and relationships to explain spiritual truths. Jesus’ insightful message was never hidden from an honest seeker of truth.

Theology is the understanding of the existence of God and the social relationships of the people of God. And so, Jesus’ Parables present one of the original models of Theological Education.

Jesus: A Social Scientist

Jesus was rooted in the Jewish tradition of Theological Education and Religious Teaching. And yet, in my view, he was as critical as any ‘Social Scientist.’

John Milbank contends, “To think of a Christian theology and at the same time to think of theology as a social science, one must first of all sketch out a counter-history of ecclesial origination, which tells the story of all history from the point of view of this emergence” ( cf. Theology and Social Theory 2006:383)

Jesus’s parables challenged the status quo. For Jesus, the proclamation of the good news of the Kingdom of God could not be separated from the social relationships that were hierarchical, unequal, and discriminatory.

Jesus could call out the absence of Kingdom values such as justice, equality, and freedom. Interestingly, the Parables in Matthew chapter 13 are aptly termed Kingdom Parables. 

Theological Education today

Today, Theological Education is seen as a formal full-time enterprise preparing graduates or training them to do the work of and for the Church and its related associations and networks. However, theological education cannot be just like any form of education.

Theological Education as mere Religious teaching is no less than the teaching of the Law by Jewish Religious leaders. With little or no space for conversations about Liberation, learning becomes an exercise of uncritical conformity to power and hegemony. 

Jesus’ Parables as a form of Comparative Theological Education

Comparative Learning is an effective form of education in various fields of education. Comparative Theological Education (CTE) integrates empirical openness, critical experimentation, and participatory dialogue. CTE can chart a new path between the discourses of History and Politics of the past and draw close to the threshold of the present. 

The Parables of Jesus were contextual stories that mirrored the various aspects of his socio-cultural and political milieu. Jesus’ Parables, as we shall see, are an original model of “Comparative Theological Education”(CTE).  

The parable of the Sower (Mt 13: 1 -9) shows the contrast between the results of acceptance and rejection of the gospel message and the listener’s ability to learn. The farmer represents Jesus, the soil represents Israel, and the seed represents the proclamation of the Kingdom. Here, in this parable, ‘the farmer’, ‘the soil’ and ‘the seed’ become resources for teaching and learning.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Jesus was a storyteller. Jesus used the ‘familiar’ within culture as a pedagogical tool. Likewise, our cultural texts and other local resources within the local ecclesial communities can function as critical resources for Theological Education.

Photo by Gabriel Jimenez on Unsplash
Rev Dr Dexter S Maben serves as the Presbyter Incharge of St Andrews Church Bangalore, CSI-KCD and currently is the Vice President of Karnataka Central Diocese.