Luis Vargas | NTS Class of 2015
Master of Divinity Degree Program
I’m a rapper and a seminarian that studies theology. In one of my raps, I tell part of my story in a creative way that integrates the theology I have been learning at NTS. In the final lines, I include the following theological thought:
I’m learning how to be human in communion with the trees and God’s servants/
it’s like a symphony the way we sing and bring our offerings to the divine Trinity/
So glory to the resurrected Christ who resurrects life(s).
I posted this in a Facebook status a few weeks back and within a few minutes I received a confused comment from a friend, “Huh? Communion with trees?” I replied, “Yes, communion with trees,” and then explained that “trees” was a metaphor for the earth, and also shared my conviction that God cares for the earth. Conversations like this explain why I’m at NTS.
I’m in seminary because I care about my faith enough to take time to explore it, question it, doubt it, study it, and re-examine it with fellow classmates and professors. But like most seminary students, the sweet romance I have at the start of the semester for studying theology often begins to fade by the end of the first few weeks of classes as paper deadlines pile up and the reality of the work ahead sets in. As a second year student at NTS, I have learned to expect this and thankfully, I have learned a few ways to manage it well. Making theology personal to my life, interests, and vocational goals is one way I’ve learned to keep my passion for theology alive, and one of the ways I have learned to do that is by writing raps.
All writers experience, at various points in their careers, how their own lack of skill, knowledge, and depth limits the quality of the work they strive to create. I’m no stranger to this. Often when I write, I become aware of my superficiality and I think to myself, “I’m really not as a deep as I think I am.” While this can be paralyzing, I use the pain to push me forward in my pursuit of theological wisdom and character growth. Simultaneously, rapping is an enjoyable way for me to process the theology I learn in the classroom and then to share it in a way that I hope resonates with others. Writing raps makes me slow down into an almost meditative state and think of how to communicate complex intellectual content in ways that are accessible, vernacular, and beautiful to everyday people, Christians and non-Christians alike. In the process, God speaks to me and molds me into a pen worthy of the name Christian.
While most of us are not rappers, artists, or writers, each of us is called to know and reflect God in the world. Fortunately, this is precisely what theology is all about. As seminary students, it can be easy to forget this under the pressure of academic deadlines, and in our over-familiarity with Scripture and theological jargon. Rather than succumbing to that, let us remember the mystery of the God we study and be reminded of how awesome it is that our God became (and still is) human. This not only means that God wants us to know him, but also that theology is properly about the intersection of God with our life in the world, whether or not we are “smart” or called to be expert theologians.