Yesterday evening, I sat down to read Bonhoeffer's essay "What Should a Student of Theology Do Today?" after it came highly recommended from a friend. I wasn't quite sure what to expect since I usually prefer to read and re-read Barth's Evangelical Theology for advice and reinforcement when thinking about the nature, task, and challenges of studying theology. But Bonhoeffer's short essay was a really great read:
One may bring to theological studies one's own passions, one's philosophical, ethical, pedagogical, patriotic, or social zeal. These belong to the student as a whole person, and one must truly enter into theology with one's whole self. The person who is not driven to theological study at least in part by these passions will certainly be a poor theologian. But theological students must then learn and know that the driving force in their lives and thinking, as theologians, can only come from the passion of Jesus Christ, our crucified Lord. The study of theology cannot be conquered by the overflowing vitality of one's own passion; rather, the real study of theologia sacra begins when, in the midst of questioning and seeking, human beings encounter the cross; when they recognize the endpoint of all their own passions in the suffering of God at the hands of humankind, and realize that their entire vitality stands under judgment. This is the great turnaround, which for the course of study means the turn toward theological objectivity. Theological study no long means revealing the passions of one's ego; it is no longer a monologue, no longer religious self-fulfillment. Rather, it is about responsible study and listening, becoming attentive to the Word of God, which has been revealed right here in this world; it is toning down one's self in the face of what is far an away the most important matter.
...Finally, one should know as a true theologian that, even where our knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ in its truth and purity keeps us away from false doctrines, we stand beside our brethen who have wandered and been misled, sharing their guilt, interceding and praying for them, knowing that our own life depends, not on our better knowledge or being on the right side, but on forgiveness."
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Berlin: 1932-1933, 432-433, 435.