by Joe Siegel
One could point to St. Anselm’s prayer to “know Thee, to love Thee, that I may rejoice in Thee,” as foundational to theological enquiry. We ask questions so that we may understand God. And yet, with St. John of Damascus, we simultaneously acknowledge that “[God] exists, but what He is in essence and nature is utterly unknowable and beyond understanding.” Does this transcendence not account for the many divergent paths that have been hewn through the wilderness of our sinful nature? St. Paul himself reveals to those in Corinth that he sees only “in a mirror, dimly,” and knows “only in part,” and to those in Rome, he proclaims “How unsearchable are [God’s] judgments and how inscrutable [God’s] ways!” And, yet we Christians, in belief, seek always to understand. As an interdenominational institution, Urbana Theological Seminary holds as a core belief an appreciation “of the traditions of Christian churches over the centuries” that allows “for a breadth of thought and exploration within theological bounds.” I invite you to review those bounds on our website or in our catalog, and you will discover that UTS not only allows for divergent Christ-centered paths, but actively encourages their exploration. Marcel Proust once commented that “”The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” UTS provides these “new eyes,” and the library is central to their provision. No place else in this seminary is the breadth of Christian longing better represented: no place else is better suited to be a partner to faith in seeking understanding. Because of this reality, it is not simply the task of the library to provide the resources requisite for coursework, rather it is the task of the seminary library to provide resources allowing for the exploration of Christianity in all of its depth and dimension and to further provide any information outside the realm of theology which may be used to better understand Christianity itself and its role on the world stage. The library may not be an instrument of sanctification, but it’s contribution to this process in the life of a seminarian should not be underestimated. Because of this, a theological librarian is not merely a keeper of the books and journals that line the shelves, but is, in fact, a minister to the students exploring the library’s riches. Librarian Raymond Morris captures this idea well: “[The theological librarian’s] job is carried on in the context of life, in the context of living things, primarily with persons, not inanimate objects. We are dealing with people in a very vital way. We are dealing with growth in understanding, with the shaping of points of view, with developing and living philosophies, with the stuff which shall shape the promptings of conscience and ethical and moral perception. We are dealing with situations which will fortify the will, which will shape character, and which will ultimately participate in the destiny of men. It does not take a gifted imagination to gauge the scope and importance of our work…[the theological librarian] is in some way responsible for every student who does not achieve his fullest abilities or to measure up to his greatest stature in the Divinity School.” Ultimately, a theological library should not be judged primarily by the size and scope of its collections, the number of journals to which it subscribes, or rates of circulation, but on its impact on the sanctification of its users. With others that serve the Lord, theological librarians choose with care how to build on the foundation of our hope and joy, Christ Jesus. This care is exercised in every aspect of the seminary library: how we select materials for acquisition, the hours which we are open, the manner in which we assist students, the relationships we form with other libraries, and a vast array of other concerns. Indeed, though the UTS Library is filled with the printed word and the conversations it hosts between students and long-dead theologians are vital to exploring the multitude of paths within Christianity, no less important are the contemporary relationships formed between librarian and researcher. Hand in hand we seek the Lord and so I ask that you pray that this seminary’s library overflows with love as we who work in the library faithfully serve those who use its resources in searching out the inexhaustible mysteries of the Almighty.