As Orthodox Christians, we must strive to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind (c.f. Luke 10:27) — in other words, with our entire being.
The cultivation of the love of God in the mind consists in large part of studying the faith. We must immerse ourselves in the Holy Scriptures and in the teachings of the Holy Church. We must order our lives so that — if it is possible — the majority of the impressions that form our way of thinking come from our Lord's teaching, and not from the corrupt teachings of this world.
This is why it is so important to prayerfully read the Holy Scriptures under the guidance of the Church.
This is also why, for those who are academically minded, higher education in theology is valuable. This is not just for those who want to become priests; all of us can benefit from better knowing our faith. Through study we can be brought to love God more fully, and we can also be able to better answer the questions those around us who are starving for the enlightenment that only Jesus Christ can bring.
In the last 10 years, a number of distance education programs in Orthodox Theology have emerged, including three that are run by our own Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia:
1. The Pastoral School of the Diocese of Chicago and Mid-America is a ministry of our own diocese. It consists of online classes that include readings, discussions and examinations. There is a track for future priests and deacons and another track for those who wish simply to learn more about their faith. This year, the pastoral school is offering summer courses to all who are interested.
2. Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville, NY offers a correspondence course leading to an accredited Certificate in Theological Studies (HEGIS 5623). Students are sent a reading list, and go to Jordanville for examinations twice each year.
3. The newly-formed St. Cyril and Athanasius Institute is a ministry of the Western American diocese. This is an innovative online program consisting of modules of study in an interactive online format.