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"Dreary" modern books?

I have a built in book case in my living/dining room. Every time I come to sit down at my desk, I see it. On the top shelf, there is a 10-volume set of the writings of B.B. Warfield. I love sets of books where each volume looks the same. Beyond looking pretty, I have enjoyed partaking of those books over the years. There is still much which I have not read, but I have found everything I've read by Warfield worth the effort. 

I was reminded of the value of reading older books as I read Nasell's How to Understand and Apply the New Testament. In a chapter discussing historical-cultural context, he quotes C.S. Lewis's God in the Dock:

There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books. Thus I have found as a tutor in English Literature that if the average student wants to find out something about Platonism, the very last thing he thinks of doing is to take a translation of Plato off the library shelf and read the Symposium. He would rather read some dreary modern book ten times as long, all about "isms" and influences and only once in twelve  pages telling him what Plato actually said. The error is rather an amiable one, for it springs from humility. The student is half afraid to meet one of the great philosophers face to face. He feels himself inadquate and things he will not understand him. But if he only knew, the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modern commentator. The simplest student will be able to understand, if not all, yet a very great deal of what Plato said; but hardly anyone can understand some modern book on Platonism. It has always therefore been one of my main endeavours as a teacher to persuade the young that first-hand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than second-hand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire.

This mistaken preference for the modern books and this shyness of the old ones is nowhere more rampant than in theology.

This past year in Church History, we were exposed to a large volume of primary source writings, and I enjoyed that immensely. I was introduced to theologians I'd never read before, and had been hesitant to read from. Karl Barth was a fascinating read. It really is true that going to the source first is helpful. And that applies to the primary source of the Bible. How often do I spend time reading what people say about what the Bible rather than finding out for myself? 

This summer, I'm moving my books, shelves, and desk to my new study. The books on the built-in shelf will remain where they are so that I may see Warfield up there regularly, and be challenged to read widely, and not neglect those older books.


What's homemaking got to do with it?

On Saturday, an article about Paige Patterson came up on my Twitter feed. I am horrified by the things I have seen Patterson quoted as saying, especially his attitude toward those in situations of domestic abuse. His refusal to entertain any notion of wrongdoing is equally troubelsome. To make matters worse, he seems to be in a position where no one is allowed to critique him. This only opens the door to abuse of authority. I'm thankful for the fact that this kind of dialogue is being called out.

Thinking that the article was about Patterson's conduct, I didn't understand why there was more than one mention of the fact that Southwestern teaches homemaking classes *. In fact, it was mentioned within the first few paragraphs. What did that have to do with the matter at hand? Thankfully, a subsequent article by the same author on Monday had more focus on the issue and less on incidentals.

Some readers latched on to the incidental detail of homemaking, and Twitter being what it is, provided a venue for mocking it. Apparently, the existence of such programs is something we don't like. I was disappointed by some of the comments regarding the program not only because it seemed to have nothing to do with the issue of Patterson, but because some were condescending.

Why has homemaking become an undesirable occupation for women? I understand completely that for too long women were relegated to domestic spheres alone and discouraged from other interests and occupations. I was only ten years old when I became indignant at the thought that my place was only in the home. But taking the opposite attitude, one of disparagement, doesn't seem helpful, either. Does not our freedom to choose our occupation include homemaking? 

I suspect that one of the reasons homemaking is not taken seriously as a course of study is because some believe it doesn't take much effort; one doesn't need school to know how to care for the home. In some situations, I think a course on housekeeping could benefit some immensely. While everyone can live in a home, not everyone knows how to care for one. I was very fortunate in that my mother, by example, taught me how to care for a home. And I learned more than cooking and cleaning. Homes require maintenance, and not everyone has a natural aptitude for it. Unless we are homeless, we all have a home. Aren't they worth caring for? 

The home is where we welcome others with acts of hospitality. The home is where we shelter our growing families and provide a place where they can eat, rest, and be nurtured. Our homes are a gift from God to steward. Why disparage efforts to help learn that process? If we snicker at the thought of homemaking instruction, what does it say about the value we place on such work, and by implication, those who make it their primary focus? On one hand we say that our value is determined by being created in God's image, not in what we do, but on the other hand, we make sure we let people know that what they do is open for ridicule.

At the root of the problem is a failure to appreciate the principle of vocation. I won't take time to get into that now, but each of us, if we have a family and a home, have a vocation as a homemaker and caregiver. If someone wants to learn how to do it, who are we to look down our noses on them?


*I did not find a specific degree title of Master of Homemaking on Southwestern's website. What I did find were a number of programs for women (and some of them included biblical languages) and the option to concentrate on areas which included classes in home management, home decorating and sewing. Perhaps I wasn't looking in the right place. I could use some instruction of decorating myself.


Things about female seminary students you may not know

And perhaps it doesn't interest you. But I was thiniking about these.

We juggle school work and childcare

While I don't do it personally, I heard enough from one of my classmates to know. Hearing how often she had to miss out on study because of family matters made me feel guilty for the time I wasted watching British mystery shoes when I should have been studying.

We also care for our homes and families

My husband has a very demanding job which invades into his time at home. His way of helping out with domestic matters while I am in school centres around bringing home take-out when I ask, ignoring the dust bunnies all over the house, and being forgiving when there are no clean towels. And I am only a part-time student. I don't know how others take a full course load.

Not all of us are looking to be in pastoral ministry

Perhaps some are, and that is a separate issue. For me, though, I'm in it for the learning. I want to know more. I have no designs to dismantle male authority structures.

We don't think we're "better" than other women because we are in seminary

 Again, I can't speak for other women, but for myself, this is just who I am. I can't get this kind of learning on my own. I never could have been able to manage NT Greek on my own. We also love to share with others what we have learned. If we get excited about a point we're learning, excuse us if we talk about it. It's a joy to learn.

We have "seminary husbands," although no one ever writes an article comforting them

We have moments when our husbands come to us and say expectantly, "Are you still working?" For others, there are also children who ask that question. We sacrifice time with our families to study, just like male students.

We don't all consider ourselves "feminist" or "egalitarian"

Neither would I say I am anti-feminist or complementarian. I am not entirely sure how I feel about such terms. I don't know how helpful they are. As Scarlett O'Hara says, "I'll think about that tomorrow."

This isn't just a hobby for us

We mean to be useful in the kingdom of God. We understand that being a servant of God means being prepared. This is how we are preparing. We want to know how to think theologically.

I'm sure there are many more things about female seminary students that I myself don't know. I am representative of a particular kind of student: older, part-time, and in a conservative school. Somewhere out there, there are other female seminary students who have some good information to share. I hope I can find some of them.


All the Way My Saviour Leads Me

All the way my Saviour lead me;
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt his tender mercy,
Who through life has been my guide?
Heavn'ly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in him to dwell!
For I know whate'er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well;
For I know whate'er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.

All the way my Saviour leads me;
Cheers each winding path I tread,
Gives me peace for ev'ry trial,
Feeds me with the living bread;
Though my weary steps may falter,
And my soul a-thirst may be,
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! a spring of joy I see;
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! a spring of joy I see.

All the way my Saviour leads me;
Oh, the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my Father's house above;
When my spirit, clothed immortal,
Wings its flight to realms of day,
This my song through endless ages:
Jesus loved me all the way;
This my song through all the ages: 
Jesus loved me all the way.


Shut up and learn

I have 33 out of 60 credit hours toward my Master's of Theological Studies; more than half way there. There is still so much to learn, and with each class I take, I realize how little I know. I think we all could use a little dose of that feeling regularly.

I began my summer maintenance project, translating Philippians and parsing every verb. I never thought I'd find the parsing easier than the translation. Elementary Greek courses teach lots of vocabulary; so much that I'm sure our minds were not able to cram in another word by the end of March. But that is a drop in the bucket compared to what one needs to successfully read and understand the Greek New Testament. One of the translations I did last week sounded so awkward; as if English wasn't my mother tongue. There are syntactical issues I have yet to learn which will no doubt help in my faltering efforts. The purpose of this is not to provide a translation for the masses; we are, after all, only newbie Greek students. The aim is to keep us fresh in the language, and that has been the case for far. It will also introduce us to more vocabulary, which is good.

All of this Greek talk probably sounds dull and many may wonder why I would bother. We don't really need to know Greek when we have such great translations, do we? No, we don't have to, but aside from the fact that there is no such thing as a perfect Bible version, engaging with the original language increases my appreciation for the work that Bible translators do.

School is out, and there is more time to write and share my weak and wandering views. I thought I would be able to do that, but it appears that I am being encouraged to shut up and learn. After all, what do I know? And it couldn't come at a better time, because frankly, what I have seen online since I have had the time to pay more attention discourages me for many reasons. I'm at the point where I wonder how useful social media is to the Church when so many of its participants are boorish, arrogant, and self-serving. It is a distraction away from things we should probably be doing in our homes, neighbourhoods, churches, and workplaces. Perhaps I have more to learn on that issue, too, and in that case, I'd better shut up and learn.