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Entries in Seminary Notes (145)


You have to give yourself to it

The summer is flying by. As I looked at my calendar this morning, I realized that I only have three more weekends before my daughter's wedding. I'm looking very much forward to the day and to having visits with family. But after that day, August will be soon upon us. My husband and I are making a trip to my aunt and uncle's, which I'm also very much anticipating. It is "home" for me, having no other "home town" speak of. And I am looking forward to Manitoba in late summer.

I began reading Bavinck's second volume of Reformed Dogmatics, intending to finish it by the end of September. I am half way through that volume. I am about 1/4 into Grant Osborne's Hermeneutical Sprial, also hoping to finish by the end of the summer. I suspect these will be books I hope to finish by the end of the year. These are not short books or easy books, and reading of them demands time and attention. Things intrude, other books present themselves, and I only have a limited time until I must focus on school. 

In the last couple of years during the academic year, I have tried to keep up with other reading while being in school. I'm not going to make that mistake this year. Other than a fiction book before bed, I am going to give myself to my studies more intently this fall. At the end of Greek Exegesis, I was disappointed with how I did on my final exam. I did very well overall, but it was the final exam mark that bothered me. I was not as prepared as I had wanted to be. When I started taking Pentateuch, I really wanted to do well. And I worked really hard, and that meant ignoring a lot of other things: other books, social media, recreational activities, and yes, housework.

To be successful at something, we must be devoted to it. Despite notions to the contrary, no one can be really good at everything. Something will always feel the effects of our attention to something else. Those people who spend a lot of time promoting their blogging platform and social media presence simply won't have time to give themselves to other things. I would rather give myself to my studies and let the blog and social media presence go. I'm learning to do that better now.

This fall, I'm starting Hebrew, and I want to do well with this. Fellow students who have already been through Hebrew advise me that there is a steep learning curve with the vocabulary in the initial weeks of study. If you struggle with vocabulary, then the grammar will ultimately overwhelm you. I'm also taking Theology of Church and Ministry, and that will mean reading and writing. I want to do well in that class, too. It will mean that Bavinck and Osborne may not even be completed by the end of the year. But my homework will and my papers will be given the attention they deserve.

Not every woman wants to attend seminary, but there are those who would like to but are unable. I have the desire and the opportunity. I don't want to waste it by letting the superfluous distract me. Even if it is Bavinck.


What the profs suggest works

I'm not bragging. Really. I have so far to go when it comes to reading and correctly understanding the Greek New Testament. But I have made progress. And that is exciting.

My Greek prof, Dr. Baxter, encouraged us with some wisdom he learned from Dr. Scot McKnight, and that is to read the Greek NT for seven minutes a day in order to keep our Greek. I took that advice to heart, and since I finished Greek Exegesis at the end of Decemver 2018, I have been spending regular time in the Greek NT, depending on my schedule. Last semester, with my Pentateuch and Aplogetics classes, the time wasn't there, but since the end of April, I've had more time.

I have worked daily on translating I John. Some days, I have missed, of course. But generally, what I've been doing is taking one verse, breaking it down into its phrases, and translating it. I copy the Greek text in a notebook and then I translate. I also purchased Martin Culy's exegetical commentary, which spends time discussing grammatical issues. It has been so hepful.

I recently started reading Matthew in the Greek NT, along with Grant Osborne's commentary. I have the Greek NT in Logos, so I can hover over unfamilar words. I have surprised myself by being able to manage quite well without looking things up.

Of course, I John and Matthew are among the easier books. But we all start slowly and build. When I start Hebrew in September, all of this progress may slow down a bit, but I've built a habit over these months, and I hope to continue having the Greek NT as part of my regular Bible reading.

Professors make suggestions to help, and more often than not, they work. Especially if they've tried them out themselves.


There's more than one way to skin a cat

I love that phrase. I tend to be a problem solver, so this has always appealed to me.

I was thinking about all of the furor in the Christian blog world over the matter of the Southern Baptist Convention and women preaching. It would be very easy to get caught up that, but I'm trying to stay focused on what is pertinent to me. That simply is not. I'm not part of the SBC, and do not anticipate it ever being so.

I have been thinking a lot about my schooling and its eventual conclusion. It won't be this academic year, and likely not next. I have certain core courses I need to finish, and I only take 2 per semester. I want to enjoy this time; I'm in no hurry. But I still think. I'm more than half completed my MDiv.

One of my oldest and dearest friends and I had tea last week. We have shared many things together: raising daughters, raising sons, homeschooling, teaching the Bible, children who walk away from the Church, and one of the most profound experiences, anxiety. We were discussing the fact that in our local church, there was a need to have more female biblical counselors. There are women who do not want to open up to their pastor, and not every pastor's wife wants to or is equipped to counsel (that may come as a shock to some, but I have it on authority from a pastor's wife that they aren't all built the same).

When I hear that a fellow Christian is suffering with anxiety, I immediately feel sympathy. I know that feeling. I know that helpless feeling; the shame; the paralysis. I try to encourage anyone who asks for help. It's quite co-incidental that there is a certificate program at my school for biblical counseling. It would mean an extra academic year in addition to meeting the requirements of my MDiv. But it is an opportunity to take Scripture and apply it to the lives of others. Is that not what women who want to preach seek to do?

I have no aspirations to be a lead pastor. I can't imagine the pressure. The reality of being scrutizined every Sunday and have my personal life under a microscope. Aside from what I think about what the Bible says on the matter -- and in all honesty, I've never really sat down and examined both sides -- it is not for someone like me. 

But counseling is a way of preaching. No, there isn't an expectant congregation, but counseling is definitely where the rubber meets the road. How does one take the Scripture and apply it to those who are hurting? Struggling? Confused? Pastoring is not all about being in leadership. It's about shepherding, guding. Women do that all the time. Counselling is pastoring even if it doesn't involve church office.

This is something that I'm thinking about lately.


The best tip I've had for how to engage in debate

One of the best profs I've had at school thus far is a 70+ gentleman who is also one of the more progressive profs. He's an Emeritus, but he does still teach part time. I'm thrilled to be able to sit under his teaching this fall when I take Theology of Church and Ministry. He was also my Systematic Theology prof. I watched him for two semesters engage in respectful discussion with others. I watched him listen patiently, consider the question, and respond constructively. He is not the type of personto shun another Christian because that individual doesn't agree with him on every point. I learned a lot from simply watching.

By far the best tip I've ever had regarding debate, however, comes from my husband, and the tip is this: stop debating. Or in other terms: if you think the other guy is wrong, let him be wrong.

Being insistent on pushing our (perceived) right to be correct, we can easily become proud and arrogant. We mistakenly think we can change people. We can't. Or we want to be the one who says "that thing" that will alter a person's future. When it comes to the spiritual life of another person, we should want the best for them so much that we don't care if we're the person who changes their thinking. Changing one's thinking takes time; years, perhaps. I've wrestled through things for years (and I'm still wrestling with others) before being convinced one way or another. After we've had our say (respectfully, of course) if it seems like we're not getting anywhere, there comes a point when we must simply look for another alternative: to put it crassly, we should just shut up.


What do women lose in seminary?

When I first began to contemplate seminary, a well-meaning women suggested to me that it would be dangerous for me to put myself under the authority of professors rather than my husband. I did not point out to her that I basically did that every Sunday when my pastor preached. But I understood her concern. I dismissed them, but I understood them, and I knew she only raised the question because she cared about me.

I was having a conversation with a friend about some of the things I was learning, and it really troubled her that in one of my classes, we discussed the ending of Mark. To her, the fact that it is in her New King James Bible means it is meant to be there. It also bothered her a great deal to know that professors I have don't believe in the rapture. It was shocking to her that an evangelical could possibly not believe it. I didn't have the heart to tell her that in the last year, I have had conversations with at least four young men (under 35) who have put aside their dispensational roots and begun to ask questions.

I have had at least one older woman tell me that I don't need to know Greek and Hebrew, and that by discussing things too deeply, I could lose my faith. I need a "simple faith."

There is something that I have lost since beginning seminary, and it isn't my faith. I am more sure of my need for Christ than ever. I am more certain that he is the author of my salvation; that I am powerless on my own. I am more amazed than ever about what it really means to believe in a God who created me and this world. But I have lost one thing: my fear of asking questions.

When I moved here to southern Ontario in 1996, I wanted very desperately to fit in; to have a community of support. I had left my family behind and put myself in a place where I had to start over again, building relationships. There was a particular view of womanhood in my church. The thought of a woman getting up on the platform to make an announcement was an anathema, never mind a woman song leader. When I became a Bible study leader with Precept Ministries, my pastor asked me if I was aware that Kay Arthur taught men, and did I want to put myself there?

Homeschooling, Growing Kids God's Way, courtship; all of it. I accepted it without question. And a lot of it blew up in my face when my children began to question what I had been too afraid to ask. I was more concerned about fitting in. And of course, all these years, I have never felt like I fit in unless I was conforming to whatever group I had aligned myself with. It even happened when I began blogging.

I'm tired of working to fit in with other people. When I think back to the woman I was in 1996, I realize I have re-made myself into something that isn't entirely me. While I have grown and matured (thankfully), and put aside some things which needed to be discarded, I had begun to fear asking questions, and I was careful where I asked them. 

It is fear that keeps us from asking questions. We fear that we are wrong in our core belief systems. We are afraid that our faith isn't strong enough. We are afraid to seem vulnerable or dependent. But the reality is that we are dependent. We are weak. We are limited.

This past semester, I had a class in the Pentateuch. The prof is wonderful. He is sharp, articulate, passionate, encouraging, and a very conservative complementarian. I asked him a question about the meaning of the words in Genesis 3:16, that verse that supposedly tells me I want to control my husband. There was a bit of awkwardness at first, but he answered it, and we moved on. I drove home agonizing over even asking it. He was going to think I was crazy or apostate. But it was okay in the end. Having the space to ask questions is a huge relief.

So, no seminary won't make me lose my faith. If I can lose it, did I ever have it? When people ask me that question, do they know what they mean? Maybe they should ask themselves.