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Entries in Seminary Notes (118)

Tuesday
Jun122018

Let your ordinary bloom

In the book Expressing Theology the reader is encouraged to write engaged theology. Engaged theology is not detached from every day life, but gives feet to our faith. Even an unbeliever can know theology in her head, but the one who seeks for theology to shape her life and change it is putting theology to work.

The sources for engaged theology are Scripture, tradition, experience, and research. Now, before someone gets nervous, by tradition the authors do not mean embracing tradition as equal with Scripture. We all observe tradition in our religious lives. The fact that a child grows up in the tradition of going to a youth group is something that will influence him. After my conversion at the age of 20, my faith grew churches which while not Baptist in name, may as well have been. The traditions which were observed there contributed to my theology.

When we write about theology, we should give voice to the ordinary:

Experience as a source for theology encompasses both our personal experiences and our experiences of the wider culture. Ordinary acts like eating, shopping, cleaning, driving, and working become realities with which to grasp the ultimate principles if we reflect on them with the help of Scripture, tradition, and research. Everything is both ordinary and extraordinary. Write about the ordinary: the extraordinary often blooms from it.

Everyone lives an ordinary life, even those with exceptional circumstances. Everyone has regular, typical, routine days. How we bring theology to bear on our everyday life is important. Being an ordinary Christian is not something we should apologize for.

Part of my developing theology comes from the resources I utilizie. Right now, attending seminary at  Heritage College and Seminary is one those resources. As I learn principles of theology through my classes, they affect how I interpret and understand my ordinary circumstances. One of the lessons I have learned at seminary is the value of community. Being with a group of students every week over a number of months means we learn together, support one another, and care about one another. That principle has reminded me of the importance of my local church and the reality that we are all learning and growing together in our faith.

To avoid writing about the ordinary is a lost opportunity to not only practice writing, but a lost opportunity to understand how the ordinary and the theoretical work together. I will continue to write about the ordinary, here on this quiet little place on the internet. Who knows when something extraordinary may start blooming?

Monday
May072018

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.

Friday
May042018

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.

Thursday
Apr262018

B.B. knows about seminaries

Last week, I saw references to a book called 15 Things Seminary Couldn't Teach Me. I have not read the book nor do I plan to, but I think I get the point, and it's a good point: there are things that pastors in a local church will not learn in seminary that they will need in the context of the local church. That is a good point, and one I agree with. I do wonder, however, if this view, taken to an extreme might lead someone to think that seminary is not worthwhile.

My Greek professor linked to an article called "15 Things Seminary Teaches Me That a Busy Pastorate Can't." My Greek professor has been a pastor, a seminarian, and now a professor. He knows all sides, so I was interested when he shared the article. I was left wondering if the whole matter is a bit of a false dichotomy. 

I can say with certainty that I have already been a beneficiary all of those 15 things that seminary can teach me. And I will never be a pastor. But I am a Christian and a servant in the Church. And that is what the issue comes down to: what is seminary for? It is for more than training pastors. It is for training servants of God. If we think of seminary as a box one must tick off in order to get a job or be taken seriously, we will not get the most benefit from it.

It was timely that shortly after reading the article, I read this quotation by B.B. Warfield, in Andy Naselli's book How to Understand and Apply the New Testament:

The entire work of the seminary deserves to be classed in the category of means of grace; and the whole routine of work done here may be made a very powerful means of grace if we will only prosecute it in a right spirit and with due regard to its religious value . . . 

Treat, I beg you, the whole work of the seminary as a unique opportunity offered you to learn about God, or rather, to put it at the height of its significance, to learn God -- to come to know him whom to know is life everlasting. If the work of the seminary shall be so prosecuted, it will prove itself to be the chief means of grace in all your lives.

Isn't that an interesting way to regard seminary? As a means of grace. It has been the means of much grace to me in these past two years, as I have been the recipient of teaching, encouragement, and growth in my own Christian life. 

Friday
Apr202018

Theological education is not just for pastors

It's all over the crying, as they say. Hopefully, there will be no crying. I have already received my mark for the last three History assignments, including the term paper, and I'm happy. I'll find out soon how I did on my Greek final. I didn't feel overwhelmed by the exam, but it wasn't something I breezed through, either. Of course, leaving the campus was both a happy and sad thing. I will miss my classes.

I continue to enjoy school so very much. I feel like I am right where I should be. I continue to learn lessons that go beyond the courses I am taking. Education interests me, and I've had a lot to think over the past couple of years.

One situation remains much in the front of my thinking. At our seminary chapel a couple of years ago, we had a visiting pastor as the speaker. I don't know what he was told about his intended audience, but it was clear to me that he did not expect women to be in the room. There were only three of us, but we were there. Everything about his message was directed to men, and specifically, for men intending to be pastors. If you were a man there getting theological training for other reasons his message was not for you. It certainly was not for me. I was surprised at this, because even though my school is conservative in the area of women in leadership, it isn't known as a "men only" institution, and I have never felt like as a woman, I'm not welcome. At our last seminary chapel this year, the speaker, the Theology prof, spoke about how to preach, and even in that context, he used words that included everyone by alluding to the reality that the Word is proclaimed in situations other than from the pulpit. 

People in leadership, especially those who teach, can benefit from training. Sunday school teachers can benefit from more than learning about classroom dynamics. We live the Word before others; learning more about it can only be a help to us. Even something like evaluating the large amounts of theological (mis)information online can be made easier if we have some training ourselves. If people can manage that on their own, by self-study, then great. But not all of us are disciplined enough. And having someone guide us whose job it is to educate is very helpful.

There was a day when the opportunity for theological training was not easily available or affordable. That is not the case today. When women tell me they "don't have time" for theological training, but invest in a lot of home renovation projects or have vacations twice a year, I don't say much in response. We will make time for those things which are most important to us. 

My school has certificate programs for general theological studies. It's ten courses long. The timing of the program is flexible; either full time or part time. We also have a certificate program specifically for women. There is a program for pastors already in the ministry to deepen their training. I'm sure my school is not the only one to offer such programs. These are great ways to be trained. And the benefit of this kind of training is accountability. Having someone else evaluate our thought (and someone who isn't our best friend) is helpful. Being exposed to theology we may not agree with is helpful. Theological education isn't about indoctrinating us into a pre-supposition; it's about teaching us to think. 

Quite simply, pursuing education is a wise thing to do:

The mind of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge (Proverbs 18:15).

There is gold, and an abudance of jewels; but the lips of knowledge are a more precious thing (Proverbs 20:5).

There are also online programs. I won't go into detail here because there are probably more than I could cover, and those sites are the best place toget information about such programs. Two sources that I am familiar with are Biblical Training and Ligionier. Online learning is great, but if you have the opportunity to be on campus, take it. Face to face accountability is great. And there is as aspect of fellowship which is really encouraging.

Ultimately, one of the best things about getting theological education is that as we grow in the things of God, we see how much there is that we don't know, and that fosters humility. Humility is one of those things we can never have enough of.