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Entries in Seminary Notes (118)


An exercise in disagreement

I'm working on the next assignment for my seminary class. I have to do a reading report, based on the required text, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, edited by Greg Beale and D.A. Carson. We have a number of readings from this tome (1280 pages). It's not a read from cover to cover book; it's a reference. Part of the assignment is this:

a brief (1 paragraph) critique of one of the readings, discussing their own view in contrast to that of the authors in Beale & Carson 

This is one of those situations when I want to laugh out loud. Disagree with D.A. Carson or Greg Beale? Or Moises Silva who comments on Galatians and Philippians? Or Craig Blomgberg on Matthew? Or Andreas Köstenberger on John? I want to say, "Yeah, right." These are scholars who have spent years on their subject material. I'm just a newbie seminary student. 

I know why this assignment is being given: the study of the OT in the NT is complex, and there are different approaches. So far, I have read three analyses of the use of Hosea 11:1 in Matthew 2:15 (Hosea 11 is not about the Messiah, so what's the deal?), and I could see valid points in all three. The prof wants us to see all sides of an argument, and constructing an opposing view is a way to teach that. 

It has been good for me to read contrary views. I have had to do it a fair bit since I started seminary. Even in writing my papers, I have had instances where I did not agree with the prof. When I wrote my paper on Ruth 3:6-13, I got the best mark I've earned so far, and the prof said it was an excellent paper. However, he didn't agree with me that there was nothing amiss going on when Ruth lay at Boaz's feet. He thinks Boaz was drunk. I didn't. That's one thing I like about my school: the profs are open to opposing views as long as we have studied carefully and can provide Scriptural reasons for our views.

In my first year of university, I had a sociology professor with whom I had huge disagreements. Contrary to his thesis, I did not think that the masses followed Jesus because he was a "charismatic" leader. However, I understood his reasoning. He told the class that we had experienced "true learning" if we could disagree with him and still understand his view. I've never forgotten that, and I continue to desire to understand where people are coming from.

It seems short-sighted to dismiss someone without even hearing him/her out. It is short changing myself to read within a narrow circumference. Often, the reason we are hesitant to widen that circle is our own fear. For example, looking back, over the years my disagreement with egalitarian views came not from an honest examination of them, but because in my mind, I had to embrace a prescribed set of views in order to fit in with a particular Christian group. I didn't want to seem rebellious or contentious, so I basically accepted things because it was easier. Lately, I've been examining the matters more closely to satisfy myself regarding why I believe what I do. And yes, listening to the other side, being willing to a listen to a contrary view, is part of that. I know I won't turn into a pumpkin by reading an egalitarian. Knowing what, exactly, I disagree with can only be helpful in the process of sorting through things. Learning is not about having our presuppositions confirmed, although it may include that. It's about thinking and growing in what we learn. And I am learning slowly but surely.


Seminary: you find out who your friends are

I write a fair bit about seminary these days. I love it. I want to share my joy. Some people write about politics, pop culture, sports, or their die-hard commitment to essential oils. We tend to write about that which we are passionate.

What happens if what one is passionate about seems to rankle others?

I'm aware that some look at my seminary education as allowing another man to have spiritual authority over me. I'm aware that some people think that I'm getting "above myself."

I don't normally use pop culture or television references in my writing (I'm branching out, here, folks, to try writing about pop culture), but there is a story line in the early seasons of Downtown Abbey that finds a housemaid named Gwen wanting to move up in the world to become a secretary. She secretly takes a secretarial course through the mail, and has to hide her cumbesome manual typewriter to practice without being caught. The reason she does this is she knows people will not understand. Of course she is found out, and her efforts are met with disdain. The other staff thinks she is getting above herself by wanting to move from her place in the world. In those days, in that culture, people accepted that this was where they were. They worked at the same job for their entire lives.

I have had people imply that as a woman, and a layperson, I am engaging in something that is not in my proper sphere, i.e., the home. I find it perplexing that the same people who would support a woman in political office (a line of work that must certainly mean a woman is not home a lot) disparage the idea of a woman getting a theological education.

I could do what the housemaid does, and be silent, and no one would be the wiser. I have actually had times when I have done just that: I have had something exciting come up with my studies, and wanted to share, and then decided not to. I talk too much already, and I'm trying to stop that.

It has surprised me over the past year when people I assumed would be supportive reveal that they are not. I have friends who liked me a whole lot better when I was not a student. Perhaps I am coming across like I know everything. If that's the case, right now, here on the internet (the source of all that is real and true) I confess:

I know I don't know everything, but I'm so excited I want to share.

I have had friends distance themselves from me since I began school. Getting a theological education is a bad thing, apparently. Learning how to understand the Bible better is something to be wary of. I have heard some people say (men, mostly) that giving a woman a seminary education is like giving her a loaded gun and telling her not to use it,  i.e., she can't be a pastor, so why get the education in the first place? I reject that idea, and not just because I live in Canada, and the idea of my having a gun is ludicrous.

I am so thankful for people who support my education, and see the growth of my understanding, and my pursuit of knowledge as something good. My husband, especially, is a great support. My closest friends are very supportive, and are following along with me, cheering me on. You can't satisfy everyone, but the people in my life who are the most important to me are the most supportive. 

I have no qualms about what I am doing. I stayed home with my children. I educated them, raised them, and was here for them (and still am). Now that I have time on my hands (and no grandchildren yet) I see getting a seminary education as a good thing. If that means I am no longer in the "right" crowd, then I will accept it. I love where I am right now. I get to sit among others who are just as eager as I am, and we talk about the Bible; sometimes from 9:00 to 4:00. Who wouldn't want to do that?


When you have to show your cards

I'm in the midst of writing a paper, due on Friday. It's a review of the book Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. As an aside, let me just say that the books in the "Counterpoints" series, from which this book comes, are excellent. I have read a few, and they are really well done.

My responsibility in this assignment is to summarize each of the three views, by Walter Kaiser, Darrell Bock, and Peter Enns. After summarizing those views, I have to state my own views, with attention to these issues:

  1. The use of Sensus Plenior as an appropriate way of explaining the NT use of the OT

  2. The best way to understand typology

  3. Whether NT writers take account of the context of OT passages

  4. Whether NT authorsuse of contemporaneous Jewish exegetical methods explains the NT use of the OT

  5. Whether 21st century Christians can replicate the hermeneutical and exegetical methods used by the NT authors. 

Considering that each author has expressed his views clearly, given good Scriptural examples, and been rebutted by the other authors, a reader should have an idea where she will land on the matter. I know where my views are, but coming out with a position with the appropriate amount of Scriptural support and careful thought it always a bit daunting. I have done my reading, including some extra research, and I have come to some conclusions, but it's always hard to articulate things well.

In class, there was a moment when our prof asked us, "Do you think we should use the same interpretive methods as the NT authors?" There was silence. No one wanted to brave an opinion right away. Of course, the two gents who tended to dominate the discussion eventually spoke up. I, however, did not, but when asked, I said, "Do we have to use their methods?" i.e., is it necessary in order to gain meaning. My prof said it was a good point.

It's always a scary process to lay out what we think. When reading the book, I was able to agree on various points from all three authors (yes, despite the controversy surrounding Enns, I did agree with him on some points). It is so easy to just agree with what sounds best without a thorough examination of things. This is about more than endorsing one view; it's about coming to my own conclusions, and most of the time, I feel woefully inept at such things. 

Today is a holiday here in Canada, and soon, we're off to enjoy some family time. Starting tomorrow, though, it's time to get busy. I want to do well, and on my last assignment, the prof noted that he wanted to hear more of my own views, so it's time to stop being timid. He's not there to evaluate me as a colleague; I'm his student, and if I am not as smart as Kaiser, Bock, and Enns, he'll understand.


Seminary will make you question years of blogging

A blog is not a serious thing for the most part. I mean, people like me can have blogs. The blog world is full of people who write daily about things which they know little about. In some circles, to say you have a blog evokes disdain, as if you have a bad rash. Be that as it may, for the past almost twelve years, I have had a blog where I have used the space to articulate things I am processing in my own mind. 

There have been times when I really thought I understood things, but the past year in seminary has shown me just how much I have to learn. I'm sure if I went through the archives of this blog, I could delete much of it because I didn't fully understand the matters. I won't though. If we all waited to utter a word until we had perfect understanding, there would be nothing to read. We'd be in our glorified bodies, and we wouldn't care about blogs.

I'm in the middle of a course on the New Testament use of the Old Testament. Who knew it was so complicated? Of course, I assumed that, or why else would there be a course on it? Why else would one of the required readings be Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament? Why else would there be a huge array of resources on the matter to the point where yesterday in the library I uttered aloud (thankfully, it's the spring semester, and the library was fairly empty), "I can't read these all." I had one of those kind of overwhelmed feelings.

But overwhelmed is a good thing sometimes. It keeps me desiring to know more. I love the fact that I can't know it all right now. It's sobering to know that I have written on subjects about which I had insufficient knowledge. It's making me more cautious, although I'm sure I'm not cautious enough yet. My goal when I take my class on Augustine in September that I will say very little and listen more.

The thing I love most about seminary is that it is like drinking deeply and then coming up for air. Sometimes, I stay up for a while, and others, I just can't wait to get back into it. Slogging my way through this three views book sort of felt like that until I got to Darrell Bock's contribution. Another thing about seminary is that by having to read many scholars, one begins to see quite clearly the difference between good communication and not so good. When complex principles are made easy to grasp, you know the guy's a winner.

I won't waste my time agonizing over past bad blogging. Goodness knows, there are people who are well respected bloggers who contribute bad blogging themselves, so I'm in good company. What I hope to do is to keep on learning, keep on processing, and keep on finding ways to articulate what I'm learning. Studying Scripture, learning about God, and all that great stuff does what my good friend Becky said: it makes my heart sing.

And now that I've had some air, it's time to get back to it.


Eating lunch with ten men

In 2012, I went to the Together For the Gospel conference with my husband. When I got back, I blogged about a week in a man's world. I had another one of those last week.

When the spring class schedule came out, I eagerly registered for the course "The Old Testament in the New Testament." After having finished hermeneutics, this seemed like a very good follow-up. A bonus: the prof is one I've had before, and I really like his teaching. He's also my academic advisor, and just a really nice guy. The class was run last week, every day from 9:00-4:00, thus compressing all of the class hours into five days. It was a spring course, so I anticipated that it wouldn't be a big class. I really didn't expect to be the only woman in the class. Perhaps I should have, but I didn't. 

I sat at the back of the room and watched as the other nine students arrived, and none of them was a she. There was a mix of ages, from the two 60+ gentlemen at the front to the 22 year old theology prodigy who sat directly in front of me. And then there was me. 

They were all very nice, of course. I started talking to a 30-something fellow who mentioned reading Berkhof. After that, it was like finding a kindred spirit of sorts. We chatted about B.B. Warfield, our thoughts on dispensationalism, and the joys of the reading the Puritans. On the last day, he told me that he and his wife had found an OPC plant to attend. 

Yes, they were all very nice. We all went for lunch together on the last day. While I was eating my lunch, my husband texted me to say he was having lunch with our son. I texted back: "I'm having lunch with ten men."

While there was a lot of learning going on, and everyone was very nice, there were times when I could see that there is a certain comeraderie that exists among young men who are all going in a similar direction. Most of these young men have ministry in mind. Some of them have already been in a pastoral role. They had similar experiences to share with one another, and they all see similar paths ahead of them. While I, too, have a path of serving the Lord ahead of me, it's not exactly the same. While we had things to talk about, it's not the same as having another woman in the class. And let's face it; to the young men, I'm more like a mom. And that's understandable. They were polite. They were respectful. The theology prodigy held the door for me when we went into the restaurant.

We need more women in seminary. Women are attending higher education in huge numbers. I think I read somewhere that there are more women in the law and medical schools than there are men. If women are pursuing higher education, why are they not in greater numbers in seminary?  Is it because there is more possibility for a career in another field? 

If I thought telling others than I am going to seminary was amusing or awkward, telling them that I'm taking Hebrew in September is even funnier. Usually, the response is, "You mean, like the book of Hebrews?" What was really nice is when I told the 30-something Puritan lover I was taking Hebrew in September, he was encouraging, and said, "You'll have a lot of fun."  Now, if I told someone I was in seminary for counselling, there would be less surprise. It seems more natural for women to want to counsel than study theology. I, however, ought never to counsel anyone.

All in all, it was a great week, occasional awkwardness aside (especially when we had to find a partner to do an assignment). My mind was full, and my resolve to do well spurred on even more. The weeks ahead are going to be filled with a lot of hard work. But I love it, and as I said to my friend on Saturday, I feel like I'm right where I'm supposed to be.