Training in Righteousness
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Entries in Seminary Notes (83)

Wednesday
Sep092015

This is who I am

I was the kid who got excited about back to school sales in August. I was the kid who looked eagerly at the new textbooks. I was the teenager who, upon finding my dad's old accounting textbooks, decided to teach myself accounting. It didn't last long, though. Math and I, we don't work well together.

I love school. I loved teaching my kids because in addition to watching them learn, I got to learn, too. This is who I am. This is one of the things God gave me: a love of learning. I will be forever grateful to my husband for suggesting I leave a very good job and apply to university.

As a woman in the church, this love is not always seen as totally useful. Now, if I love to learn about nursing, there is an obvious use. The love of theology, however is often viewed as simply another accessory, easily removed. The love of other kinds of study, like literature, is seen as not useful at all. Ask my daughter, who when she shares her plans for a PhD in English with people in our church, is met with confused looks, and occassionally, a "What will you do with that?"

There are many ways to serve in the Church. We can take meals, work in the nursery, sing in a choir, put books on shelves in the library. I have done those. But I love to learn and teach, and I want to do that as well as I can. There are people in my life who think seminary is not the best use of my time. It is seen as a luxury, not something that can help me. It isn't "practical" enough; after all, I'm not going to be a pastor. Last spring, when I was in the midst of some heavy trials, it was suggested to me that going to school was adding to the stress. I could not make this individual understand that stress from school is a good stress for me. That was the least of my worries. 

I don't know where my seminary education will take me. Perhaps in the next few years, I will become a grandmother and want to quit so I can be a helpful grandma. I'll face that when it comes. I just know that learning does one thing for me that helps me the most in my Christian life: it humbles me. This week, as I was reading my textbooks, and seeing how much there is to learn about God, I was amazed. I was reminded how much I need to learn, and I think that is a step in the right direction.

God made women to be many things, and we can serve in the local church in so many ways. This is the way he made me: to learn and teach. It doesn't mean I don't take my turn in other areas, but it means that I will give myself to my studies, and through the Holy Spirit, it will change me.

Friday
Sep042015

Take your bible in big chunks

The course I am taking this semester is "Biblical Introduction." It is a survey of the entire bible, and a required course. It is a pre-requisite to the biblical studies courses, which I am eager to take. I hope to take the courses on the Penteteuch, Wisdom Literature, Psalms, and Romans.

I have to read the entire bible by December 5th. I wanted to get ahead so I started on August 17. Today, I will finish to 1 Samuel 30. It takes about an hour a day, and I read about 13-14 chapters each day. As I read, I am marking the words "holy" and "covenant."  I am taking this opportunity of reading the whole bible to see how those words are evident throughout the entire bible.

Reading in large chunks like this is very beneficial. The narratives need to be read in their entirety. It's much easier to see how the bible is a cohesive whole when it is read in this way. I have been reading and studying the bible for a long time, and I am aware of the battle stories in it, but reading Joshua and Judges in quick succession really highlighted that. Reading in large sections also makes it easier to see the key words, phrases, and themes which are so important for understanding the flow of thought.

My prof told me that this would be a kind of bible reading I was not used to. I would not have time to stop and ponder long. That will come, but this exercise is to highlight the unity of the bible. Seeing the bible as a whole helps with understanding the levels of context, which is key to interpretation.

I would not want to read the bible in this way all the time. In fact, I wouldn't necessarily want to read the bible through every year, but I think it's a very worthwhile activity. I may do it again at some point. And at an hour a day, it's not all that onerous for me at this point in my life.

Monday
Aug172015

Seminary adventures

On my shelf, I recently added two books. One is a survey of the Old Testament and the other is a survey of the New Testament. The OT survey runs about 800 pages and the NT survey about 500. That's a lot of textbook. I dont' know how much will be required reading. 

The professor who teaches this class is also my academic advisor. In conversation with him a couple of months ago, he told me that one of the things he encourages his students do over the course of the semester is to read through the whole bible. That means reading through in about 90 days. He says it won't be like other bible reading. There is no time to dwell on the text; the point is to press through the whole book in keeping with a course which is a survey course. I decided to get a jump start on this venture, and yesterday found a reading plan for 90 days. It works out to about 14 chapters a day. A friend read through the bible in 90 days, and she said it worked out to be about an hour each day. Ninety hours of reading; in addition to the other reading. I'm up for it, though.

I know from my own experience that sometimes, when we love the study, it's easy to become consumed with the process. In the context of the bible, we can become more involved with the study, and forget about what it is we are reading. I've only taken one seminary class so far, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it is easy to become lost in the study and forget all about why we're doing it. As I read through the bible alongside the course material, I am praying that the Spirit will continually remind whose word this is, and that I will gain a whole lot more than facts.

Something else I think will be important for me as a seminary student is regularly serving in my local church and being involved with other people. One of the things I have learned in the past few months is that gaining knowledge of God is meaningless if we're not going to reach out to others in love. We can't live in a vacuum no matter how much fun it is to hole oursevles up with our books. Thre great thing about service is that it doesn't have to be grand. It can be something as simple (and fun!) as working in the nursery.

Now, here's hoping I don't get too bogged down with the reading.

Wednesday
Apr222015

Lots of heart, but where's the theology?

One of the assignments I have to do is review three bible study booklets. These titles were given to us:

Nehemiah, Overcoming Challenges, Bill Hybels
God's Comfort, Jack Kuhatschek
Romans, John MacArthur

The assignment is to do the second chapter homework for the book and then evaluate the material based on the balance of observation, interpretation, correlation and applications questions. There also must be a good balance between those "heart" questions, and the the other kinds of questions. We are also to evaluate it on whether it looks like it would promote good group dynamics.

I have never heard of the second author. I know who Bill Hybels, but have never read anything by him. And, of course, I'm very familiar with MacArthur. We used his study guides when we taught teens. 

I had a look at the Hybels study guide last night. The second lesson was based on Nehemiah 4, where Nehemiah and those who are rebuilding the wall face obstacles, mostly from the ridicule and malice of Sanballat and his cronies. Nehemiah and the people persevere so much that at one point, they have tools in one hand and weapons in the other to protect the work.

The theme of this chapter is killing momentum. There are four momentum killers: ridicule, threats, fatigue and discouragement, and frontal attacks. There is one correlation to other Scripture passages, to Ephesians 6:10-18 and 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, which definitely fits in with the theme of protection from enemies. 

The lesson definitely focuses on how a person can put these principles into practice in his own life. How does this example look in my life? Who is ridiculing me, and how can I react? Where do I see attacks on what I'm doing? How can I encourage others when they are feeling tired and discouraged. Nehemiah is seen as an example of how to overcome the momentum killing that goes on in our lives. And those things are good things to know.

What is totally missing from this study is the place of this narrative in the larger picture of Scripture. Generally, application follows interpretation, and I didn't see a whole lot of that. Why is the book of Nehemiah in the bible? What does it say about God's redemptive purposes? I recognize that I have only looked at one chapter. I may go back and see what the remainders are like; there are only six in the whole book. But if this is representative of the study, then I think it's missing something. There wasn't really much about the background of the book provided in the introductory section.

In the opening pages, the study promises much in the way of developing community:

We all long to know others deeply and to be fully known by them....The first section of these six studies creates a place for deep knowing and being known. Through serious reflection on the truth of Scripture, you will be invited to communicate part of your heart and life with your small group members.

When I read that out loud to my husband, his reaction to that was, "NO!" He really is not the typt to share the most intimate recesses of his heart with a group of people in a bible study. This would not be the study for him, I suspect. What I found interesting in the introduction was the absence of a promise to know God better, or that it was even a goal. There was talk of celebrating God, but there was little in the way of talking about how the study would help one know God better.

On the upside, the Scripture was focused on in some detail, and even though I think the student should have been asked to do more than he was asked, at least there was focus on that. 

I think I'll do the MacArthur study next. It ought to provide an interesting contrast.

Monday
Apr202015

The joy of peer evaluation

This past weekend was the final class day for my seminary class on writing bible study curriculum. I have learned a fair bit, although the emphasis on training others to be bible study curriculum writers, I thought, took away from time that would be better spend on honing the skills of writing the studies themselves. 

On Saturday, we gathered with our four sets of flow questions, and broke into groups to do a dry run through them to see how they would be as a bible study. I think the idea was a good one, but the time constraints were too much. Three to four people in a group, each with four studies, and twenty minutes each? There was no way we were going to get it all done. And the studies were meant to take an hour, so they didn't actually get utilized in the way they were meant to.

When I was in school, I never liked group work much, and I didn't like it much on Saturday, because, ultimately, what happens is that someone's work doesn't get evaluated, and everything is rushed through, which is exactly what happened. I honestly did not come away with any feedback about the one study that was actually looked at for more than a few minutes.

I was in two sessions with a student whose studies were longer. I was told to ask 10-12 question, but apparently, we were allowed up to fifteen questions (something mentioned in the manual that I clearly overlooked), and this woman took advantage of that. This meant that her studies were longer. In the last session of the day, I was in a group of three. My study was the last to be examined, and after this woman's 15-16 questions, there was about eight minutes left for mine. It was rushed through, and in the end, the other student with the long studies pointed out that my application question at the end wasn't really an application question, because it didn't tell the student to do anything. I'm not even going to get into what I think about application questions, but at the end of the day, I didn't feel like the peer editing was all that fun. 

I think peer editing can be really great, but in such a large group, with such time constraints, I felt like it was not done as well as it could have been. And of course, everyone wants her study to be looked at and evaluated, and there were women who didn't seem to realize that time constraints meant we had to keep moving and not stop for dialogue. I did indeed learn from what others did, but I'm not really sure I got the most benefit from the exercise.

Probably the most frustrating part of the day was the end when we were going over the last assignment, which is a five-day homework plan for a topic. The writer of the sylllabus was not present, so it was left to the co-teacher to field our questions. It's hard to answer questions about a syllabus you haven't written. I left feeling rather confused, and faced an hour long drive home, which began badly, when I got on the highway and there was an accident, slowing down the traffic. It was my 28th wedding anniversary on Saturday, and I wanted to get home to spend tiime with my husband.

It was a day of feeling small, and I supposed we all need those days. It was meant to be a day of fellowship, and it was. We each brought something to contribute for the lunch, and that was nice. Time will tell what I have learned. It was a tiring day, and I was glad to get home.