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Entries in Seminary Notes (100)


Warrior God

This week at school, we looked at the song of Moses in Exodus 15. It follows the spectacular deliverance of the Israelites in Exodus 14. After being successfully delivered from the hand of the Egyptians, the people are thankful for their salvation. In His lovingkindness, God led his people whom he had redeemed (15:13). Yet, God is more than a loving redeemer; he is a warrior.

“The LORD is a warrior,” the narrator says (v.3), and goes on to use warrior-like language. God “shatters” the enemy (v.6); he “overthrows” those who rise up against him (v.7); he sends forth “burning anger (v.7). God is a loving redeemer, but he is also a warrior.

This is often not a popular picture of God. War and violence stir up feelings of discomfort in many. Opponents of Christianity (and even some Christians) are uncomfortable with this picture of God. It seems in such contradiction to a loving God.

Yet God is holy. And holiness is about more than warm fuzzies. Whether we feel comfotable or not, we have to confront these difficult passages. If we believe in the veracity of the passages which speak of our salvation, should we not look at the hard parts in the same way?

The beauty of this song, however, is that God is our warrior. We can be confident in his deliverance, in his presence in our lives. We live in a world of wars and rumours of wars. God is our warrior, and we need not be afraid. 


Ask hard questions

I went to school on Saturday. It was a long day. From 9-4, we covered quite a lot of material. Much of it focused on the requirements in the syllabus, but after lunch, we talked about the cultural environment of the Old Testament.

One of the interesting things that came up was the account of the Akkadian king, Sargon. Sargon, as an infant, was put in a basket and sent along the river, and eventually adopted by Akki, who raised him as his own son. After reading this account, our prof asked us what this reminded us of, and then emphasized the story of Sagon was before the account of Moses. He asked us what we thought of that, and how we could reconcile this. He opened up the discussion, but it being the first day, I think most of us were a little hesitant. 

This is one of the reasons I wanted to attend seminary: to ponder hard questions. There are times when it is helpful to do so in a community. My prof reminded us that we are in grad school, and that critical thinking skills are required, not just regurgitation of facts. That will challenge me. I tend to answer too quickly, without enough thought. I hope to improve in that area.


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.


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.


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.