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Entries in Seminary Notes (87)

Tuesday
Mar142017

Not chicken nuggets . . . 

. . . but theology nuggets.

I love the little nuggets in my theology textbook (in passing, at 1100 pages, when I finish it next month, does it count as three books?).

From this morning's reading on the role of the church:

Worship and praise and the exaltation of God, was a common Old Testament practice, as can be seen particularly in the book of Psalms. And in the pictures of heaven in the book of Revelation and elsewhere, the people of God are represented as recognizing and declaring his greatness. In this aspect of its activity, the church centers its attention on who and what God is, not on itself. It aims at appropriately expressing God's nature, not at satisfying its own feelings.

My prof has a particular pet peeve (which I share) with bad worship lyrics, and as we discuss the topic of the church later this week, I wonder if it will pop up again.

Only when we give up our own will, self-seeking, and pride, do peace, joy, and satisfaction emerge. The same point can be made regarding the matter of self-esteem. Those who seek to build up their self-esteem directly will fail. For genuine self-esteem is a by product of exalting and esteeming God.

And with regard to the church's adaptability:

. . . long-term faithfulness to its calling, rather than short-term relevant to culture, should be the church's goal.

Monday
Mar132017

Christ and study: the best of both worlds

I think I always loved learning. Despite high school's attempts to dismantle that love, I re-discovered it in university and, especially in the years we homeschooled. It was then that I realized that this was who I was made to be: a student. My kids benefitted from homeschooling, but I think I got more out of it than they did. And since beginning seminary, I have seen again and again how this is, just as the saying goes, "how I am wired."

To combine two things, Christ and the study, is the best of both worlds. I had an all day class on Saturday. It was my ethics class, and as we discussed matters such as abortion, assisted death, divorce and remarriage, and homosexuality, I was reminded again and again how theology is made very real as we look at these matters. In the past, as I have thought about practical applications of theology, I have tended not to look beyond matters such as how to be a good wife, friend, and mother. Other issues, these complex issues, really do demand a solid theological base and a sound understanding of the Bible and hermeneutics. As I sat there on Saturday, pondering such things, I felt one of those little blissful moments where all is right with the world. This was where I was meant to be at this time.

In discussion with some fellow students about further education after our Master's, we talked a about the possibility of the MDiv Research degree. This involves concentrated, supervised study on one topic, culminating in a thesis which must be defended orally. I admit to liking that thought. Following the Fall 2017 semester, I will be eligible to apply to move to that degree, provided I have some sort of idea of a thesis to put forth. There are loads of ideas I have for such a thesis. It's one of those daunting and exciting prospects. With an MDiv Research degree, I could potentially pursue doctoral studies later. A friend and I joked that we want to be little old ladies collecting doctorates some day.

I know that many people would say, "Why don't you just study on your own if you love it so much? You don't need seminary." That is true, and for many years, that is how I learned. But seminary gives me something that I, as a life-long student desperately need: community. Seminary provides classmates and professors who share the passion of learning about Christ. They care when you get excited at what you are learning. They understand your book addiction. And there is accountability and much appreciated feedback. At one time, I found that kind of feedback through blogging, but that has changed so much in the past few years. I'm not sure social media is the venue where I want to get feedback.

I am so thankful for opportunities to learn. I suspect that even if I had not been converted to Christ, I would have loved to learn. But I am so thankful I was converted. What better to study than the God of the universe?

Thursday
Mar092017

Enter the world of original biblical languages!

Fall registration opened up at my school yesterday. It is so easy to register. We do it all online now.

This fall I am entering the world of the original biblical languages. I will be taking Greek Elements I. I had thee semester of Koine Greek when I was in university, and while I recognize much of the vocabulary, I've forgotten a lot. So, it's back to the beginning I go. I'm excited about it. Technically, for my degree, I don't need the languages. But who knows, perhaps I may move from the MTS to the MDiv, and for that, I will need the languages, three in Greek in and three in Hebrew. Under my current program, if I take all six language credits, I will use up all my electives.

I am thankful for a school which requires biblical languages for its seminary students. A number of years ago, I sat and listened to a young pastor boast about how he didn't need those antiquated biblical languages for pastoral ministry. He is certainly allowed to feel that way. For myself, even being a student who wants to get the most from a technical commentary, I can see the value in the original languages. Plus, it's just a lot of fun! I am not good at math puzzles, but I was good at Greek when I took it. It was like unraveling a puzzle of words. 

For my second course (I would love to do three, but I just don't think I have the time for three) I am torn between Church History I, The Synoptic Gospels, or The Greek Fathers. The Greek Fathers is taught by Michael Haykin, and it will be good, but it's not a required course, whereas the Church History is required and the Synoptic Gospels will fulfill a NT Bible requirement. I need to get those required courses finished.

I'm thankful to have such great choices. I probably sound like a broken record, talking about school, and how thankful I am for it. But I really am. I am really enjoying this season of my life. Many of my friends are becoming grandmothers at this phase of life. I am not there yet, but maybe I'm becoming a theologian?

Wednesday
Mar082017

A lesson learned from the disreputable

My kids liked Derek Webb's music when they were younger. I found his lyrics challenging, even if sometimes, they came across as bitter. Eventually, Webb fell from grace through unfortunate personal choices. So, I suppose saying that I still see the truth in some of his lyrics isn't politically correct in some Christian circles. Not many people will read this, so perhaps I am safe.

Webb's song, "A New Law" is one song I did like. Here is a clip to the video. The lyrics are below:

Don't teach me about politics and government
Just tell me who to vote for
Don't teach me about truth and beauty
Just label my music
Don't teach me how to live like a free man
Just give me a new law

I don't wanna know if the answers aren't easy
So just bring it down from the mountain to me
I want a new law
I want a new law
Gimme that new law

Don't teach me about moderation and liberty
I prefer a shot of grape juice
Don't teach me about loving my enemies
Don't teach me how to listen to the Spirit
Just give me a new law

What's the use in trading a law you can never keep
For one you can that cannot get you anything
Do not be afraid

When I first heard this, I saw my own tendency: to look for someone to tell me what to do. Whather it was looking to my pastor or looking to other respected Christian leaders, I was very quick to embrace the latest teaching which was popular. With social media and blogging, it was easy to find a tribe to align with, put my brain in neutral, and coast. 

I think this tendency is still pervasive. We tend to latch on to the popular because we perceive that it is more right. But we all know that popular teachers come and go, and in the end, we are left with ourselves: what do we know? What do we conclude? Have we been searching for truth or just a better place where we can get a "new law?"

Thinking things through is hard work, and yes, I believe women have often been discouraged from doing just that. Perhaps we are more at risk for simply seeking a "new law," whether it comes from our husband or a popular teacher. How many of us are like mother lions when we come to the defense of our favourite teacher? I've seen some very vitriolic exchanges between people critiquing and defending certain women teachers. There is loyalty, but at the heart of the matter is our blind loyalty because we fear that this teacher may actually be wrong?

Even as I think through these things, I wonder about the professors at my school. Am I accepting everything they teach without question? Am I simply looking to them to tell me what to think? I hope not. But it's something I should ask myself. And I need to do the hard work of thinking through things myself.

Friday
Mar032017

Do theology with humility

I don't remember exactly where, but within the tome that is my Systematic Theology textbook (albeit, an excellent tome!), a comment is made about doing theology with humility. One of the greatest lessons I have learned this past year is the need to hold knowledge with humility.

When one is in seminary, learning new things, it is often difficult to withhold one's excitement. It's a great experience to have frequent epiphanies as we learn. Why did I not see that? is a frequent question. Another question, as we discuss questionable doctrine is "how could I have believed that?" 

It's comforting to know that our understanding of doctrine and theology is a process. Sometimes, you have to believe something questionable, and see the consequences in all their misery, before you can find the patience to sit and work through things. Sometimes, when we are young Christians, we are so eager to learn that we grab on to something and hold it fiercely without asking ourselves why.

My theology professor has shared a few stories about his own developing theology as he was a student at Dallas Theological Seminary. The way he put it to me recently, he is a graduate of DTS, but he's not a "Dallas man." My hermeneutics professor, last year, shared many stories about his gradual change in various doctrines as he learned more. Both men hold their views with humility. There was no, "Man, how could I ever have believed that?" There was just gratitude for continuing to learn.

My theology prof is pretty brilliant. He thinks well on his feet. When someone in the class asks a question that leaves me wondering what they are actually asking, he seems to have figured it out right away. But there is no whiff of superiority from him. I can learn from someone like that. I don't suppose that I will ever have the level of knowledge that he does, but I don't get a feeling of inferiority being around him. The kind of people I can't learn from are those who present themselves as having attained some level of proficiency that makes them a little cut above others.

I have no idea where my seminary education will take me other than I plan to be teaching in my local church as long as they will have me. I want to be a teacher who holds her knowledge with humility. I know for sure that if older women want to minister effectively to younger women, coming across as if we know it all is not the best way to approach things. Showing others that we are still growing in our faith is a more excellent way.

Instead of thinking "how on earth could I have ever believed that?" I think a better response is, "I'm so thankful God continues to show me truth."