Whoa! As of this week one quarter of seminary is completed. It’s been a unique experience thus far – one I am still in disbelief I get the privilege to have. So few people get the opportunity to study in this capacity and in this environment. What a blessing. Here are a few reflections/lessons from the past few months:
My classmates remind me that I’m not that smart
It’s kind of intimidating being around so many brilliant and motivated people. Within the first few hours of interaction with other students I quickly realized that my peers are incredible people. Many will go on to write books, create ministries, and plant churches. It’s fun to think about where the person sitting next to me in Patristic Theology will be in 5, 10, 40 years, and what kind of legacy they will leave. So many people passionate about the kingdom – what a privilege!
Theology is fun…
I know that sounds crazy to write, but it’s true. Reading, discussing, and writing about how people have experienced God through the ages brings a level of perspective and humility to our understanding of the divine. On one hand I’ve realized that the more think we know about God, the less we actually do, while on the other hand, I’ve been blown away by the common thread within Christianity of God making himself known to us. Even though Christians are separated by culture, geography, and time we’ve still come to the same realization that this Jesus guy is pretty important. It’s amazing that over thousands of years we still love him for the same reasons that the early church did.
Academics are hard
I’ve never been the best student. I mean, I can get the job done and earn a good grade, but I’ve always had trouble with my study habits when it comes to school. Because of this, Seminary has already been extremely challenging. Learning ancient Greek and reading two or three-thousand year old books is not easy. I’ve got a stack of a few hundred flash cards on my desk that remind me of my daily burden to remember a seemingly endless list of names, words, and concepts. A few times over the quarter I’ve felt discouraged, and in over my head. It’s at those times that this passage and my wife have been encouragements.
Because I don’t come from a super churchy background this came as a surprise to me. Within the realm of seminaries there are some that say Fuller is too conservative, and some that say it’s too liberal. More often than not it gets painted as the liberal seminary for a few reasons. First, Fuller seeks to critically examine the scriptures in context. This means that tradition with regards to who wrote certain books may prove to be historically inaccurate, and if that’s really important to you, it could seem threatening. Second, Fuller seeks to have conversations with differing perspectives both within the church and outside of it. For some this is seen as condoning beliefs or views that may be outside of familiarity. As crazy as it sounds, some churches or organizations won’t hire Fuller grads because they aren’t comfortable with a person who critically examined their faith and scripture in light of outside opinions. They’d rather have some one who can just recite denominational jargon. To me, there is no alternative to the practice of listening to different perspectives and understanding where our beliefs actually came from. While some people who begin to investigate the origins of their faith end up loosing it because they realize that it’s not always simple, black and white, or as warm and fuzzy as they heard in Sunday school, this process for me has only strengthened my conviction that Christianity is true, even amidst it’s flaws.
It could become a bubble…
Just like any academic institution, community, club, or sub-culture- grad school could potentially become overly introverted in it’s focus. For a seminary, an ivory-tower mentality would be nothing short of a tragedy as the purpose of what is taught and learned should not be to just have a conversation with ourselves, but to engage the whole world in God’s salvation, reconciliation, love, and grace. In my first quarter at Seminary I’ve already noticed the pattern in others and the temptation in myself to just hang out with other students out of convenience and familiarity and overlook the needs of those outside of our bubble.
I don’t deserve it
When I think about what an incredible opportunity seminary is I’m both humbled and terrified. So few in history have had the means and privilege of studying theology formally. In a way if feels like I’ve been given a huge investment and I’ve got to steward it as wisely as I can. It reminds me of this story. In general, we Americans are unbelievably blessed. All too often I think we miss the point of using our blessing to impact others. For me, the seminary experience is a constant reminder that I have been given so much and I hope I can use it for good.
Beginning to dream about what’s next
I can’t wait to see where this season will lead my wife and I, and what God has for us next. It feels like I’m one of those wind up toys that gets wound up and then eventually released. So far, seminary feels like a season of being wound up. One of the most exciting dreams Alie and I have been thinking/praying/talking about is the possibility of beginning a new faith community in the Bay Area. The possibility of planting a church that reaches people with the gospel in the Bay is probably the thing I day dream about the most (besides Alie), and if it’s what God has for us, than we would be unbelievable privileged to be a part of it.