Gordon-Conwell Blog

The Seven Year M.Div.: Two Reflections on the Seminary Experience

February 08, 2012

Brian

Author’s Note: Journeys are strange. You hardly ever end up where you thought you would, and you definitely never get there in the manner that you conceived. That has been as true for me as it was for Jonah the morning he woke up to take a leisurely cruise to Tarshish. Over the next few weeks I will be writing a series of blog posts exploring how I came to and through seminary. It’s a strange tale with no straight lines. But it’s my story, and it is the path that the Lord has led our family down. It’s not idyllic. I hope that encourages you. Also, in case you just joined the conversation, Part 1 can be found here; Part 2 can be found here; Part 3 can be found here; Part 4 can be found here; Part 5 can be found here; Part 6 can be found here. Part 7 can be found here; Part 8 can be found here; Part 9 can be found here.

Non intratur in veritatem, nisi per caritatem.
-Augustine of Hippo, Contra Faustum 41, 32, 18

In May 2010 I finally finished a seven-year journey towards a master’s degree. If you have been reading along, you know that the path was much different than I had expected. I learned a lot, but not everything. I read a lot, but not everything. And it drew me closer to God, but did not answer all of my questions.

[I want to confess something at this point. I re-wrote this post three different times. Why? Because it seems like it should be a significant piece since it is the terminus of the series. And such posts usually involve a reflection by the author about their experience. And such reflections, like a Twitter account, usually assume that people care to hear your thoughts. Then I realized that I already have a Twitter account, so here you go.]

If two imagined friends, one considering seminary and one already halfway through his/her degree, sat me down one day and asked for my perspective on the process after finishing, I would sum everything up in two thoughts.

First, do it.

If you have a desire to study God and his people – for that is pretty much what we do in seminary – indulge it. The process may become disconcerting or arduous at times, but it is worth it. If I had not gone, my curiosity would have continued to eat away at me. I suspect that there are others out there who are in similar situations. So, go. And when you’re in the middle of the process, if you can, stay and finish. The evangelical movement in the world needs many things today, and one of the most vital necessities is theological training. We are great at loving God with our hearts, but if our minds are not also engaged we are creating a false dichotomy within ourselves. So, if you can, go.

Second, however, realize that the seminary experience will be hard on your faith in at least two ways. First, your mind and heart are tied together. What affects one also affects the other. In the course of your studies you will be forced to ask questions that others have the luxury of avoiding. And, most of the answers to those questions will involve slight, if not major, shifts in your belief and practice. This can unsettling, but good guides who have been there before are helpful to lean on whenever you grow weary on such paths as textual criticism, Trinitarian doctrine, and diagramming the Greek text of Ephesians. Yet, the pressure on your faith is not only due to these profound shifts. It is also due to the fact that seminary is not the Church. To study and to submit to God are two entirely different things. One involves observation and analysis, and the other involves participation, service, and worship. Like quarreling siblings you will want to separate those two from each other, but do not do it. You need to fully engage both, to love God with your heart and mind, and to let the siblings influence one another.

There is a lot more to be said, but I think this is a good place to stop. Want to go to seminary? You should. Are you in seminary? Remember to fully engage your heart and mind, although the road may seem daunting. And, finally, don’t give up. By God’s grace I was able to hang on for seven years - through two presidents, the birth of two of our children, my wife’s return to school, my wife’s completion of her second degree, a job change, and a move across the country. You can do it, too. Just remember to engage your heart and your mind along the way.

Non intratur in veritatem, nisi per caritatem.
“One cannot enter into truth, unless through love.”
-Augustine of Hippo, Contra Faustum 41, 32, 18

Brian has an M.Div. (2010) from Gordon-Conwell’s Charlotte campus, a Th.M. (2011) in Historical Theology from the South Hamilton campus, and is currently strengthening his language skills while in the MACH program. He hopes to matriculate into a doctoral program in August 2012 that will allow him to continue in his study of the thought of Augustine of Hippo. He has a wonderful wife, three great children, and spent ten years in ministry to teenagers, primarily with Young Life International.

Tags: Author: Brian , current students , equipping leaders for the church and society , future students , student blogger , thoughtfully evangelical , training

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Congrats on your degree. I once was in the seminary too. But I dropped out after two years of theology, found other passions. I am always happy to hear that someone else made it through. Congrats. P.s. in some way I feel like I got that degree too. Anyways, from Galveston. Thanks.
Steve 7:02AM 07/27/12
Thank you for sharing your story. I am in the middle of the Orientation Packet for the Online MAR Degree.
Tammy C 6:43PM 03/03/12
Truly inspiring, it's always great to see people finding themselves in this wonderful world of ours. Wish you all the best! Jason
Distance learning courses 4:38PM 02/26/12
Kathy: Glad to hear that your experience has been so rewarding. Hang in there - even though it may take awhile to finish, it is worth it.
Brian 4:37PM 02/24/12
Brian, Thank you for sharing about your journey. I am in my second year at Charlotte GCTS and loving every minute of it. I am like a sponge soaking in the readings and teachings. It seems the more I learn, the more I realize I did not know. It is refreshing and rewarding. It is encouraging to know that it tooki you a few years - it may take me a few years. I feel blessed - I am sure God will show me the final path well before 40 years passes! Congratulations to you!
Kathy Pryor 5:15PM 02/22/12

Full-Tuition Scholarship at Gordon-Conwell

January 04, 2012

Gordon-Conwell recently announced the new Partnership Program, which provides a full-tuition scholarship and biblical stewardship training. Take a moment to watch the video below to hear some of our Partnership students share their thoughts and experiences with this program.

Tags: current students , equipping leaders for the church and society , future students , training

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I was wondering if Gordon-Conwelll offers a full-tuition scholarship for students. I agree with you Daniel that everyone should apply for these scholarship as it is a great opportunity for all students. Thanks for this great info.
SAP Fico Training 4:23AM 01/31/12
Thanks for this great resources. The first place that many people will look when searching for information about how to get a college scholarship.this is a great resource that Everyone should take advantage. Whether you are a high school student who is still deciding what they want to be when they grow up or an adult that wants to make a lifestyle change and finally start working towards a college degree, one of the best things you can do is apply for student scholarships to pay for college. By taking some time to find out about scholarships and if they are the right choice for you, you can potentially save yourself a large chunk of money and get an education as well.
Daniel 6:11AM 01/11/12

Greek and Hebrew at a Theological Seminary

December 02, 2011

Brian

Author’s Note: Journeys are strange. You hardly ever end up where you thought you would, and you definitely never get there in the manner that you conceived. That has been as true for me as it was for Jonah the morning he woke up to take a leisurely cruise to Tarshish. Over the next few weeks I will be writing a series of blog posts exploring how I came to and through seminary. It’s a strange tale with no straight lines. But it’s my story, and it is the path that the Lord has led our family down. It’s not idyllic. I hope that encourages you. Also, in case you just joined the conversation, Part 1 can be found here; Part 2 can be found here; Part 3 can be found here; Part 4 can be found here.

If you are going to receive an M.Div. at Gordon-Conwell, you have to take at least two semesters each of both Greek and Hebrew. This sounds daunting, but it shouldn't. The professors are fantastic and, if you are willing to put in the work, they will do everything that they can to meet you halfway.

But you must put in the work. That’s the key to languages. Unlike any other type of course that you may ever take in your life, there is no shortcut – it’s just time and effort. Like Alanis Morissette once asserted at the peak of her wisdom: “The only way out is through” (Cue a whiney and angry singing voice that we all somehow feel understands us. Go ahead, sing your favorite pre-“I’m-trying-to-be-cute-now” Alanis song. It will make your Monday morning better. And while we’re at it – shouldn’t Alanis sue Avril Lavigne for stealing her career path? Really, Avril? From dating a Sk8er Boi to the cover of Cosmo? Really?).

So, if you ever decide to go to seminary, Alanis and I should have now properly prepared you for the fact that your language courses are going to take a long time. But you know what? It’s worth it. It’s worth every last minute. Why? Three reasons.

First, if you don’t know any other foreign languages it is a great help to learn that ideas and objects are not fettered to one mode of expression. I think that C.S. Lewis said this well when he stated in Surprised by Joy: “The very formula, ‘Naus [Greek] means a ship,’ is wrong. Naus and ship both mean a thing, they do not mean one another. Behind naus, as behind navis or naca, we want to have a picture of a dark, slender mass with sail or oars, climbing the ridges, with no officious English word intruding.” It is an exceptional help to your study and your life to understand that concepts can be expressed in different ways (perhaps this variety of expression is one reason that we were given four Gospels).

Second, learning a language will teach you that your brain is smarter than you think (Unless you are the type of person who would have fit in well at Lewis’ fictitious Experiment House. Then, your brain is probably not quite as smart as you think). In Augustine’s Confessions, the great Patristic thinker writes with amazement at how, as a child, he learned something as complex as the Latin language by simply observing those around him and slowly putting everything together. Studying Greek and Hebrew will teach you that you’re brain is capable of the very same.

Third, and finally, learning Greek and Hebrew is worth it because there is truly nothing like reading the Scriptures in their original language. A few weeks ago I was at a men’s retreat with a bunch of great guys from our church. Dr. Gordon Isaac was leading the retreat, and we were sent off into small groups to discuss The Lord’s Prayer. In the midst of a good discussion we quickly realized that we did not know what the phrase “hallowed be your name” meant. I thought it was a passive adjective – Jesus simply stating that God’s name is holy. Others thought it was a passive verb. So, we pulled out the Greek and found out that it was an imperative passive verb, ἁγιασθήτω (Yes, I was wrong. I suppose it happens to everyone at least once).

What did I learn? Jesus is not stating here that God’s name is holy. Rather, he is stating that his name is to be praised (there’s a creature/Creator relationship required in his statement).

There are many great experiences that I have had at seminary, but one of the most challenging and rewarding has been the privilege of learning Greek and Hebrew. I hope that, if you haven’t already, you are also able to do the same in the near future. It is a wonderful blessing in our walk with God.

 

Brian has an M.Div. (2010) from Gordon-Conwell’s Charlotte campus, a Th.M. (2011) in Historical Theology from the South Hamilton campus, and is currently strengthening his language skills while in the MACH program. He hopes to matriculate into a doctoral program in August 2012 that will allow him to continue in his study of the thought of Augustine of Hippo. He has a wonderful wife, three great children, and spent ten years in ministry to teenagers, primarily with Young Life International.

Tags: Author: Brian , future students , training

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