Category Archives: Seminary
It’s okay to pursue your dream job, but on the way, don’t make the mistake of ignoring the blessings found in your mediocre, daily grind.
A review of “The Craft of Research” by Wayne Booth, Gregory Colomb, and Joseph Williams.
4 lessons distilled from from A.G. Sertillanges’ helpful book “The Intellectual Life.”
Ever used the phrase “Already / Not Yet” to describe the timing of God’s kingdom? If so, you’re indebted to George Eldon Ladd, longtime professor at Fuller Seminary and one of the most influential evangelical scholars of the 1900’s.
Ladd broke through the sterile debates about whether the kingdom of God was a present, spiritual reality or a future, earthly reality. He popularized a view of the kingdom as having two dimensions: “already/not yet.” Ladd was also one of the first solid evangelical scholars to go outside the fundamentalist camp in order to interact with liberal scholars in the academy, men like Rudolph Bultmann.
For a biographical overview of Ladd’s life and work, I suggest A Place at the Table: George Eldon Ladd and the Rehabilitation of Evangelical Scholarship in America. See my review of this book here:
A Place at the Table is much more than a biographical sketch of Ladd’s life. D’Elia cautiously enters into the theological discussion he describes in order to spotlight Ladd’s contributions to evangelical scholarship and his interactions with scholars from outside the evangelical world. Those who read D’Elia’s book will receive an education, not merely regarding the historical aspects of Ladd’s interesting life, but also regarding the theological debates of the time.
I’ve also interviewed Ladd’s biographer, John D’Elia, about his work and his legacy:
Ladd’s legacy within evangelical scholarship is hard to overstate. I argue in the book that he carved out a place for evangelicals in what was then the threatening and bewildering world of critical biblical scholarship. By demystifying the methods of critical scholarship, Ladd …
Not too long ago, I enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate with a friend from seminary. He graduated not long after I did, and he was telling me about how involved he was in his local church. As we were reminiscing about our seminary days, he said something that stunned me:
“I regret seminary.”
Come again? I asked him to explain.
“I don’t regret going to seminary. I regret how I went to seminary. The very things I should have prioritized, I didn’t. If I had it to do over again, I’d take a different track.”
In talking with my friend, I realized that his regrets were largely the result of his lackluster church involvement during his seminary years. I have another friend who told me that seminary was a particularly “dry” time spiritually. He admitted the tendency to substitute theology for passion.
These conversations have led me to reflect on four things every seminary student should remember:
1. Remember Your Youth
Too many seminary students act like they’ve arrived rather than they’ve been sent.
Most evangelical institutions will not accept students unless they are recommended by their church and pastor. It’s true that you may choose the seminary you want to attend, but make no mistake – you’ve been sent there. Your church has expressed confidence in your gifts, abilities, and calling. Otherwise, you’d be somewhere else.
All this means that other Christians – likely older, wiser, more mature in the faith – have sent you on this journey. You are the youngster starting this new path. Remember that. Remember that …
A couple weeks ago, I posted a review of a new book edited by Robert Plummer, Journeys of Faith: Evangelicalism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Anglicanism, that chronicles the journeys of four individuals between four Christian traditions. Dr. Plummer was my hermeneutics professor at Southern Seminary, and he is also the author of 40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible. Today, he joins me for a conversation about his experience in editing this intriguing new book.
Trevin Wax: Why a new book on faith journeys? You teach at a solidly evangelical (Baptist) seminary. You have a vested interest in seeing people come to faith and be discipled in your evangelical church. Why explore the recent migrations from evangelicalism to Orthodoxy, Catholicism, or high-church Anglicanism?
Robert Plummer: As I explain in the introduction to the book, I began to notice a trickle of Evangelicals converting to Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy – both from my local church and the seminary where I teach. When I looked for resources that helped in understanding this migration and responding biblically, I had difficulty finding anything helpful. I originally thought about describing and assessing the phenomenon myself but decided that the book would be much more interesting and accurate if recent converts were allowed to tell their own stories.
Also, I wanted to line up experts to respond. Gregg Allison (a recognized Evangelical expert in Catholicism), for example, responds to Francis Beckwith. Patristics scholar Craig Blaising knows Eastern Orthodoxy well and responds to Wilbur Ellsworth’s conversion.
Trevin Wax: How did you …
I’ve had the privilege to attend and speak at multiple conferences over the past couple of years. Last year, I cut down my speaking engagements to one a month, simply so I wouldn’t be away from the family for extended periods of time. Travel can be draining, even when you get to see new sights, meet new people, and enjoy good conversation.
But a couple weeks ago, I traveled to Southeastern Seminary to speak on Counterfeit Gospels for their 20/20 collegiate conference. Though it was an overnight trip with significant travel and a packed schedule, I arrived home feeling energized instead of drained. While we were catching up about our time apart, Corina asked me if I was tired. I replied, “Yes, but only physically. Spiritually and mentally, I feel refreshed.”
I started to think about why this conference in particular left me feeling refreshed? Three reasons:
1. Conversations about Mission
After the evening session was over on Friday night, two students from The College at Southeastern tweeted me and asked if I was interested in going with them to Applebee’s. Now, it was already late and I was tired, but since my internal clock was on Central Standard Time, it wasn’t as late as it seemed. And there’s no better way to get a feel for a college than to hang out with a couple of ordinary students. So, I responded to their tweet (surprised them too!) and we headed out to Applebee’s for a couple hours.
In December of 2009, I received a Masters of Divinity from Southern Seminary. Recently, as I was looking over my class list and the required credit hours for my MDiv years, I thought about the classes that I enjoyed the most. Each of them were so good that I would take them again. Here are my five favorites in no particular order.
Hermeneutics with Robert Plummer
Plummer’s new book, 40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible, gives an overview of what we discussed in this class. I took Hermeneutics my first semester, and I’m glad I did. This class set the course for me to interpret the Bible carefully throughout the rest of my seminary education and during my initial years of preaching and teaching in a local church.
Ministry of Proclamation with Hershael York
Don’t let the fancy name fool you. This was a basic preaching class. Each student was required to preach in class while being evaluated by Dr. York and the other classmates. But what could have been an awkward situation turned out to be a very encouraging exercise. The ethos of the class valued faithfulness, excellence, and the desire to listen to the Lord speak to us through one another. Even more memorable than the preaching segments were the casual conversations with Dr. York that concerned life, family, and pastoral ministry. There’s nothing like taking a class from a professor who has the life and ministry experience to back up his theory.
The Sermon on the Mount with Jonathan Pennington
This was a …
The story that opens Ben Witherington’s book Is There a Doctor in the House?: An Insider’s Story and Advice on Becoming a Bible Scholar clues you in that this isn’t going to be a typical “how-to” book for higher education. In a few paragraphs, Witherington recounts an episode in his life that includes a sweaty run through an airport, an almost-missed plane, a pair of torn trousers, and an embarrassing greeting. The immediate impression is that humility matters. Bible scholarship is different than other forms of higher education, and Witherington makes that point over and over again, not just through the advice he offers those considering this path but also through the humble way in which he offers it.
The purpose of the book is narrow. Witherington isn’t writing for those who want to be serious students of the Bible without becoming teachers. Nor is he writing for teachers of the Bible who have no ambition at becoming published Bible scholars. Instead, his target is a growing number of seminary students who desire “to become a good and even well-published Bible scholar” (20). But even if Witherington’s target audience is narrow, he insists that the learning process must be broad. He writes:
“…to be a serious student, much less a teacher or scholar of the Bible, you must have a love for learning – and not just learning during a particular period of your life, but lifelong learning” (21).
Pushing back against the anti-intellectual climate of some parts of evangelicalism, Witherington lays out the …
The cover story of this month’s Christianity Today is a lengthy profile of Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The story is written by Molly Worthen, a writer and journalist finishing her Ph.D. at Yale. The article covers the history of the Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention as well as Mohler’s influence in the wider world of evangelicalism. After reading the story a few times, I wanted to weigh in with some thoughts.
First, I deplore the way that many evangelicals (particularly those in the conservative circles I run in) belittle Christianity Today. I’ve heard the jokes: Christianity Astray, Capitulation Today etc. Some dismiss CT as if the magazine never takes strong stands based on solid biblical reflection.
I have critiqued CT articles from time to time, but I don’t join the chorus of constant CT-critics. Generally speaking, the issues I sometimes have with CT’s coverage tend to be issues I have with the prevailing sentiments of evangelicalism. CT provides a snapshot of the para-church big-tent wing of evangelicalism, a tent that encompasses Christians with different views on a number of important issues. If I were to agree with everything I read in CT, I would no longer be reading the type of publication that CT seeks to be: an evangelical magazine that speaks from and to village-green evangelicalism.
Enough with that. Now, on to the cover story.
When I first heard about CT doing this profile, I thought, It’s about time! Albert Mohler is highly influential in a number of circles …