Going into my final
two months week HOURS! of MDiv studies, I’ve become more reflective on things I learned at seminary. I’m extremely grateful for the God-given opportunity I’ve received to learn so many profound things from my three years at Princeton Seminary. Despite many complaints, especially at the beginning, of overwork in non-essentials to ministry, undertraining for the task of preaching, general lack of piety on campus, I know i will leave here with only gratitude and fondness. Through PTS I received my lovely wife, a chance to serve as a pastor at four churches, an environment fit for a monk, and Karl Barth. Here are some theses (in random order) of things I learned from or despite seminary:
* Iain Torrance: “if we fill your minds with too much specification, we train you for obsolescence.”
* There are two kinds of “MDiv” that people can get at seminary: Master of Divinity or Mastered by Divinity.
* One principle adopted by every healthy church is: “we exist for others”.
* Princeton seminary’s Bruce McCormack is a true theologian. Elsie McKee is a true saint. Geddes Hanson is a pastor’s professor.
* A Christ-less sermon is not a sermon; it’s a mockery.
* John Calvin is the Isaac Newton of theology; Karl Barth is its Einstein.
* The Sunday school cliché that Jesus is the answer to every question is in fact true.
* Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation: a theologian of glory calls good evil and evil good; a theologian of the cross sees things as they are.
* Tim Keller’s sermons are still the benchmark for gospel preaching in our times. He is the 13th apostle.
* Learning to read Hebrew and Greek is invaluable for studying the Bible much more in-depth and carefully.
* Korean churches have been caricatured in mainline, Caucasian circles as being backward, intolerant fundamentalists.
* Church history gives perspective, which gives hope; we live in cynical times because of our profound ignorance of church history.
* Preachers are boring because: 1) they are afraid of rejection, being vulnerable; 2) they lack awareness of their audience, themselves, Scripture, etc.; and 3) unbelief – on the part of the preacher and the congregation.
* Southern California evangelical Christianity of the Calvary Chapel mold is extremely provincial.
* A seminary where most of the students seem to have aspirations for pursuing a PhD may be good at educating future professors, but it is mediocre at training future ministers.
* The first thing to go in such a seminary is piety; then reverence for God’s word, zeal, and humility.
* We must understand reality by what God does, not by what we believe God can or cannot do.
* Youth pastors have 100% responsibility, and 0% authority.
* The Enlightenment distorted the gospel to be viewed as individualistic and dualistic; much of American Christianity is still living under the assumptions of the Enlightenment.
* Salvation has three tenses: perfect, present, future.
* Gruenwald’s Crucifixion painting: John the Baptist is the archetypal preacher – he points people to Christ crucified from Scripture.
* A brilliant theologian may nevertheless be a moral idiot.
* Multicultural churches are part of the gospel.
* Seminaries whose members practice voluntary racial segregation are “de facto agents of racial apartheid” and merely perpetuate the legacy of race-based churches.
* Preachers who don’t think they need seminary to preach should go to seminary; seminary graduates who think preachers need seminary to preach should reevaluate the value of their seminary education.
* Barth’s Church Dogmatics II/2: “The doctrine of election is the sum of the gospel.”
* Schleiermacher’s The Christian Faith sec. 24: “Protestantism makes the individual’s relation to the Church dependent on his relation to Christ, while Catholicism contrariwise makes the individual’s relation to Christ dependent on his relation to the Church.”