The question caught me a little off guard. Well, it was not so much the question as it was my loss for words when I tried to come up with an answer. For some reason I felt like I was expected to have some super deep insight into the Bible or earth-shattering epiphany about God to share. But I didn’t. I took a quick mental jog through all of the courses I had taken trying think of some epic “wow” moment that left my jaw on the floor, but I came back empty. I could think of dozens of much smaller moments where I was introduced to a new perspective or saw something just a little more clearly, but nothing to write home about. I could also think of a bunch of times when I left class feeling like I had more questions and understood less than I did previously. How’s that for a seminary sales pitch?
At first I was a little concerned that I didn’t have more to say. Here I had spent countless hours studying, reading, and writing about God and the Bible, and I had spent two years and thousands of dollars in the process, and all I could say was, “Well, I’m really glad that I can read Greek now.” Did I really not have anything more to show for all of that. Had it all been a waste of time and money?
I wrestled with that question for several days and then, finally, had a moment of clarity. I realized that although I had not had any cloud-parting, light-shining, trumpet-sounding moments of revelation, I had taken a slow and steady journey of a thousand tiny steps and I was in fact in a very different place than when I first began. I realized that the value of my seminary education was not so much what I’ve learned, even though I’ve learned lots of interesting and helpful things. The value of my education has been that I have continued to learn how to learn: how to think critically, how to ask the right questions, how to gather accurate information and evaluate the quality of an argument, how to appreciate a diversity of perspectives, how to be aware of my own biases and presuppositions, and how to express my own thoughts with clarity. As cliché as it sounds, the more I learn the more I realize how much I still don’t know. Two years into seminary and I am less dogmatic and more humble than I’ve ever been (insert joke about calling myself humble). I’ve come to appreciate even more deeply the rich tradition and heritage and legacy of those who have gone before me and who have struggled with many of the same questions that we continue to struggle with today. I’ve learned that the questions are at least as important as answers. I’ve learned that it’s not necessary that we all agree on every little detail. I’ve come to terms with the notion that I’m never going to have everything figured out completely and that life and faith are a little more complex and messy than I’m comfortable with, that they don’t fit as neatly into my little box as I once thought they did, and that’s ok. I’ve learned to be a little more patient with God, others, and myself. Most importantly, I’ve come to realize that God is way bigger than I’d ever imagined him to be and his Word is richer and fuller and less tame than I ever thought. I’ve learned to approach the scriptures with little more awe and a little more reverence. Those are some of the best things I’ve learned so far in seminary.
Thanks for sharing your experience thus far in seminary. I have to admit that I can confirm much of your testimony as mine own as well. In a nutshell, I felt that what seminary enable me to do was to be prepared to handle theological questions with integrity and competency (similar to what you conveyed). But I have to say that I did have a “wow” moment….actually several of them. To share one, when I learned about textual criticism and the process of early manuscript transmission, I was like “WOW!” In addition to that, when I studied the doctrine of inspiration with regard to the actual character and nature of the biblical text, I was presented with genuine evidence that differed significantly from what I have always thought. That was a moment when I was forced to come to terms with what the biblical text actually was versus what I had believed it to be.
I hope that your seminary experience continues to prepare you to lead God’s people into receiving the life changing message of the gospel.
Love you man!
I wish we lived close enough so we could have coffee one morning.. I love hearing about your journey.