As a student, there is nothing like the kind of excitement that comes at the beginning of a new semester. A fresh start. A clean slate. An idealistic hope for copious amounts of productivity, new ideas and growth in every facet of life—intellectually, spiritually and emotionally. Graduate education has a way of forcing you into postures of meekness, humility, charity and curiosity. These virtues, I believe, are paramount in the Christian life. Graduate theological education does all of this with an end goal of creating a generation of Christians with sanctified imaginations who chase after the heart of Jesus and His mission in our world.
The primary way we sanctify our imaginations is through regular engagement with and attentive reading of the biblical text. But a proper seminary education does not simply prepare you to study an “object.” Instead, it teaches us the loving labor of relationship as we pour over the words of God in “unhurried delight,” as pastor-theologian Eugene Peterson puts it.
In seminary speak, we call this process exegesis, which simply means to “draw out” and discern meaning. One of my favorite quotes concerning exegesis is by Eugene Peterson. In his book, “Eat This Book,” he writes,
Exegesis is the furthest thing from pedantry; exegesis is an act of love. It loves the one who speaks the words enough to want to get the words right. Exegesis is loving God enough to stop and listen carefully to what he says. It follows that we bring the leisure and attentiveness of lovers to this text, cherishing every comma and semicolon, relishing the oddness of this preposition, delighting in the surprising placement of this noun. Lovers don’t take a quick look, get a “message” or a “meaning,” and then run off and talk endlessly with their friends about how they feel. (Peterson, 2009, p. 55)
I love that in seminary the ultimate object of study is the person of Jesus revealed through the Scriptures, which in turn call us to a life of discipleship, not just intellectual formation.
I’m excited about this semester because I get a front row seat to this process in the lives of others. I get to see the complete journey from application to diploma because I’m not only a student but I’m also on staff as an admissions counselor. I get excited about the thought of 330+ students experiencing the same journey that I am on as their fellow Master of Divinity student. I also get excited about how much all of this time spent in study will impact the Kingdom of God. Pastors, teachers, counselors and lay leaders from all different backgrounds are coming together to be trained on how to effectively minister to God’s people and lead His Church. What a beautiful picture. What a calling to follow with holy fear!
I get excited about sitting in between my brilliant friends Andrew and Steven in Hebrew class and learning everything I can from them. I look forward into getting into our Havrutahs (a rabbinic technique of debating about the biblical text for purposes of growth and mutual benefit) and arguing about how to render difficult Hebraic grammatical constructions from several millennia ago in good English. All of this will teach me how to be better at following Jesus in community through my colleagues, professors and peers.
In short, I’m excited about a lot. But I’m mostly excited about the lives that will change over the course of this semester as we study the biblical text together “cherishing every comma and semicolon, relishing the oddness of prepositions, and delighting in the placement of nouns.”
For me, and for other seminarians, study is worship. We look forward to worshiping our King by learning more from Him.
The new semester begins this week! Join us by following along on the blog (or applying for the fall)!