A Guide for Seminarians

It is impossible to replace a classic, in part because classics are what they are because they are timeless and at the forefront of wisdom. Phillp G. Camp’s new book, Finding Your Way: A Guide to Seminary Life and Beyond
, does not even try to replace Helmut Thielicke’s slender collection of unsurpassable wisdom (A Little Exercise for Young Theologians
), but Camp’s book offers 24 bits of wisdom that every theological student, whether undergraduate or graduate (seminary), will find beneficial.

When I was a college junior I read Thielicke and he spoke to me about what was most important to me in my own studies. I’ve since read him a number of times, though I do think he’s a bit out of reach or out of sync with many contemporary students. Phillip Camp’s book is bound to the same path, but what makes Camp’s book needful is that it speaks directly to the Western, American theological student in ways that Thielicke’s book couldn’t and still does not. 
I will mention his chapter ideas and wonder what you’d advise for the theological student in addition to his suggestions:
Remember who you are working for, read your Bible, manage your time, grades do and don’t matter, be careful with labels, ask questions, think, associate with folks with whom you disagree, speak up without talking down, respect your teachers but don’t idolize them, own your faith, maintain a devotional life, go to church, find a mentor, participate in a covenant group, love the church, be humble, speak boldly and confidently, don’t voice all your doubts, don’t be a visionary, be appreciative and then he ends with a charge he gave to a graduating class.
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  • Hey Scot,
    What does Camp mean when he says, ‘don’t be a visionary?’ What’s bad about being a visionary?

  • I second Camp’s thoughts and add one: Don’t be defensive. In other words, don’t interpret what you are learning as a personal attack on your faith. My DMin experience was more enjoyable than my MDiv experience because I did not approach it as a defensive reactionary.

  • Jennifer

    I would add: Go to professional counseling and work out some of your issues.
    My seminary requires it.

  • Nick Mitchell

    What I’m guessing is that he means “Don’t think too much of yourself”. When we’re in seminary we can picture ourselves leading a “successful” church with thousands of people. We can think, “I’m going to change the world”. Although it is sometimes good to think about these things (and we do want to change the world for Jesus) it can set us up for disappointment when we end up in a rural church with 40 people. Perhaps that what he means.

  • @ Marcus and Nick – I’m admittedly an interested party here, but I recommend you pick up the book and find out what Camp means by “don’t be a visionary.”
    @ Scot – Thanks for the kind words about one of my most favorite projects from this past year.
    @ everyone – Save 20% off retail by ordering the book directly from the publisher (http://wipfandstock.com/store/Finding_Your_Way_A_Guide_to_Seminary_Life_and_Beyond)
    D. Christopher Spinks, PhD
    Editor, Wipf and Stock Publishers
    199 W. 8th Avenue, Suite 3
    Eugene, OR 97401

  • For those interested in going to seminary, I would also recommend Cooper’s book, So You’re Thinking of Going to Seminary.

  • I would add, “Observe and collaborate as widely as possible.” My work in my own field (college ministry) has been forever altered by taking a trip around the country to view it in action and interview its leaders. But on that same trip, it was abundantly apparent how isolated we can be – knowing only our own circles or our own regions.
    This is different from associating with those we disagree with; often we may be unfamiliar with alternative viewpoints altogether. But wide observation / collaboration forces us to subtler thinking, springboards to greater creativity, and just plain increases our knowledge of the field. Even if just means, for example, visiting other local churches once a month, a little road-tripping goes a long way.