Any kind of Christian ministry in North America requires both preparation and experience, so an increasing number of ministers are deeply involved in the experience dimension and finding it nearly impossible to attend seminary full-time. A seminary curriculum focuses on the scope of the minister’s calling, from biblical and theological to practical and homiletical studies, but not all ministers need as intense preparation for each facet of ministry. Some focus on teaching while others focus on the more personal and formative dimensions of ministry.
The new MA in New Testament (MANT), beginning Fall 2016, seeks to provide for ministers who need it an in-depth exposure to New Testament studies with additional study in Old Testament, church history and theology.
Hence, we seek to work alongside those who are called to preaching and teaching ministries in the church.
We already have students who are enrolled and I’m excited already about the questions they are asking and the depth of their interest in becoming teachers in the church.
Because of the formative role of the context of the authors and their writings, the story at work in Judaism and earliest Christianity, and the theology that emerges out of these two elements, we will focus on the hermeneutics of doing NT Theology. Hence, we will have a course on studying the context of representative books in the NT, a course on the story at work in Judaism and representative books, and two courses on how the theology of the NT authors emerges out of those two contexts. The focus then is on the hermeneutics of NT theology in context and mission. We will, obviously, give significant attention to the apostle Paul since his books not only feature prominently in the NT, but his theology has shaped the church’s mission.
The MANT has another focus: Ever since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls there has been a renewed interest not only in Jewish texts but also a greater concern to understand both Jesus and Paul in their Jewish contexts. The rise of what is often called “the new perspective” has shed wonderful light on both Jesus and Paul, but a major problem remains: the lack of translating the best of that scholarship into church life and into lay categories. The MANT will focus on that very task: taking the best of scholarship and making it accessible and relevant to local church life.
But this might be the most unique feature of the new MA in NT at Northern: each student will become a research assistant as I will become the research advisor for each student as we work together toward publications. Hence, a central element of this degree will be a focus on writing for the church.
The program is affordable (based around low monthly payments), local (drive in only one day a week for classes), and communal (join a community of missionary-theologians).
This program, and others like it, are changing the face of seminary training. I am happy Northern is at the vanguard of this kind of innovative preparation for those called into preaching and teaching ministries.