What Seminary Education Ought To Be [Part Five]

This = class break. (Photo by Courtney Perry)

Finally, this: where one studies should be consonant with what one studies.

Last week, we were studying the doctrine of creation and its relationship to Christian spirituality. It seemed to me downright silly to study the doctrine of creation where I did, in a classroom.

I get that there’s a certain efficiency to gathering hundreds of students on a campus and having a centralized factory of learning. It’s got a bit of Henry Ford to it. And maybe the type of theological education that I’m proposing is eminently impractical — maybe it would be way too expensive.

But it seems to me that with the innovations in technology and transportation of the last hundred years, there are all sorts of possibilities for studying theology, the Bible, church history, and ministry leadership in spots that fit hand-in-glove with the subject matter.

I took a chance in nature, challenging the students to live for four days in the most primitive wilderness in the continental U.S. They bested that challenge easily. That success has only put wind in my sails for

Where would you like to study theology?

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Don Piper Did Not Go To Heaven

This isn't heaven, and Don Piper didn't go here.

It’s rare that I get a chance to agree with Tim Challies, so when I do get that chance, I take it! (HT to RHE for pointing me to this.)

I haven’t read a single book in the heaven-and-back genre, but it does chap my hide every Sunday when I see them atop the NY Times Bestseller lists. How dumb can the American public be? I ask myself. (Don’t answer that. It’s a rhetorical question.)

Tim asks a different question: Am I, as a Christian, obligated to give these Christian authors the benefit of the doubt:

I am not going to review To Heaven and Back. It’s pure junk, fiction in the guise of biography, paganism in the guise of Christianity. But I do want to address a question that often arises around this book and others in the genre: How do I respond to them? How do I respond to those who say they have been to heaven? When a Christian, or a person who claims to be a Christian, tells me that he has been to heaven, am I obliged to believe him or at least to give him the benefit of the doubt?

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What Seminary Education Ought To Be [Part Four]

I’ve listened to a lot of lectures in my day. Hundreds, maybe thousands. And I’ve learned a lot in some of those lectures. I still listen to lectures, downloaded from iTunes U, when I ride my bike or walk the dog.

But never did I learn more than in the seminar format of a doctoral program. My two years in coursework at Princeton were, while rife with personal turmoil, simply the most wonderful learning experience in my entire educational journey.

I don’t doubt that there is subject matter that is best taught and learned in a didactic, unilateral way: professor talks, student listens.

But I do not think that theology is best taught this way. Theology is inherently personal. Students of theology aren’t just having what they think challenged. They’re having what they believe challenged.

Theology is too personal a subject to be taught via lecture. Students need to be able to ask questions, talk it through, and express their doubts.

In short, theology shouldn’t be treated like other academic subjects. It’s unique, and should be taught uniquely. Indeed, theology should be taught by methods that are inherently theological, and I think that there’s a strong case to be made that a conversation is more Christlike than a lecture.

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John Piper Not Opposing Gay Marriage


John Piper (Kyndell Harkness/StarTribune)

At least not from the pulpit.

Conservatives in Minnesota have been waiting with bated breath for our state’s two most influential evangelicals — John Piper and Leith Anderson — to raise their voices in support of the constitutional amendment defining marriage as hetero-only. Now it’s clear that neither will do so.

Thirty-one states have voted on marriage amendments, and all thirty-one have passed them. In Minnesota, polls show an even split, and many of us in the state are dreading the influx of outside money that is sure to pour in as the vote draws nigh.

Rose French reports:

Two key conservative evangelical leaders in Minnesota are not endorsing the marriage amendment or directing followers to vote for it, marking the first time during debate over the measure that major faith leaders have not encouraged members to take a stand on the issue.

Influential preacher and theologian the Rev. John Piper came out against gay marriage during a sermon Sunday but did not explicitly urge members of his Minneapolis church to vote for the amendment.

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