What Seminary Education Ought To Be [Part Three]

Seminary education as we know it is a relatively recent phenomenon. It was only at the Council of Trent, called by the Catholic magesterium primarily to fight nascent Protestantism, that the seminary was invented. In the 23rd session, on July 15, 1546, the Council decreed that seminaries be established and start admitting boys as young as 12:

Besides the elements of a liberal education, the students are to be given professional knowledge to enable them to preach, to conduct Divine worship, and to administer the sacraments.

Not long after, the young Protestants followed suit, and since then we’ve had residential seminaries — not unlike other universities and graduate schools.

But for the 15 centuries prior to the Council of Trent, clergy were trained otherwise. How?, you ask. I’ll tell you:

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Philosophy = Learning How to Die

Maybe you’ve been reading about Pete Rollins’s Pyro-Theology. If you like that, you should also be reading Kester Brewin‘s Pirate Theology. He’s got a great post about it today:

‘to philosophize is to learn how to die.’

That really struck me when I read it, and Critchley goes on to expand a little on that in the piece, especially in relation to love, which draws the possibly selfish philosophical attitude to death out of itself and into relationship with another person. Critchley’s – and Socrates’ – point is this: by carefully considering what life is about, we are better able to consider what our own life means, so that when it comes to the end of our life, whenever that might be, we are better prepared to step into the void beyond.

Pete Rollins tweeted something on these lines yesterday too:

‘Coming to terms with the death that signals the end of life seems easier to me than coming 2 terms with the deaths that happen while we live…’

Musing on that today, I was reminded of Socrates’ other famous adage that

‘the unexamined life is not worth living.’

I have been thinking how that fits with the above, for it might seem that, while the unexamined life may be unenlightened or not well thought out, it at least doesn’t get forced to drink hemlock. The examined life, the one that is worth living, actually turns out to be a lot of trouble, because it throws up difficult questions about our place in the world and our relationship to those around us, and to our closely held beliefs too.

So perhaps Socrates should have continued: the unexamined life is not worth living, but the examined life may come at too high a price.

via Kester Brewin » Is ‘The Examined Life’ Worth It? | Philosophy, Theology and Death.

What Seminary Education Ought To Be [Part Two]

Tony, Brian, and Albert consult the map. (Photo by Courtney Perry)

I was fishing last evening with one of my friends/DMin students, and he said something interesting: “There seems to be no rivalry between you and Brian McLaren.”

We have talked some about rivalry this week, especially about Rene Girard’s view of rivalry, and of Jesus’ undermining of male-on-male rivalries. (More on that another time.)

“It’s true,” I responded, “I feel no rivalry with Brian. And I feel that he’s genuinely happy for any success I have.”

Academic institutions are notoriously rife with rivalries. As I reach my mid-forties, I have friends across academia who are vying for deanships and vice presidencies. Bloody battles are waged over such things.

I don’t mean to imply that all professors hope for the downfall of their colleagues. But academic departments do seem to exacerbate feelings of rivalry, in spite of their attempts at collegiality.

Teaching a class from a canoe and a campsite instill a dramatically different vibe, as you can imagine. Most days end with Brian and me — the two instructors — sharing a cup of coffee and some fishing. The environment of being in the wild and out of a classroom inculcates a fellowship that I just don’t think could be replicated inside a classroom.

What is your experience with academic rivalries? How have you seen them exacerbated and/or mitigated?

Part OnePart TwoPart ThreePart FourPart Five

Jesus in a Spaceship

Why are there images in medieval art that depict Jesus in a spaceship? Ester Inglic-Arkell at io9 investigates:

Most experts agree that the resemblance of the things in the painting to the spacecraft imagined by modern science fiction artists is uncanny. But none of our own actual spaceships actually resemble what we see in the paintings. None of these paintings show things that look like planes or landers or even satellites. Instead, they show artists’ conceptions of the sort of spaceships that would look good in art.

And centuries ago, they also looked good in art. The only difference was, then the art depicted the presence of the Holy Spirit. Even if an artist saw UFOs flying around, this was a church-commissioned painting on a church wall. The church got the say in what went up on it, not the painter. When the church wanted a depiction of the (forgive the expression) alien presence of God in everyday life, and the painter came up with a design that worked. Similarly, when editors of science fiction pulp magazines wanted a cover picture depicting alien ships coming to Earth, the artist came up with a design that worked. The convergence of the images isn’t one of experience, but of artistic sensibilities.

via Why are there spaceships in Medieval art?.