God has graciously provided for me to attend seminary part-time. We’ve already had a little banter on Cross Connection about the ‘semantic range’ of the word seminary, specifically whether or not cemetery is in the gloss. All humour aside, a relevant issue is keeping your faith vibrant in seminary. This statement does not imply that seminary kills our faith. I want to get a little more personal. My wicked heart is what kills my faith. The question of how we maintain a vibrant faith is valid for all areas, but I want to zoom in on the unique environment of seminary. Here are some things that I do to keep my faith not only alive, but flourishing in an academic environment.
1.) Remember that it is the Word of God that you are studying. Remind yourself that you are not performing an autopsy, but rather discovering life. This is not a dead word that is being dissected, but rather a Living Word to be applied. A danger for any student (seminary or otherwise) is to approach God’s Word as a mere text. If you put latex gloves on your heart so as not to be affected by the content of your study, then you’re detaching yourself from God’s Word. You need to remember (and be reminded) that this is the Word of God.
2.) Don’t let God fall into the 3rd person. Watch and make sure that your conversation doesn’t become consumed with speaking about God, but remember that you speak to him. Prayer needs to be part of your theological study. We study to learn more about God IN ORDER TO know Him. If my conversation stops at the third person and it never moves into my personal fellowship with God; faith gets divorced from theology.
3.) Pursue humility. Guard your heart against thinking certain things are below you. Knowledge is a wonderful thing, but it is also extremely dangerous. Be sure that you are still willing to serve people and love people where they are at. What you learn is NOT for the purpose of impressing people. If you find that you are unable to listen to a sermon from someone who doesn’t know what a hortatory subjunctive is or who cannot pronounce pericope, then you are in danger! Even more, if Joe Christian is too simple for you to fellowship with, then knowledge has puffed you up and you have begun to view your acceptance before God on the basis of works of an intellectual nature, rather than grace. Pride is how the devil fell… not a very good role model.
4.) Repent of sin. If what you are learning is not sanctifying you, then you are hardening your heart. How do you know if you are learning? You are repenting of sin. If your study causes you to see the shortcomings of others (academically or theologically), instead of your own personal need of a Saviour, your faith will become head faith without heart.
5.) Eat! A chef can be in the kitchen all day cooking. A farmer can be handling fruit from dawn to dusk. This doesn’t mean they are eating. Your own soul needs God’s word. Read the Bible for yourself, not just for your syllabus.
A great book for those who are considering seminary, Bible college, or any other intense regime of study is by Helmut Thielicke, and Charles Taylor called A Little Exercise for Young Theologians (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1978).
One last thought, if you are looking to pick a seminary, pick one where the teaching faculty are committed Christians holding to the faith once delivered to the saints.