Seminary Or Cemetery: Food For Thought
What a marvelous, yet potentially perilous, journey!
I traveled through seminary and know the sacrifices, the dedication and the focus it takes to make it all the way.
Many who say God sent them to seminary never finished. I believe the stats are 50% of those who feel called, ultimately peel off and die to what once they were passionate about.
The death experience, feeling “six feet under”, however, can be more internal than external, impacting the “inner man” much more than behavioral outcomes.
"You study the scriptures thoroughly because you think in them you possess eternal life, and it is these same scriptures that testify about me, but you are not willing to come to me so that you may have life."(John 5:39,40)
As a hungry-hearted believer in seminary, God ripped these words off the page and pierced my heart to the core, revealing that, I too, could make a similar mistake; the killer mistake of allowing exegetical, historical and categorical study of Objective Truth to become the “end all” and purpose of my theological education.
The eyes of my heart were opened to the study of Scripture becoming the means by which I began getting in touch with the Living Word; looking to them to bring me to the resurrected, indwelling Lord Jesus as my very Life!
Many of us students, as well as pastors and teachers, have concluded that understanding Theology and holding to conservative doctrine is God's ultimate goal for us as Christians, consciously, or more likely, subconsciously. We have a tendency to stop short of letting the Scriptures lead us on beyond our beliefs and move us to come to Him, fully surrendered, experiencing Him as the Bread of Heaven, our sustenance; indeed, our very Life.
The resurrected, indwelling Lord Jesus wants to be our one and only resource for everything, our supernatural “all-in- all”, all the time.
Our Father's design for us is to experience our "oneness in" and supernatural "union with" His Son, here and now, not just believe in Him as our ticket to heaven and hold to the cardinal doctrines of the Faith.
Our journey through Scripture has the person of Jesus as its ultimate destination and should end in an on-going, moment-by-moment experience of His Life manifesting itself in and through our personalities and mortal bodies. (2 Cor. 4:9,10)
While in seminary, our theology professor challenged us to write a paper stating the entirety of New Testament Theology in the most accurate, concise form possible. My paper was the most concise and recognized by the professor as the most accurate. All it stated was:
“Christ In Us”!
A full and complete Biblical understanding of these three simple words is what its all about!
Paul said to “fully carry out the preaching of the Word of God” is to reveal a “mystery” hidden from Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Samuel, David and the Prophets, but now made known to you and me;
“Christ in us.” (Col.1:25-27)
Peter stated we have the written Word of God made more sure than even his experience on the Mount of Transfiguration and said we do well to pay close attention to it, as a lamp shining in a dark place.
And if this were all he said, then theology, propositional truth, cardinal doctrines, proverbs & principles and reading the Bible as we do a road map or “an instruction manual for life” would be correct.
But, the Holy Spirit goes on through Peter in the very same sentence to add a comma and the word “until”. This little word changes everything and introduces the idea that you should study, expecting a certain outcome, an “AWE” moment, when “the penny drops and the light comes on” and you enter in to what’s it’s all about! He says,
“until the day dawns (like the modern day, “Whoa, WOW, I get it now!”) and the morning star arises in your heart!”
Letting Scripture interpret Scripture, this is Jesus (Rev 22:13), moving out of your human spirit and flooding your mind, will and emotions with Himself. And it is when we are living sacrifices, surrendered to Him and continually renewing our minds (Rom 12:1-2) by studying to show ourselves approved unto God, workmen that need not to be ashamed, handling accurately the Word of Truth (2 Tim.2:15), that one day the “awe” moment comes and we enter into Him as our very Life!
Certain aspects of theology, if for no other reason, fail to reflect Truth in reality because of its definition, "God-Logic", and discounts, overlooks and sometimes does not even acknowledge the mystical, supernatural quality and ultimate, spiritual "substance" (sounds almost like an oxymoron) of the entire Christian life from new birth, through transformation by the Holy Spirit to glorification. In a way, God leads us through four years of seminary and, in my case 108 semester hours with a major in Greek and a minor in Hebrew, in order to return us to Kindergarten where we cling more than ever to faith, with all our “Why’s”, “How’s”, “Who’s” and “What’s” answered, resulting in the child-like kind of faith, “without which it is impossible to please God.” (Heb. 11:6)
A high value should be placed on our seminary education (primarily, for me, the verse-by-verse studies in Greek and Hebrew); nevertheless, we must consistently hold before us this verse,
"See to it that none takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the traditions of men (some tenets of Protestant Theology), according to the elementary principles of the world, (one of which is the "spirit of the world”, Rationalism, (1 Cor. 2:12), rather than according to Christ."(Col 2:8).
J Gresham Machen wrote a definitive work on the subject of “Rationalism vs. Faith”. Always remember, our Father has hidden these things from the wise and revealed them to us if we are like “babes” in relation to our faith. (Luke 10:21)
St Augustine, in his Confessions, spent a large chunk of it repenting of his intellect, surrendering his mind to God; recognizing it as a barrier between him and simple, child-like faith that Jesus said we must have to “enter the Kingdom of God”, it’s reality here on Earth as well as in Heaven. He knew how enlightenment and spiritual reality comes to us; by grace through faith alone.
Charles Spurgeon said in Lectures To My Students that the confluence of man and God merging to produce divine revelation which is inerrant and infallible as well as our preparation to preach and teach merging with the supernatural presence of the Holy Spirit, giving His demonstration and power to your words in the moment of delivery are examples of how life is to be lived, day-in/day-out, with us in an attitude of fear and trembling while God is willing and working for His good pleasure in and through us”. (Phil 2:13)
Make each day in class, as you study, and out of class as you live, move and have your being, all about pressing on to know Him as your Life, knowing the power of His resurrection, the fellowship of His suffering, being conformed to His death and seminary will be a marvelous, Awe-inspiring experience rather than a cemetery.