Thursday, August 20, 2015

Message to Beginning Seminarians

Welcome to graduate school! If you want to be successful here, you need to know a few things about how seminary works.

First, this is school, not Sunday school or church. We do what we can to help you in your spiritual development. We have chapel. We have faculty advisee prayer groups. We have a course in Reformed spirituality. But you are responsible for your spiritual development, as a man and, as it applies, as a husband and father. We faculty can help, but we aren’t mind readers. If you need help, ask for it.

Second, classes are not exercises in test-preparation. Be aware that tests and examinations can cover anything that the professor covered in class, as well as whatever was in the required reading that he might not have covered in class. It is your responsibility to learn the material presented. If the professor is specific about what will be on tests, he is being kind. It is not in his job description to do so.

Third, you are no longer in college. In college, you might have gotten away without preparing for class, because the professor covered everything in his lecture. Some of your classes here will be like that. But some will not. Some will require that you have worked through the material ahead of time; that you have mastered it, and can discuss it in an intelligent fashion. Make it your aim to do that for every class, as a man studying to show himself approved.

Fourth, learn to listen and take notes. Most of you will want to use your computers to take notes. You are sufficiently fast typists that you can get down every word. But if you do that, all you are doing is taking dictation. Try taking notes with a pencil and paper. Listen carefully to what the professor, and other students in discussion, are saying. Write down the salient points and also what will help your remember the significance of those salient points. You will find that careful listening and note-taking are hard mental work. Then, after class review your notes. Make additional notes that will put everything in context. For some of your classes, your professor will distribute relatively detailed lecture outlines. Do not think of the lecture outline as a substitute for note-taking. Make your own notes and use the outline as a help to remembering.

Fifth, learn to use the Seminary style sheet and the resources given there. Learning to use proper academic style in writing papers is no more than common courtesy, and is part of the culture of an academic institution.

Finally, please do not think of seminary training as a series of hoops through which you must jump before you can get to the real work of the ministry. If that is your opinion, I ask you to drop out now. Seminary is introducing you to the tools of ministry and training you in their use. After seminary you will still have much to learn that can only be learned by practice. But at least you will have the tools you need, and you will know how to use them.

Again, welcome to seminary, and may God bless you in your studies.  

(Suggested by:

Saturday, August 01, 2015

A Well-Ordered Church, William Boekestein and Daniel R. Hyde

In our day in the US, the church is thought little of, even by many Christians. Oh, they attend church but probably not with any regularity. In a recent study, for example, regular church attendance was defined as three times in eight weeks. In other words, a regular attender attended church less than half of the time. This fact, more than any other, indicates the low view of the church held and practiced by many Christians.

This book is an attempt to address that problem. It is a non-technical work on ecclesiology, the study of the church. Underlying the book is the view expressed in the title of a nineteenth century work by Stuart Robinson: The Church of God An Essential Element of the Gospel. The book is divided into four parts: the church’s identity, its authority, its ecumenicity, and its activity.

As to the church’s identity, the church belongs to Christ. He is its head, and in him the church finds its unity. As to the church’s authority, it comes from the Bible to the church through Christ’s appointed officers. As to the church’s ecumenicity, there is an internal ecumenicity, which is expressed in the mutual edification of churches within a denomination. There is also an external ecumenicity, in which churches of different denominations work together for the sake of the gospel. The activity of the church is multiform, including teaching, worship, witnessing, and discipline.

The book presents a standard Reformed view of the church. This is seen in two primary ways: first, in its references to the Scriptures as the basis for all principles regarding the church; and second, in its frequent reference to Reformed doctrinal confessions and catechisms. Each chapter is accompanied with questions for discussion and additional reading. There is an additional bibliography at the end of the book. Most of the additional reading material is non-technical, and easily understood by the average church member.

No one will agree with everything presented here. But the reader who is interested not only in the “what” of the church, and not only in the “why” of the church, but in his own relation to the church will find this a stimulating aid to his thinking about the church.