Hilariously, as a kid I’d mistake the word “seminary” for “cemetery.” Naturally, later in life, there was the mental connection that ensued: were these two terms more similar than different?
Theological studies may not sound exciting, just like chemistry or math or art history may sound boring. This all depends on the hearer. I have a relative who is fairly wealthy on account of his recording studio. His studio does jingles and background pads for the likes of Apple, McDonalds, and Kelloggs. This may sound boring to some. But it may sound exciting to others. It’s all in the hearing.
Whether or not theological studies has its share of excitement is beside the point. What I want to get at is this: can theology professors profess both academic biblical knowledge and spiritual vivacity?
My answer is an unequivocal yes.
Though I cannot speak for every seminary out there, I can speak from my own observations during my six years at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary.
One professor I had was very heavy-handed about his beliefs. He respected the people with whom he did not see eye-to-eye, but he had a very strong opinion on all things theological. Another professor had a lot of baggage from his ultra-conservative background, and at times it showed.
Each professor had their share of difficulties. But even the professor with the strong opinions and the professor with the ultra-conservative background clung tightly to the message of Jesus. They really do seek to love their neighbor, and their enemy too. They really do seek to bring every action into alignment with their heartfelt beliefs.
The modeling I saw during my seminary years was probably more important than the content of the teaching. I saw women and men teaching who genuinely and passionately pursued the holiness of God made clear in Jesus.
I recall often the phrase my spiritual formation professor would use. She said, “spiritual practice is getting up to see the sun rise; it’s happening whether or not we take the time to see it.”
Indeed this is the case. When it comes to knowing God, there is a seeking involved. My professors understood Matthew 7:7-8:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”
That’s Jesus speaking.
There is a whisper of Paul’s example found in I Corinthians 11:1:
“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”
Something powerful, something resonant, exudes from those living the kind of life that is worth being imitated. I thank God for the women and men who, in the beginning of the 21st century, have sought to follow Jesus.
Especially, today, I thank God for my seminary professors.