I’ve always been a bit of a seeker, and have re-examined and overturned many of my previous convictions as I gain more perspective. Beginning as a scientist agnostic, I explored many subcultures, and then did a stint in Charismatic Christianity. I then left it and explored yoga and Buddhism for a time, then returned to a Reformed Post-Charismatic Evangelicalism.
I never wandered into the Emergent camp, but I was not always comfortable with Evangelicalism either. So, as I am wont to do, I began reading, and I began to take issue with certain doctrines of Evangelicalism. And then I took a big step. I enrolled in the M. Div. program at center-left Fuller Seminary.
Fuller is infamous among evangelicals for abandoning the traditional view of scriptural inerrancy, though it still holds scripture in high esteem as “the written word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice.”
In my first class at Fuller, Christian Ethics, my big aha moment was discovering the Christian Center, which essentially incorporates the best priorities of both Evangelical right and Left, and is well represented in the NEA’s For the Health of the Nation, as well as David Gushee’s The Future of Faith in American Politics: The Public Witness of the Evangelical Center.
Now in my second class, New Testament 2 (Romans to Revelation), I have had my second aha moment (it seems to happen about midway through the 10 week class). I have discovered, albeit late to the party, the view known as the The New Perspective on Paul. And it is not trivial.
I intend to do a series of posts on it, but here’s the real comment I want to make.
I decided not to enroll in a traditional Reformed seminary in order to broaden my perspectives. I chose Fuller because, among other things, I too had decided that plenary inerrancy was illogical, and not taught in Scripture.
So this is the risk of attending a more ‘liberal’ (but not liberal) seminary – my perspective is being seriously challenged again! And it is irritating. But hey, I am getting exactly what I had hoped for. So there you go.
As part of my application to seminary, here’s my second essay:
Reflect on how attending Fuller Theological Seminary would complement your present Christian experience and/or help you to achieve your future professional and vocational goals.
Although I am an avid self-educator through seminars, reading, and podcast listening, I am often acutely aware that University training has benefits which are hard, if not impossible to get otherwise. These benefits include
(a) regular, interactive contact and friendship with scholars and thinkers,
(b) access to thoughtfully designed curricula that are modern, holistic, and complete in their coverage of basic pastoral knowledge and skills, and
(c) the provision of an external impetus to complete projects, something which even the most self-motivated person can require periodically.
As part of my Applying to Seminary, here’s my first essay:
Reflect on your past Christian experience, including the most significant spiritual event/influence in your life, the role of Christ in your religious experience, the effect your faith has on your worldview, your involvement in Christian service, your perceived gifts/calling for ministry, and your reason(s) for attending your church. (minimum 250 words; maximum 500 words).
One of the most influential experiences of my spiritual journey was my initial involvement with a spiritually abusive Christian college ministry.
I was raised in an agnostic home in which we looked down upon religious people as mentally weak or acculturated into a mythological system that we did not want or need. However, during my senior year of college, I converted to Christianity. Unfortunately, the legalism of the high-vision, Arminian, evangelistic ministry I joined eventually led me to abandon my faith after 8 years of dedicated surrender of my soul to God and the organization.
Five years ago, I applied to the M.Div. program at Gordon Conwell Seminary in Charlotte, NC. I took one course, and failed miserably because I had a new baby (or two) and a long commute, and could NOT manage the reading load.
Now, my three kids are in school and my wife is at home and not working, so I am starting up my education again. This time, however, I am applying to Fuller Theological Seminary – slightly more liberal than GC, but I really dig their statement of faith, which includes a really great discussion of inerrancy which I wholeheartedly agree with:
At times, some Christians have become unduly attached to the precise wordings of doctrine-whether of events in the last days, the meaning of baptism, or the use of a catch phrase like “the inerrancy of Scripture.” But it is well to remember that all our formulations of Christian truth must ultimately conform not to some preset statement but to the Scriptures, all parts of which are divinely inspired. Thus, sloganeering can never be a substitute for the careful, patient analysis of what God’s Word teaches, including what it teaches about itself.