When the Sea fades to Land: Reflections on my time at Fuller Seminary

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Well, this post is almost 5 years in the running. Indeed, I can probably trace it back to 2011 when I first began thinking deeply on the things of God (thanks to my then girlfriend). Thusly, this post will be a bit on the rambly side so I hope you'll forgive the indulgence.

Today is the first day of my last course at Fuller Theological Seminary. I'm taking Colossians & Philemon (Greek Text) with Dr. Marianne Meye Thompson. At this moment, I am sitting on my couch in our little studio surrounded by commentaries on the Pastoral Epistles, thinking about heading to the library and doing some reading. I'm also sipping pumpkin spice coffee from Trader Joe's (yea, I know).

When I first started seminary, I took Greek (Dr. Hill at Orange County) and Systematic Theology (Oliver Crisp at Pasadena). I was a part-time student, a full-time worker making (and still making) a nearly 70 mile commute to work, and most importantly a full-time husband. This happened before Fuller made the MAT degree entirely available online (I know, back in the stone age). However, when I started seminary, I had no idea of what I was doing, but I did have some goals and promises.

First, I wanted to know everything I could about Paul. Hence, every exegesis course has been on the Pauline epistles (Philippians, Philemon (2x), Ephesians, Colossians, and Galatians).

My second goal was to see what my gifts were, although this took a long time to ferment into a reality. I never thought I was particularly bright as a kid (I was more of a dreamer, so abstractions and images come more naturally than putting said concepts onto paper), as I was the kid who put on a cape and jumped off the roof to see if I could fly. The best part about that was I thought about trying it again before my younger sister Noell threatened to tell my mom.

A promise I made was with God on my first night in Greek. I do not pray as much as I ought, but I told God this: "just tell me the truth, and then help me live it." I was raised in an environment where seminary was cemetery (my parents never said this; it was more the Calvary Chapel subculture), and if I went to seminary (especially Fuller) I would turn out to be a liberal, or worse, a Democrat (I jest. Mostly). Since starting at Fuller, I've become more conservative in many ways. For instance, I came into Fuller affirming a Deutero-Pauline corpus (Ephesians and the Pastorals). Now, I do not, although I have some reservations of the Pastoral Epistles. I came in disbelieving in inerrancy, and I have shifted greatly on that, affirming something similar to Mike Bird and Kevin Vanhoozer (as I understand them).

When I taught a summer class at my friend Chad's church, we went through New Testament theology, and I was struck by the coherence of the New Testament's witness to Christ. Diverse opinions are not equivalent to divergent opinions, and I grew in my love for New Testament theology broadly conceived.

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In other ways, I have become more solidified in my views. Wesleyanism has become a major theological method that I find deeply compelling, and I affirm what is often called "Christian Perfection," albeit in a modified form. I've also become more confident in my views on the ordination of women, and have become more academically active in that debate (I hate calling it a debate, but it is what it is). A third doctrinal point that has become more strongly held is what is often called Christian Materialism; this will not surprise anyone who knows me.

There are some low points in anyone's seminary experience, but thankfully for me they are quite minor—at least as it regards seminary. During this time, I've lost an uncle and my Aunt and Uncle have been dealing with life-threatening health problems. A friend of mine is having some personal troubles, and Allison has been mistreated by a co-worker. What makes this all bearable is the hope of resurrection, and the promise of life with God.

The highpoints are what I remember most.

I remember deeply enjoying Dr. Love Sechrest's courses on Ephesians and Philippians/Philemon. As a spiritual leader and mentor, Dr. Sechrest really pushed me (and us) into the Greek text and I was challenged to reread a lot of Paul that I had previously skipped over. I also loved that I was the nerd in the class that she expected to say something. As an introvert, this helped push me from my shell a little bit.

A second highlight was reading and studying Jewish literature and Pauline theology in a directed study with Dr. Tommy Givens. Just the vast ocean of literature we read was enough for me to fall deeply in love (again) with Paul. I learned about the Apocalyptic Paul, 1 Enoch, and philosopher's Paul.

A third highlight was sipping wine with Dr. Hagner before a lecture at Chapman. That was a lot of fun.

As I walk now through Fuller's Pasadena campus, the air is cold and crisp, and Fall is coming soon. The leaves rustle, and people meander around, laughing and walking with purpose. Thoughts swirl in my mind about ancient economics, the Golden Rule, principalities and powers, prayers for friends and family, and that academic conference paper I really need to finish.

God willing, should I pass Dr. Thompson's class (hopefully with an A), I will graduate a week or two before Christmas. And then, who knows what will happen. Hopefully a Ph.D in NT in the UK?

I may update this post over the day. Just in case you see this shared multiple times.

Thank you for reading.

Nick