Mar 10, 2015

Why Go to Seminary? (Part 2)

Hello, friends. This is the second part of "Why Go to Seminary?," in which I outline the specific reasons and elaborate points already mentioned in Part 1. But first, a word from St. Paul to Timothy:

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 
— 2 Timothy 2:15

The verse above summarizes my purposes for attending seminary. There are two extreme camps when it comes to a seminary education: those who think it's not necessary and those who think it's absolutely necessary (to the point of intellectual snobbery). But I think theological training in seminary is a way for individuals to do their best and learn how to rightly handle the word of truth. 

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 
— 2 Timothy 3: 16-17

Seminary might not be for everyone because it takes time, money, energy and dedication to complete. There are denominations that require their ministers to have a Master's or Doctorate. It may also not be necessary—I know pastors and other ministers who did not go to seminary but are diligent students of the Word and constantly study to improve how they teach. Some qualities that make them good ministers include their love for family, ability to listen, and their humility. And they didn't learn that from seminary, nor will attending one automatically make you loving, attentive, and humble.

So why am I going to seminary? Okay, okay. I'm getting there...

THE TRAINING. I enjoy learning, I want to attend, I need focus.
Inspired by the Bereans, I want to study the Scriptures daily. This isn't to say daily Scripture study is just for seminary students. It is for all Christians! (Being in seminary doesn't mean you'll always have a desire to read Scripture *gasp* I've been encouraged to protect my daily time in the Word as books to be read and reports to be written pile up! It's just the reality of things.) Apart from devotional reading, I enjoy looking through different sources on a given issue or topic and I try to come up with my own conclusions. This should be true for every Christian: a deeper understanding of God's character as revealed by the Word and taught by the Spirit should lead to worship. This is one of my main goals in studying theology formally: responding to God in worship. 

Writing papers, having discussions, and reflecting on my own should focus my thoughts and hopefully clarify which direction I should go. I actually enjoy research, reading, writing, and spending hours mulling over a topic. I look forward to funneling all my interests and coming up with a ministry model that is Gospel-centered, theologically sound, and sustainable. All that knowledge would be useless without application but for the knowledge part, that's where seminary comes in.

I plan to enroll in a 48-credit MA program that would last a year and a half. Perhaps four trimesters and one or two courses in the summer. That's a significant amount of time for me to (finally) dive into my interests, uninterrupted by work. Yes, that means I'll be unemployed before this month is over but Kimchi Taco and I are ready to take this leap of faith. Even during work, I find myself being so distracted by my own questions about God and the world around me. I need time allotted for studying, reading, writing. I love to read but since graduating college and starting work, my reading diet has also shifted. The next 1.5 years of focused time to study is something that I know I need. 

Books are readily available in different formats online. Some for cheap and some for free. There are millions of resources from different ministries all over the internet. Do I really need to study for credit for me to master a topic? I've thought about this and it made me reconsider the expenses seminary will incur. But APTS is inexpensive compared to seminaries in, say, the United States. And being an Asian, I love how APTS understands both Western and Eastern cultures. Aside from cultural considerations, studying for over a year will somewhat place me in a bubble. And that's okay too. Research, reflection, and relationship-building aren't supposed to be rushed and they need a safe (but not necessarily perfect) place to flourish.

Speaking of relationship-building, it's nice to connect with ministry leaders from all over the world. And by leader I don't necessarily mean those who hold positions in their respective churches. I mean those who have truly poured their lives into serving and ministering to others. I applaud students who have to take some English classes and then study Greek or Hebrew. I mean, dang. That's hard. And yet they persevere because they want to serve others well. Seminary is an awesome place to meet new people, learn about different cultures, and forge a deeper bond with those I call brothers and sisters in Christ. I look forward to receiving and giving encouragement during this season. Having some knowledge of what student life is like on campus, I just know it will be such a beautiful thing. Imperfect but beautiful.

Hey, one and a half years to ourselves after we get married? We'll take that in a heartbeat.

So there you have it. We will be fundraising over the next few months to cover our living expenses but we also have things in store for our supporters. Seminary will be a faith-building experience and it's a chance for us to deepen our partnership with God and with others. Seminary is our preparation for a lifetime of ministry. We submit and entrust all our plans to him. 

Let me close with this chapter from St. Paul's letter to the Corinthians. Without love, my time in seminary will miss the point:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, butwhen the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
—1 Corinthians 13

All scripture used is from the English Standard Version.

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