I am now a full-time student again. I am taking a regular, full-time-student load at the Wake Forest University School of Divinity during the spring and fall of 2017 and practicing law about half-time this year. I am excited and nervous about it, all at once. I enjoy lawyering, and—particularly since I have been doing it for over 22 years—it is hard to envision not doing it full-time.
[This is where Tracey says it is hard to envision me not receiving full-time income since we’ve been doing that for 22 years now, too. 🙂 ]
I am enjoying Divinity School and learning a lot. Even with a reduced load, last semester was challenging, both academically and personally. Several people asked me if the classes and tests essentially just ask my opinion—and thus my answer can’t be wrong!—but that is not the situation. The academics are graduate-level academics, akin to law school.
The final exam in my Old Testament Interpretation I class last semester, for example, included an essay question asking for details of the Syro-Ephraimite War (in 734 B.C.E.) and its geo-political and theological impact. My final paper and presentation in our History of Evangelicalism class was on the Israel-Palestine conflict and the evangelical view of it over the last 100 years. These are not easy questions.
Divinity students’ personal beliefs and opinions are challenged by what we learn and by discussions in class and outside. For example, we read the book of Joshua, which reports that the Israelites slaughtered thousands of people—men, women, and children—when conquering the Promised Land; and the book reports that it was done with God’s encouragement and approval. How does that impact my view of God? And we learned how the book of Judges and archaeology contradicts much of what is reported in the book of Joshua about such destruction. How does that impact my personal beliefs?
Students learn on many occasions that an in-depth study of a moral or scriptural issue—Bible in hand and brain turned on—reveals that the answer that we have been told over the years or that is generally accepted (“The Bible clearly says …” or “[Something] … is clearly wrong in God’s eyes” or the like) is not actually clear at all and that other answers are also reasonable. What does one do with that information?
This is just a tip of one iceberg. There were dozens, maybe hundreds, of thought-provoking points packed into last semester, and I am anticipating more this semester.
For the most part, we are not tested on our personal beliefs and opinions. We are occasionally tested on our ability to explain our personal beliefs and opinions, with reference to scripture, historical facts, or other facts. In other words, it is not the personal belief or opinion itself that is graded, but our ability to explain and back up whatever that belief or opinion might be is sometimes graded.
The classes I am taking this semester:
- Old Testament Interpretation II
- History of Christianity II
- History of Theological Ethics
- Homiletics & Worship (“Preaching”)
- Israel-Palestine from a Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Perspective
OT Interpretation II focuses on the books of the prophets and the writings (the latter being what us Protestants sometimes call the history and poetry). We covered Genesis through Second Kings last semester, and we are starting with the books of Amos and Hosea this semester (not going in the order to which you are accustomed, probably).
History of Christianity II essentially covers Christian history (Protestant, Catholic, etc.) from about 1600 C.E. to present (about 400 years).
History of Theological Ethics is an overview of the development of Christian morals and ethics from around 400 B.C.E. to present (about 2400 years!). We are starting with Plato and Aristotle.
Homiletics & Worship is the introduction-to-preaching class. Class requirements include delivering two sermons. Watch out Billy Graham and Tim Keller.
Israel-Palestine is a travel / paper class. I was in Israel and Palestine for 2 weeks over the holidays with 16 of my classmates, our professor, a dean, and an in-country guide. I plan to write a blog post or two about my experience. Spoiler alert: It was a great trip, a trip of a lifetime.
Thus begins a time of being a full-time student again after 22 years. I would appreciate your prayers.
(Picture: The picture at the top is a picture of the Sea of Galilee that I took from the front of a boat on which our group of pilgrims travelled a couple of weeks ago. It is one of my favorite pictures from the trip.)