It’s the toughest job you’ll ever love. And no, it’s not the Marine Corps. Teaching an introductory course in New Testament can be worthy of combat pay. This is especially true when most of the students are Christian.
Christian Tetzlaff, superstar young violinist, charmed our town last month by playing Bach’s six works for solo violin. Critic Ted Shen came up with a stereotype when he described Tetzlaff as looking like “a graduate seminarian in his rapt intensity. . . . With his eyes closed . . . he seemed in the flow, in communion with the music.”
What have I learned that I wish I knew before I came to seminary? I wish I had known that I’d be enriched far beyond the mere acquisition of knowledge by learning in community, particularly in this community.
Those of us who have had some experience of theological education in a sense live out of that experience for the rest of our lives. Each experience is unique, of course. I showed up at the University of Chicago Divinity School and Chicago Theological Seminary at a time when those two schools, along with two others, constituted the Federated Theological Faculty.
Daniel Aleshire has been executive director of the Association of Theological Schools since 1998. The Pittsburgh-based association is the accrediting and program agency for graduate theological education in North America. The ATS has 244 Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox member schools.
From this theologian’s perspective, the central challenge for pastoral ministry today concerns the most important mark of good ministry: the ability effectively to mediate faith as an integral way of life to persons, communities and cultures. This has been true throughout history, in every culture and for every community of faith.
It is Columbus Day, and I am halfway through the Bible survey course that I teach every other year. Twenty students signed up this time, although one dropped out after I asked him to rewrite his paper on the canonization process. The rest have declared “Septuagint” the coolest new vocabulary word, despite the fact that there are few opportunities to use it outside of class.
This issue contains some personal musings and reflections on how and when theological education happens—or perhaps doesn’t happen. Many of us have our own musings and memories about situations in which teachers and students become engaged and motivated.
In the safe, posh setting of the seminary, the Bible can seem straightforward enough. For example, my class one day was considering 1 Samuel 5, which is about the capture of the ark of YHWH by the Philistines, who brought it to the town of Ashdod and placed it before Dagon, the Philistines’ god.