Tag: Seminary

Seminary, Obedience, and Spiritual Maturity

I recently came across a portion of a John Piper sermon that I thought would be helpful for seminary students (like myself) to ponder. The excerpt is taken from a sermon entitled, “By This Time You Ought to be Teachers” based on Hebrews 5:11-14. According to this text, spiritual maturity does not take place by the sheer gathering of theological information. In fact, a proper understanding of spiritual truth will be hindered by a lack of diligent application of the truth we already know. We will not be able to comprehend the deep, rich, and more solid meat of God’s Word unless we make good use of the milk of God’s Word. Piper writes,

Now this is amazing.  Don’t miss it.  It could save you years of wasted living.  What verse 14 is saying is that if you want to become mature and understand the more solid teachings of the Word, then the rich, nutritional precious milk of God’s gospel promises must transform your moral senses—your spiritual mind—so that you can discern between good and evil.  Or let me put it another way.  Getting ready to feast on all God’s Word is not first an intellectual challenge; it is first a moral challenge…

The startling truth is that, if you stumble over Melchizedek, it may be because you watch questionable TV programs.  If you stumble over the doctrine of election, it may be because you still use some shady business practices.  If you stumble over the God-centered word of Christ in the cross, it may be because you love money and spend too much and give too little.  The pathway to spiritual maturity and solid biblical food is not first becoming an intelligent person, but becoming an obedient person.  What you do with alcohol and sex and money and leisure and food and computer have more to do with you capacity for solid food than where you got to school and what books you read…

This is remarkable—and frightening.  If we are not diligent in cultivating godly character and obedient hearts, we can forget about making any real progress in our spiritual lives, regardless of how much Owen, Grudem, Erickson, Edwards, Calvin, Carson, Scougal, Bridges, Ryle, Wells, Packer (and Piper!) we read.  In the words of Christ, “Blessed are those who hear the word and obey it” (Luke 11:28).  It could not be more clear.  Maybe what some of us need to do is put down the puritan paperback for a moment and call the cable company to cancel our subscription, or call a friend to seek forgiveness, or confess to our employer that we lied to him last week.  More study, if not coupled with obedience, will only lead to spiritual lethargy and regression, not progress.  May God be merciful to us as we seek to study and obey his Word.

How to Waste Your Theological Education

1. Cultivate pride by writing only to impress your professors instead of writing to better understand and more clearly communicate truth.

2. Perfect the fine art of corner-cutting by not really researching for a paper but instead writing your uneducated and unsubstantiated opinions and filling them in with strategically placed footnotes.

3. Mistake the amount of education you receive with the actual knowledge you obtain. Keep telling yourself, “I’ll really start learning this stuff when I do my Th.M or my Ph.D.”

4. Nurture an attitude of superiority, competition, and condescension toward fellow seminary students. Secretly speak ill of them with friends and with your spouse.

5. Regularly question the wisdom and competency of your professors. Find ways to disrespect your professors by questioning them publicly in class and by trying to make them look foolish.

Continue reading “How to Waste Your Theological Education”

Be Quiet and Listen: A Verse for Seminary Students

Proverbs 18:2 is a verse seminary students (like me) would do well to memorize: “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his own opinion.” How easy it is for me to convince myself of my theological expertise, waxing eloquent with friends, explaining things to professors (as if they needed my instruction!) and taking every opportune moment to give my opinion in this or that issue. But I think much of this is pride and, as this verse indicates, foolishness. Scripture would tell us that maturity is seen in one who is slow to speak, quick to listen, and in one who always ponders their answer before they give it. Fools, on the other hand, can’t stop blabbing. And unfortunately, this is a vicious circle. The more I spout my opinion, the less I learn. The less I learn, the more empty and groundless my opinions become.

Yet, quiet thoughtfulness is not something that should only characterize my time in seminary. Throughout my life I anticipate my growth in understanding and knowledge to be in direct proportion with my ability to be quiet and listen. There will always be people more wise than us, and the moment we forget this vital truth, we put ourselves out of the reach of genuine instruction and in a spiritually precarious position.

This is not to discourage good discussion in the classroom or the sincere asking of questions; nor does it mean that we are obligated to thoughtlessly swallow every last word our professors speak—this would also be unwise. But the overall tenor of the classroom should be, for the students, one of diligent and thoughtful learning. There is a reason why they are the teacher and we are not.