Thursday, September 14, 2006

Why Do It?

So why do it? Why would a conservative student enroll in a liberal seminary?

There are many reasons. First of all, I've always been surprised at the mere existence of liberal Christians. I just don't get it. Going to a liberal seminary will expose me to the "why" of liberal Christianity. Think of it as cultural anthropology. There is a huge Christian culture that I am totally clueless about, and I want to know what makes them tick.

Second of all, I like a challenge. I could go to a conservative seminary, but would I really learn much? Whether or not I agree with everything presented, I can be certain that a liberal seminary will present me with new ways of looking at scripture. Often I find that there is a nugget of truth even in the things I most disagree with. By finding the wheat among the chaff, I can be a better student of scripture, as well as exercise discernment.

This blog is meant to chronicle the things that stand out to a person like me. Please note that while I will probably do a lot of liberal-bashing on this blog (and possibly a lot of professor-bashing), that really is not the point. The main point to take away is to understand the different assumptions that we bring to scripture, and how that affects the way we look at it. Keep in mind that EVERYONE I have met so far in seminary I have appreciated, and that I have learned a lot even from my most liberal professors. In fact, the great majority of what they have taught has been beneficial even from a directly conservative evangelical perspective. This blog isn't about those similarities, it's about the differences. So please don't take my continual posting about the problems to indicate that there is only bad stuff, or only annoying stuff, or only differences. This blog is just meant to highlight those things.

Also, I don't plan on revealing my identity on this blog. This blog is not about me, and it's not about the seminary I go to. You may be able to guess who I am or where I go, but I can assure you, any comment containing personally revealing information about me, the seminary I go to, or the professors I am taking will be IMMEDIATELY DELETED. This isn't about individuals, it's about ways of approaching scripture and ways of approaching God. Sure, I am a particular person at a particular seminary with particular professors, but we're going to leave them out for this blog.

My goal for this blog is several:

* Provide insights to both liberals and conservatives about why we differ (though the liberals will have to suffer through my screeds)
* Provide help for seminarians who find themselves in the same situation, and are having trouble in their faith as they go through seminary
* Provide an outlet for when I get really annoyed with seminary
* Provide a place for me to remember my seminary experiences

Also, just so you'll know, I reserve the right to go off-topic whenever I darn well please.


At 9/14/2006 11:36 AM, Blogger Salvador T. Cordova said...


Learning the art of intellectual warfare means practicing under battlefield conditions.

Muscles develop best when under an optimal amount of stress....

I have learned a lot by engaging the opposite opinion. This works if the truth is on your side. It can be difficult if one is defending an erroneous position, but it's best to iron out mistakes early on in one's career.

Some of the most effective minds in theological issues have been those that came out of liberal or atheistic communities.

I drive four hours a week so I can hang out with atheist think tanks at James Madison University. So I concur with your approach.

At 9/14/2006 1:30 PM, Anonymous cseminarian said...

"Some of the most effective minds in theological issues have been those that came out of liberal or atheistic communities."

Like who?

At 9/14/2006 8:00 PM, Blogger Salvador T. Cordova said...

CS Lewis came out of an atheistic community. Lee Strobel as well. Granted the may not be professional theologians, but they have been incredibly effective at arguing the faith.

Augustine came out of a very pagan background.

But if my hypothesis is incorrect or not yet well supported, it might be an interesting question to visit. It has generally been my impression the one's versant in opposing views argues his case the best.

If one can take the opponents premises and then logically show them to support your conclusions that is powerful.

When I argue Christian apologetics I start from a materialist atheist metaphysic. God promised there will be no excuse for rejecting him in Romans 1:20. I believe that means that God has promised that every metaphysical system can be demostrated to have a fatal flaw.

Even in mathematics, when a question is uncertain, we can start off with a set of assumptions. It the assumptions lead to a contradiction, we know the assumptions were false.

At 9/17/2006 8:30 PM, Blogger Michael said...


I can appreciate your approach. In one of my Course of Study classes, Marcus Borg was introduced as one of the required texts. It caused quite a stir because Borg upset almost all of the fond stories we have been told since childhood. His perspective demanded that our faith be constantly challenged to determine whether it is actually faith at all. His ideas are interesting, to say the least, and more than a little challenging for the typical conservative.

Best of luck in your studies.

At 9/18/2006 12:08 AM, Anonymous cseminarian said...

Michael -- thanks for posting!

Yes, that is precisely why I wanted to go to a liberal seminary. What I expected was that I would be challenged greatly by the material, and that this challenge would extend my faith. This has been true. However, what I did not expect was the amount of belligerence which comes from not conforming to the party line.

This is in a minority of my teachers (at least so far), but I do have one that seems to get very angry with people who do not just "go along" and accept his view of how to study the NT. For example, I agree with the fact that the ideas in the NT developed over time, but I disagree with the idea that we should forcefully read in disagreement where a nuanced agreement can easily fit in. When ideas "grow up", they don't necessarily change, as much as you have a better perspective on them. The professor wants to view them as being in contradiction to what comes before, and considers any attempt to bring together the ideas in multiple parts as just reading in modern theology into ancient documents.

But I must say, if I treated my wife that way (considered her disparate statements of something as evidence of contradictory thoughts, rather than treat them as nuances of a common source of thought), I would quickly be in the doghouse.


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