Monday, August 14, 2006

Reflections...(Part 1)

Well, I have finished the first year of divinity school at Wake Forest, and most of the time it has actually flown by. I am all finished with Hebrew, which I have to admit got just a little bit tedious toward the end. Working on it every day obviously helped me learn it faster, but it was also tough not getting much of a break. The amazing thing is that 10 weeks ago, I didn't know the Hebrew alphabet, but by the time I finished the class, we were reading Ruth from the Hebrew Bible, although the reading went very slowly. I am happy to report that I got an "A" in both classes. If it weren't for the minuses (ex. "A-" rather than "A") that Wake uses, my GPA would be 3.90, as it is, it will be a 3.7 something I think, I am still waiting for it to be computed.

I am not posting the above to brag about my success. Rather, I am posting it because I believe it is a reflection of my commitment to my call into ministry. I have never looked at these three years in school as a break. I look at them as more of a gift. God has blessed me with the opportunity to spend three years learning everything that I can to prepare for the ministry. The only way I feel I can be true to my calling is to devote all the energy and effort I possibly can to my studies, and that is exactly what I have done. I also posted these results as a way of thanking those who have supported me over the past year, both financially and with prayer. I wanted to make you proud of me, and I hope I have done that. I appreciate everything you all have done for me and everything you will continue doing for me both through the next two years at Wake and throughout my ministry.

The SBC posted an article today that was critical of "CBF Seminaries." (You can read this article by clicking here.) When I read the article to my wife Gay, she pointed out that the article never even talked about "the call." It never pointed out that maybe, just maybe, students should attend the theological institution God is calling them to attend. Those of you who have known me for a while, know that WFU was not my first choice when I began visiting schools in 2004. It was the last stop on our tour, and we really just stopped here because it was so close to Campbell and they happened to be having their "Discovery Day" on the last Saturday of our trip. But, the most amazing thing is that as soon as the day was over, Gay and I both said, "This is it!" We both knew that this is the place that God was calling us to. And, a year later, I still feel the same way. I know for sure that I am getting a top quality education. Wake is a small university and a very small divinity school, but that size means that I am able to get to know many of my professors on a one to one basis. At how many schools can one sit around a table with only half a dozen other students and discuss contemporary Christian issues with the dean of the divinity school who is one of the foremost Christian historians in the country and the former director of the Baptist Joint Committee? That was was we did in my "God and the NY Times" class. I have no doubt this class will be one of highlights of my education, and it would never have happened in a larger school.

Why do I go to The Divinity School at Wake Forest University? Because that is where God called me! And I take offense to anyone who criticizes me for that decision, or criticizes Wake simply because it is small, or because we have non-Baptists. I look at Wake's diversity as a strength, not a weakness! I am Christian first, and a Baptist a distant second. I am studying at a school with other Christians, and I don't really care whether they are Presbyterian, Moravian, or Quaker. We are all Christians, and we can all learn from each other. Baptists do not have all the answers, and they never will. So, as you can see, I am proud of my school and the education it is providing me, and I thank the Lord for allowing me to attend here.

I know so much more than I did a year ago, and I think about my faith in a different way. I approach the Bible in a different way, for example. Whenever I study now, I read the text several times. The first time I read it through just to get my own thoughts on the text, and I ask myself, "What is the text saying to me?" Then I often read the footnotes and commentaries to answer the question, "What has the text said to others." Then I read it again and I ask myself, "What would this text say to me if I was not a Christian?" I try to look at it from the perspective of ancient Jew (if I am reading the Old Testament) or as a non-Christian. How does that make me see the text differently? How does that help me teach the text to others? I then stop for a while, pray, and ask "What is God saying to me through this text?" Because, in the end, that's really what it is all about. It isn't really all about who wrote the text, when the text was written, or whether the event being described actually happened the exact way it is being described. Those things can be important, and they are certainly interesting, but they are secondary. They are secondary to the message that God is trying to give me, through the text.

To be continued...

1 comment:

Kent said...

Wow Gil, CONGRATS...we are so proud of you and I agree with your comment about being a Christian first. I think a lot of people don't believe that and that type of thinking will get them in trouble.