Who has a brand new Masters of Divinity degree? This guy.


After going to seminary nearly 8 years ago, dropping out after a year, and then returning 5 years later, I have now graduated with my Masters of Divinity from the Newbigin House of Studies program at Western Theological Seminary. (Sorry for all those links.)

I was also proud and humbled to have been voted by the faculty to receive the Stanley A. Rock award in Pastoral Care and Counseling, “for outstanding work in pastoral care and counseling courses and formation for ministry assignments”.

So what now? Well, first I have to finish my last six weeks of classes before actually getting my actual degree. Then I will need to finish my requirements for ordination as a minister in the Reformed Church in America. After that? I’m still figuring it out.

I’ll still be in Philadelphia. I won’t be looking for a ministerial job outside my own church. I’ll continue my job in social work while other opportunities work themselves out. I still hope to do Ph.D. work in the future, but I’m taking a breather for the immediate moment.

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How Preaching Saved Me from Evangelicalism’s Bible


If I’ve learned anything the past few years, it’s that Evangelical Fundamentalism is absolutely right: as I’ve embraced more and more what conservatives often label a “liberal” view of the Bible, it really has negatively affected my spiritual and devotional life.

When you think the Bible is itself the “infallible, inerrant, Word of God”–when you think that the precise words themselves hold a magical power–you do approach the Bible with a greater amount of awe, respect, and mysticism. I’ve written before how it wasn’t until college that I read any of the Gospels on my own, because I had this fear of reading the “literal, unfiltered” words of Jesus. They seemed so big and other-worldly to me.

I’ve loved the Bible my whole life. I still have the first Bible I was ever given as a child. I still vividly remember the evening on my parent’s bed after they had read a Psalm that had been stuck in the middle of the stories about David that it finally clicked for me that the Bible wasn’t just narratives, but also poems and other kinds of writing.

My Southern Baptist upbringing has got it engrained in me that my entire spiritual and devotional life should revolve around this book. No matter how much I tell myself otherwise, something in me always has (and always will) “evaluate” my spiritual health by how I engage the Scriptures, in both quantity and quality.
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Dispatches from the Snowy Midwest (Seminary Daze)

winternight-bw2For the next week-and-a-half more, I find myself in Holland, Michigan. I’m here for an in-person intensive in my otherwise distance seminary program. It’s two weeks of Hebrew for over 5 hours a day and two other classes in the afternoon and evenings.

I’ve been here since Sunday and it really has been amazing. There was tons of snow here causing travel hiccups for a lot of people, though I came in just before the worst of it. I’m staying with some guys from the program in a house right on Lake Matacawa (see picture above).

I still don’t know how to relate to these sorts of times. Going into it, I expected it to be a time appealing to my introverted self; mainly sitting and staying to myself (and happily so), keeping my nose in books. I wasn’t looking forward to taking this much time off from work, and I wondered why these classes couldn’t continue being online. I didn’t need to know these other people in the program. Why was I being forced to spend time with them in person?

Instead, it’s been hard to get a moment to myself (and–surprisingly–happily so). These guys I’m staying with are all amazing men, and the classes have been learning experiences unlike anything I’ve seen before. I get to have conversations that are so refreshing compared to my previous seminary experiences. Yes, the talks are still all about those things most normal people don’t (and shouldn’t) spend much time in thought over (theories of lapsarianism, the mutability of God, the influence of Western philosophical models on classical theology, etc.).

And yet, these talks have been marked by two big differences from their prior college and seminary iterations. First, few of these talks have stayed there in the ether for their entire duration. Eventually they get to talks about how it affects how we do ministry, serve others, how we communicate these ideas in helpful ways, and how we can peaceably coexist with others that disagree with us on any particular niche issue. It has challenged my pastoral sensibilities and has really connected high theology with the mundane in really beautiful ways.

And that leads to the second thing. In my particular program, there is so much diversity in opinion on even major parts of theology and church life. This school is a denominational school with lots of beliefs about lots of things–and they don’t hide it–they’re anything but wishy-washy on doctrinal issues. And yet, those that are here have such a beautiful sense of what’s essential and not. To see the most theologically conservative members of our group joking around with and living life with those that would be considered some of the most rebellious “liberal” theologians in the Church today truly is a beautiful thing.

So many of our theological conversations have simply been exploring what one another thinks, why they think it, what led them there, and how it affects their lives. It’s not debate or argument. Just sharing and, in a sense, playing in the playground of theology.

And when theology becomes that–not a battle ground with God as our theological General, but a playground with our loving Father watching on, kissing boo-boos, and bandaging scraped knees–theology becomes an exercise in freedom, worship, beauty, and invitation unlike anything the rest of the world has to offer.

Would that all of our brothers and sisters felt the same way.