One of the Most Important Things I Learned in Seminary
Peter BeckPeter serves as assistant professor of religion at Charleston Southern University where he teaches church history and theology. While serving as senior pastor in Louisville, Ky., he completed his PhD in historic theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His dissertation, The Voice of Faith: Jonathan Edwards's Theology of Prayer, is soon to be published. He, his wife Melanie, and their two kids, Alex (12) and Karis (7), live near Charleston, SC. Peter's goal for his teaching and writing ministries is "love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith" (1 Tim 1:5).
- 2009 Mar 04
There’s something about alphabet soup. It seems to affect all of us in the same way. We see all those letters floating around and words start coming to mind. Words like “genius,” “smart,” and “intelligent.” Obviously I’m not talking about the kind of alphabet soup that comes from
People are impressed by the string of initials that follow many of our names. In one sense, they ought to be. Earning any one of those degrees is an achievement accomplished by God’s grace and the individual needs to be recognized for his or her efforts. On the flip side, however, sometime we give too much credit to people with a lot letters after their names.
That happened to me recently. I had just completed teaching a long series on the history and theology of the Reformation at a local church. The people seemed to be genuinely interested and gained something from my efforts. Afterwards, one of those people came up to thank me for the lessons and to let me know of a conversation that she had with her husband. The gist of the conversation was this: Dr Beck knows so much, do you think he can learn anything else?
When she told me about that conversation, she was obviously being complimentary but her comment made me cringe. Me, omniscient? Omnicompetent? Hardly. I quickly responded that I’ve got so much more to learn that I barely know where to begin. What I’m afraid that she took as simple modesty was really a humble admission of the fact that I’m nowhere done learning. I learned that in seminary.
Seminary is a great blessing. I made lasting friends. I grew in my faith. I learned much about God and His word. I also learned a lot about myself and human nature. Here’s a few of the things that I learned along those lines:
1 - Doing all things for the glory of God includes studying.
2 - There are a lot of very smart people out there.
3 - There are a lot of very lazy people out there.
4 - Numbers 2 and 3 often apply to the same people. Thus, number 1.
5 - Some people think they know everything and insist on proving it.
But, one of the most important thing that I learned in seminary about myself was that I don’t know everything. The more I learned the more I realized that I had so much more to learn. As one friend put it, “the more I learn, the dumber I feel.”
Contrary to popular thinking, learning does not end. It is punctuated here and there by graduations but the process itself goes on and on. No degree is truly terminal. As we learn something new, more doors and grander vistas open before us. Each piece of information guides us to another which guides us to another which guides us to another and so on and so forth. The true student never stops learning because he cannot stop learning.
Do I know a lot more than I did 10 years and 3 degress ago? Absolutely. Am I done learning? Absolutely not.
I have been given a great gift by God in my education. I am expected to do things with it for the glory of God. Those things include teaching and testifying to God’s goodness. I am also expected, like every other believer, to continue to grow in my faith and knowledge. Now that I have tasted of the good things of God, I should want more. I must move from the milk of my education to the meat of God’s universe. After all, I don’t know everything.
Afterword: That’s the amazing thing about heaven. We will spend eternity learning more about God, day after day, millennia after millennia, and there will always be more to learn. How cool is that?