Saturday, October 29, 2011

Finding a Church at Seminary

One of the things that new seminary students and families who move to seminary face is the search for a new church.    It can be an intimidating task.  Here in Saint Louis  there are twelve PCA churches with a Saint Louis address, and at least that many more in the greater Saint Louis area.  Add to that some good churches in other denominations, and the search for a church home can be daunting. In fact, there are students here who have been here a year and have not yet settled on a church.

We didn't want to be in that state of flux for that long.  We decided to do a few things to facilitate finding a good church home.  The first thing we did was decide that we were not going to look for a church with good scholarships for their seminary students.  If we happened to land at a church that did offer financial support for seminary students, great.  But that was certainly not the goal.  Secondly, because I am under care of the James River Presbytery, we wanted to stay in the PCA.  With those two things in mind, we began to talk with people that have lived here for awhile.  We told them about the type of church that we were looking for and visited churches based on their suggestions.  Finally, we decided that we would land when we found a church that fit, be it the first or twenty-first that we visited, provided that the church had the marks of a true church.

It would have been easy for us to be dissatisfied and to keep looking for a church that was exactly like the church we left, but you will almost never find that.  When we visited Covenant Presbyterian Church we found God-honoring worship and we heard the Gospel clearly preached.  Each member of the church was assigned to an elder to facilitate pastoral care.  The people were welcoming.  We were invited to a cook-out for seminary students, and the kids liked the nursery.  We decided to make Covenant our church home for the next four years, and have been blessed immensely during our first few months there.  We sincerely miss our church at home, and we are gladly keeping our full membership there, but we praise God that he has given us such a warm and wonderful body of believers with whom we can worship while here in St. Louis.

"Cor meum tibi offero, Domine, prompte et sincere."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Words of Life by Timothy Ward

Timothy Ward's "Words of Life" is an excellent orientation to Bibliology.  Instead of jumping straight into a discussion of the traditional labels for the Bible in Systematic Theology, Ward works from the ground up.  He discusses the Bible's view of itself, then looks at this view in light of modern speech-act theory.  Next he develops a doctrine of Scripture from a Trinitarian and theological perspective.  Only after developing a Biblical and Theological view of the Bible does he begin to discuss it doctrinally, using the traditional categories of the Bible's necessity, sufficiency, clarity, and authority.  This is an extremely helpful method.  When we begin with the doctrine first, we miss the depth and breadth of these affirmations.  Working from the ground up makes these doctrines much more visceral and causes them to land with a greater impact.

Another helpful aspect of this work is Ward's decision to place the discussion of inerrancy as a subcategory in his discussion of the Bible's authority.  Evangelicals (myself included) often miss the point of the doctrine of inerrancy because we are quick to affirm it, but do not take the time to understand it.  Ward shows us that while inerrancy is important, it is an outworking of what the Bible is and does, and not vice versa.  As I heard it explained once, we hold that the Bible is inerrant because it is true, not that it is true because it is inerrant.

This is a very good, clear summary of the doctrine of the Bible.  It places the discussion in the modern linguistic discussion without loosing any of the historic orthodox doctrine of the Scripture.  Because of its contemporary voice, we will see if it has legs to last down through the years, but now, it is an excellent and helpful work.

"Cor meum tibi offero, Domine, prompte et sincere."

Stress and Contentment

I have been in seminary for about half a semester.  In those two months, I have learned that life in seminary is very stressful.  New seminarians face time pressure, financial pressure, academic pressure, and family pressure.   Many of us are coming from good careers into a world of uncertainty.

As I interact with talented professors and peers thoughts creep into my mind that question my sufficiency for the calling to vocational ministry.  There are many here who are better equipped than I, and I wonder if in four years time I will have done well enough to find a church calling.  There is no doubt that most of my peers would concur, seminary is stressful.

What is ironic about the stress of seminary, though, is that the remedy for this stress is preached to us daily.  In class, in chapel, at church, and in our reading seminarians are faced daily with the Gospel.  Our sufficiency in Christ is demonstrated daily.  The realization that we are never good enough is proclaimed and accepted.

In the first lecture in my beginning homiletics class, Dr. Chapell highlighted this.  It is not until we realize our insufficiency that we will be able to preach with any efficiency.  If I do not know that I need God's grace, I'll never be able to proclaim that grace to others.

As I stay up until after midnight studying, or wake up at 5:00am to review paradigms, I must remember that I am not here working for myself.  I am here working for Christ, His kingdom, and His church.
"Cor meum tibi offero, Domine, prompte et sincere."

Sunday, October 9, 2011

My heart I offer

In my first systematic theology class at Covenant Seminary, one of my professors suggested that each of us in the class choose one modern, and one ancient pastor/theologian as mentors.  His intention is that we get to know two of our fathers in the faith as intimately as possible.  Mostly, this means that we read everything that they put on paper.

I am still undecided about the modern theologian (any suggestions would be welcome), but I knew straight away who the ancient would be:  John Calvin.

I first became acquainted with Calvin's work during my undergrad.  I didn't really read him until the summer of 2010 when I started reading the Institutes.  Instead of the stodgy, rationalistic, ethereal man I expected to find, I found a passionate pastor who loved the Bible.  He is brilliant, to be sure, but his writting is pastoral and deep.  It takes some time and work to read him, separated as we are by nearly 500 years and different languages, but the effort is worth it.

The title of this blog is "My heart I offer."  I took this from Calvin's motto, "My heart I offer, Lord, promptly and sincerely."  For me that is a prayer and a goal.

This blog will contain reflections.  Here I hope to reflect on theology, on life at seminary, and on preparation for the ministry.  It may be a bit amorphous at the beginning, and as schoolwork piles up, my blogs may be sporadic as well.  In all of it, though, I hope it will live up to the title.

My heart I offer, Lord, quickly and sincerely.