The Roots of My Seminary

I was browsing in the school's library and found a work, "Baptists in Oregon" by Albert W. Wardin, Jr. I thought that might be interesting - a 575 page history about a specific part of Christianity in a very specific part of the world. So I browsed the contents and then came upon a sub-heading that referred to the very school in whose library I stood.

I read about the formative history of Western Seminary. It was started in 1927 and founded by the then pastor of Hinson Memorial Baptist Church (Portland), John Marvin Dean. While he was certainly part of the Fundamentalist movement of that time, is more properly categorized as a moderate. In the Oregon Baptist history book, I found a very interesting quote from one of Dean's sermons. Here it is:

"Evangelism and social service are twins and cannot live in separation. It will be a glad day for American Christianity when all the social service theorists and faddists become soul-winners and all the evangelistic Christians become servants of the common good."

Dean had other attitudes somewhat foreign to today's so-called "Fundamentalists." Here's another quote from a report to the seminary's Board of Trustees in 1937:

"... up to date this year's service has been the most satisfactory in the history of the institution. Every year more students are learning to think independently, and to use Scripture in an honest attempt to learn what was in the mind of the writers and not to prove pet theories. If we can teach our students honestly to let the Book speak for itself, instead of using it as an arsenal of proof-texts to bolster up someone's philosophy of religion, we have performed a task well worth while."

If I may be so bold, I am happy to report that my experience at Western Seminary has so far been consistent with those foundational aspirations of John M. Dean.


1 Corinthians 13

Back In The Day, it became popular to paraphrase 1 Cor. 13. Such paraphrases are not just 'a dime a dozen,' but more like a dime a gross! Still, I came along the chapter in my devotional reading yesterday and my mind went to paraphrase mode. Here's what I came up with...
  1. If I exercise charismatic gifts but have not love, I have become an annoying ring-tone or a fire alarm buzzer
  2. If I have The Preaching Gift, and know my Systematic Theology thoroughly; and if I have the faith to change the most intransigent of Elder Board members, but do not love, I am Game Over
  3. And if I minister in an inner-city missio-community, and if I am a missionary to the most demanding and God-foresaken place on the planet, but do not have love, those are an utter waste of time
  4. Love keeps going, love is kind and doesn’t get tweaked when someone else gets the credit; love doesn’t entertain invitations to write ‘ministry success’ stories in Leadership, Outreach, or Rev!, and certainly doesn’t cop an attitude,
  5. Doesn’t get rude; it doesn’t welcome a pastor-centric ministry model, isn’t prickly, doesn’t keep score
  6. Does not gloat when someone from another movement gets trashed in the press, but rejoices in Jesus
  7. Is sacrificial in ministry, gives people the presumptive benefit of the doubt, is optimistic about the future, keeps doing ministry even when it is Really Hard
  8. Love doesn’t stumble; but if there are preaching gifts, they will be obsoleted; if there are charismatic gifts, they will be abandoned; if there is theology, it will be tossed
  9. Because we don’t have all the facts and we preach incompletely
  10. But when Jesus comes, all those gaps will be filled
  11. When I was a kid, I talked like a kid, I thought like a kid, had a child’s perspective; when I grew up, I wasn’t like that anymore
  12. Now we see in a pixilated manner, but then with our own eyes; now I have a limited perspective, but then I will see the whole thing just as I will be fully seen
  13. But now conviction, optimism, love, these things are always around; but the most important is love.


Seminary Program

I was reminded that this blog is supposed to be about things I’m learning about in seminary. I was made aware of two websites that specifically discuss going to and being in seminary. Here they are:

Just in case there are some of you out there who are interested in some of the more programmatic parts of my seminary ‘career,’ I thought I’d do a blog on that stuff.

I am currently attending Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. The seminary is at the top of Hawthorne Blvd – the center of Portland’s Post-Modern community, it seems. My initial program was the Masters of Divinity (M.Div.), which is the ‘traditional’ professional degree for pastoral ministry. M.Div. programs include courses in Bible survey, Systematic Theology, practical skills, church history, original languages (Hebrew and Greek), and some electives to refine the seminarian’s knowledge base. What I really enjoy about Western’s program is that they require several Spiritual Formation courses.

After about a year, I could project that the money was running out. That meant that I would have to scale my seminary experience back. This was a hard pill to swallow, on many levels. But it turned out that I could fulfill the requirements of another degree in the time-money I had left.
That degree is the Masters of Arts in Exegetical Theology (M.A.E.T.). The MAET is basically the M.Div. without the practical ministry courses. It is useful for those who are headed for the Masters of Theology (Th.M.) degree. Personally, I’m going to miss those practical ministry courses but my plan is to keep plugging away at them part-time until I can get the M.Div.

Another unique feature of Western’s program is the “Functional” language track. Western had noticed that even the most brilliant language students, once they got into pastoral ministry, lost much of their language skills. Most seminary graduates settle into relying on lexicons, grammars, and (these days) software such as Logos or Bibleworks. Well, if that’s the case, said the Sages of Western, then why don’t we just prepare our students for what they will actually be doing in ministry? So Western offers two tracks: the “Foundational” (traditional) and the “Functional” (tool-intensive). I am in the Functional track.