Wow, I can’t believe how long it’s been since I last posted here. I don’t even know where to begin, which is part of the reason why updating gets hard after a while. There’s no single burning issue you need to address; there are about 100 of them.
But a little gentle (and much-needed) prodding pushed me to post today. I honestly have no idea what direction this post is going to take, but I hope it turns out coherent and useful.
I’m officially done with my first whole semester of seminary—four courses down, 27 more to go. I’ve learned so much, but I’m afraid of how much I’ll actually be able to retain. A lot of the things you learn are much more technical and in-depth than you’d expect, and finer details are harder to remember and recall in the long run. One thing I will say is that it is probably very different from what people expect. For instance, skeptical people and believers alike probably think that going to seminary is a hug fest where you hear a bunch of assuring facts to buff up your faith, while ignoring the difficulties and controversies. It’s probably just a way for Christians to make each other more firm in their beliefs while shielding them from the outside scholarly world, right? A big, naive religious bubble?
Well, that is completely NOT the case. If anything, I’m amazed (and impressed) at the objectivity of our lessons and texts. All opposing viewpoints are considered, and any holes in our understanding—including apparent discrepancies or contradictions—are addressed out in the open. This further confirms my amusement at atheists who think that they are uncovering flaws and gaps that Christians are unable to see. I’ll save you the suspense, skeptics. If you think you’ve brilliantly “discovered” a “mistake” in the Bible, Christian scholars have probably been discussing and researching it for centuries. And most likely, they have about five plausible theories you would never think of on your own. A Google search won’t show them either. I’ll even go so far as to say that if you took all the scholarly works on every other religion in the world and combined them, you would still fall short of the amount of research that has been done on the Old and New Testaments. There is no close second place.
While exposure to all of this has confirmed that our belief is sound and deeply considered, I have to admit something ironic. In the middle of learning all of this biblical and academic information, it is very difficult to keep one’s relationship with God in the right place…especially when there are always new worldly distractions! I think Ray Comfort put it best when he said you have to be careful in seminary not to let the fire die out while you’re busy collecting sticks. This is so true. I’ve almost turned seminary work into an academic exercise, and it has replaced my devotional time with God and deep Bible reading. I feel the fire glowing dimly; it is no longer blazing. That’s the bad news.
The good news is, as a true believer, I am constantly feeling the tug of the Holy Spirit on my heart. In fact, there have been strange things put into my life—in progressing impact and severity—that are serving as a wake-up call to my spiritual life. I can’t go into too much detail here on a public blog (a burn on my arm for starters), but God is calling louder to the point where I can no longer ignore Him. I know that if I tune Him out any further, I do so at my own peril. The fear of the Lord is drawing me back, and I prayed last night with genuine thankfulness for it! Imagine being thankful for fear toward anybody else haha. It’s funny how closely related the fear of God and love for Him can be. And let’s not forget that both aspects of our relationship are vital. You can’t just rely on one or the other, you must have both at all times.
I admit, when I was doing “well” spiritually, a bit of complacency was setting in. I was starting to see God as something of a buddy, which He is, but not as much more. “He’s got my back now,” was the way I was thinking, but I failed to take into account that I was still free to screw it up. God is sovereign always, and I must never allow myself to get too comfortable again. Fear and love, fear and love, fear and love…repeat it a thousand times.
While God’s spiritual reminders and tugging can become more severe and even scary, what’s even more terrifying is the thought of getting to the point where He no longer beckons. Please don’t let yourselves get to the point where His voice has been completely drowned out. He is a patient God, but at some point if you don’t do your part, He will let you go (read, for example, Luke 13:6-9). You will be “free” to lead yourself to your own wasting away or destruction. Let’s never get complacent…I need this reminder as much as anybody else.
I pray that in the upcoming semester, I will balance out seminary texts with my personal growth and devotional time. There is absolutely no substitute for reading the Bible EVERY DAY and praying to God. Learning about what some German scholar thinks about Markan priority or different theories of authorship are interesting, but they do not necessarily fuel the fire. We must keep it burning.
And by “we,” I’m largely talking to myself, but I hope anyone else reading this heeds my warning as well.