Thursday, July 27, 2017

Seminary is not an easy-going place of Hallelujah

Yung Suk Kim

What does it mean to study in a graduate school of theology?
Seminary (graduate school of theology) is not an easy-going place of Hallelujah. It is not a place where you can simply strengthen your faith or learn more about it. Rather, it is a seriously demanding journey that you have to examine various subjects very critically, including yourself. I want to emphasize including "yourself."

Often the problem is that you know too much and you think you know enough. But that is exactly the problem. In the seminary, you have to question many things such as the very text (Scripture), interpretations of other people, and reader's ideologies. Seminary is a rare space of critical engagement where you can raise any questions that you have not dared to do so.

Apostle Paul reminds us the importance of this kind of a critical spirit as he wrote in 1 Thess 5:21: "Test everything; hold fast to what is good." You don't have to believe someone because of his or her reputation. You have to test everything and tell others what you think is true. Eventually, after the test, you have to bear witness without fear or doubt. That is, "hold fast to what is good."

My hope is that through the seminary journey you will put on clearer lenses through which you will see the world differently. For that matter, the first thing to do is to unlearn what you know already. Be open-minded and expect new things! Use your God-given imagination and reason and engage with the Spirit of truth unabashedly.

In the end, seminary is not a place of mere renewal but a place of rebirth, which is possible through the Spirit of truth. That rebirth is not a kind of once-and-for-all but must be a continual process of being born from above. There must be a new sense of self, neighbor, and the world.

*NOTE:
1. Interestingly, the above posting has a chiasm: A-B-C-B'-A'
2. I gave a brief talk about seminary expectation at new students orientation for Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology, Virginia Union University. The above posting was written in preparation for that event.



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