Now that finals week is finally winding down, I have a little more time for things like this blog. I wanted to share some reflections on my first semester in the MDiv program at Duke. It’s taken me a long time to come to the conclusion that God’s calling me to ministry, but now that I’m finally answering that call, I’m glad I’m going to Duke to figure it out. This is my third year at the Divinity School (I did a Th.M. over the past two years), but my first as an M.Div. student. I’ve found that the school provides a lot of great opportunities to explore one’s call and to meet with other future pastors for prayer and accountability. I wish, however, that I could have had a group to keep me accountable for my reading. I know I missed a lot because I didn’t get to read everything I was assigned. A small group that combined spiritual formation and academic discipline would have been very helpful. I’m also impressed by the level of concern of the part of faculty and administrative staff for the growth and development of the M.Div. students. When I was a Th.M. nobody paid me any attention. As an M.Div student the support is fantastic.
I think, however, that the greatest asset of DDS is its commitment to a kind of orthodox theology in the mainstream of historic Christianity that avoids both extremes of liberalism and fundamentalism. At Duke, faculty help future pastors to understand how one could be fully credal and orthodox without needing to condemn gays, assume Jews are going to hell, or ignore issues of social justice. At the same time, this is no easy New Age liberalism that relies on “spiritual” platitudes like “Jesus is Lord for us, but he may not be for you.” Our profs and most of our students really believe that Jesus is Lord, and that because he’s Lord certain ethical and political implications are unavoidable – implications, strangely enough, like generosity toward people of other religions. For most of us here I would venture to say that orthodoxy means so much more than simply a list of “Fundamentals,” but it also means that we hate idolatrous, vague abstractions like “God,” “spirituality” and “love.” For these words to mean anything we must first learn what “Jesus is Lord” means. That’s what I’m trying to do here, and what I hope to keep doing when I’m a pastor.
Having said all that, I can’t wait to be done with school!
If you’re a student at Duke or at any seminary or divinity school, I’d love to hear your thoughts on theological education, the pastor’s vocation or anything else.