Friday, April 25, 2014

Pleading for Purpose

FYI: I'm writing this post with a hint of anger, frustration, apathy, and helplessness.

Currently, I am reading Holy Scripture: A Dogmatic Sketch by John Webster, a systematic, Barth-influenced professor of theology at the University of Aberdeen. This book is not for the faint of heart or mind.
I have to respond to this innocuous-looking, 137-page book for an assignment in a paper. It doesn't seem like a giant task, but it's a doozy.

If you know me well enough, I despise analytical, abstract speech with big words and giant concepts. Don't get me wrong. As I'm completing this book I appreciate some of the things Webster is saying, but not without slogging through paragraph after paragraph of ideas I had to read several times over to get a hint of what he MIGHT be saying. By the time he got to the part of his book that uses words "us regular folks" kind of sound like, I was already beaten up and thrown through a paper-cutting, theological gauntlet.

And then, with the time it's taking me to do this, keep up with Greek parsings, analyze a passage for an exegesis paper, and write another research paper, I ask myself, "Why?"

Transitioning from "the real world" back into school is tough. You've tasted the life of the every day battle. For someone like me who's been in ministry for 6 years, it's tough to put away the practical side of my brain.
I get antsy. I want to interact with the harshness of life, not ponder the dogmatic approach of how Scripture is viewed by others or parse a language thousands of people have already done.
I'm not doing anything original.
I ask myself, "Is parsing these μι verbs going to help me identify with a homeless person? Or someone who's been laid off? Had a miscarriage? Lost a brother to war? The only believer in their community or family? Is it going to help the church sacrificially love and support each other, and serve their community in a Christ-like way???"

Personally, I think the answer is no. Am I being unreasonable? Of course I am. From what I've experienced so far, I think I've learned more about Jesus and people in the last 6 years than I think I ever will at seminary. I believe that the Holy Spirit has guided me through some serious rough patches in my life, and my understanding of Scripture will continue to shift because of His guidance, not simply because I know several dozen words in Koine Greek.

Do I think seminary is completely useless? No. Far from it. We need brilliant theologians like Webster, or Calvin, or Barth, or Bonhoeffer, or Keller,  or Packer, to defend our faith with serious intellect, reason, and education. They know how to engage the mind.

I don't. I'm an emotional person, though many know that I don't like showing it (that's a pride issue, and a whole other ball of wax). When friends of mine start getting into intellectual, theological, philosophical discussions, I keep my mouth shut. And I get bored with it.
I'd rather hear about how your day is REALLY going. What can the church do to help you juggle your two-jobs and four kids? Your awful vehicle needs repair, who do we know that can help you get it back on the road? How can the church help you grieve the sudden loss of your husband?
THOSE are the things I care about. It's real life I care about.

What I'm more afraid of is that the theological, philosophical training I'll receive will cause me to be a clanging cymbal of giant words and abstract ideas to people I care about, with the intention of love without actually showing it because my head is stuck in the clouds looking for answers to something that, in my mind, isn't truly definitive...

Okay, obviously I'm ranting. If I had it my way, I'd quit school, get a job, and serve my church with everything I have. I've been homeless before, and I can do it again. I'm just frustrated with this type of learning...

If I said something hypocritical, or worse, heretical, I'm really sorry. The irony of learning grammatical lessons in Greek is that I think my English grammar, and spelling, have gotten worse.

Please don't take this post and think "Win just doesn't care about theology or Jesus." I really do care. I just think there's a better way to learn it, at least for me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So why ARE you at seminary?