My second year of Divinity School kicked off late last month. One year down, two to go.
I am a full-time student again. I continue to practice law roughly half-time for the year, while also attempting to be a husband, father, and friend and to be involved in our community. I am also exercising regularly again. Maybe all this will keep me occupied and out of trouble….
This semester, I am taking five classes:
(1) New Testament Greek I
(2) New Testament I
(3) Christian Theology I
(4) Islam and Islamophobia, and
(5) Public Theology Internship.
All Wake Divinity School students who did not complete two semesters of an approved language as an undergraduate must complete two semesters of a foreign language in Divinity School. Most take Greek or Ancient Hebrew. Most of the Old Testament was written in Hebrew. A few students take German (a research language in religious studies).
The New Testament was written in Greek, and deep analysis of the scripture requires knowledge of Greek. Research shows that it easiest to learn a language when one is very young. I am 48. So, I am both looking forward to and worried about the Greek class.
I have not taken a foreign language since 1986 (Ms. Hume’s Spanish class at Southern Alamance High School). So far, so good, though.
The Divinity School allows students to take up to 6 credit hours pass/fail at their option. Some of my classmates take this option with their Greek or Hebrew classes. I think the pressure of grades will help me stay focused, so I am in regular mode for the class.
New Testament I
The New Testament class dives into both scriptural analysis and historical analysis, paying close attention to the historical setting, historical background, and other influences on the scripture. We are also paying attention to modern interpretation of the New Testament scripture. In our second class session, we studied several passages — 1
Thessalonians 4, John 5:1–18, Matthew 5, Luke 17, Galatians 3:23–4:11 — as written in three popular English translations. There were multiple meaningful differences between them. Which one is inerrant?
Christian Theology will be an interesting class. We are studying systematic theology and theological perspectives on a variety of issues. Last night, for example, we read about views on questions like “What is belief in Christ?” One can see how the original meaning of those terms emphasized trust in Christ, whereas the modern, general usage of those terms emphasizes a weak form of knowledge. We will consider issues like what is sin, the problem of evil in the world (why does God allow it?), approaches to Biblical authority (inerrancy, etc.), the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, and eschatology (end times).
Islam and Islamophobia
The class on Islam and Islamophobia combines a study of the Islam religion with a study of the fear and hatred of Islam and Muslims. We are studying the history of Islam, the Quran, discrimination against Muslims in the United States and elsewhere, common misunderstandings about Islam, the use of such fear by political leaders and others, and potential solutions.
Public Theology Internship
I am also engaged in a “public theology” internship this semester and next. All students in the Divinity School must complete two 100-hour internships to graduate.
My “public theology” internship has two main components. First, I am speaking at several churches of different denominations about theological topics. For most, I am speaking on religious liberty in the United States. The presentation will present both sides of the issues addressed. The objective is to educate and to help those on both sides of an issue hear and understand what the other side is saying.
I will likely use the Johnson Amendment (the provision in the tax code that prevents churches from endorsing and campaigning for political candidates), the cases involving whether a baker, photographer, or other business can lawfully refuse to provide their products or services for a same-sex wedding, or similar example to illustrate points about religious liberty. The same-sex-wedding topic may be too distracting for some churches, so I will be prepared to use just one or the other. We will consider scripture, too.
So far, I am tentatively slated to speak at two Baptist churches, a Methodist church, a Church of Christ, and a Presbyterian church.
If your church might be interested, please let me know. For most, it is two sessions of the regular Wednesday evening, Sunday evening, or Sunday morning class-times, but I am flexible.
Second, I will continue to write and publish blog posts on various theological topics of current interest. If there is a topic in which you are interested, please let me know.
I have two fantastic mentors associated with the Divinity School who are my designated supervisors, and I also have a few other advisors who have agreed to provide occasional guidance and feedback on presentations and blog articles. I welcome your feedback, too.
Many of you reading this blog post have been supportive of me in this Divinity School endeavor. I very much appreciate every kind word. They are sustaining. It might not seem like a big deal to you, but you taking the time to talk with me, make a comment, challenge me with a substantive question, provide a suggestion, or otherwise engage with me regarding this work is quite meaningful to me. Thank you.
(The picture is one I took of our Fall Convocation program on August 29. Dr. Bill Leonard delivered a marvelous speech.)