The second half of Divinity School starts this week for me. It is a three-year program. I am on track to graduate in May 2019 (25 years after I graduated from law school).
It remains disconcerting to be a full-time student again, even after three semesters.
Wearing shorts most days, carrying a back-pack, sitting in class, being with a large group of highly diverse people, talking about theological and sensitive topics without hesitation, etc., was and is a jarring change from the legal / corporate / large-law-firm environment of which I have been a part for 20+ years.
Working roughly half-time, being in school full-time, and doing the other things I attempt to do has challenged my time-management skills (and my sports’ and social knowledge—I do not recall watching a single game or television show in the last 6 months at least —well, except for that 24 (final season) binge the day after my last exam—and I still have not seen the new Star Wars movie and …).
It is manageable, but sleep suffers often. All the sacrifices have been worth it, though. Going to Divinity School was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
This semester, I am taking five classes:
(1) New Testament Letters
(2) The Problem of Evil
(3) Spirituality and Discernment
(4) Public Theology Internship, and
(5) New Testament Greek II
New Testament Letters
A large portion of the New Testament is made up of letters—many of them written by the Apostle Paul, such as 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, 1 Corinthians, Philippians, Philemon, 2 Corinthians, and Romans.
This class takes a close look at these letters and others, their historical context, and their theology.
The Problem of Evil
The question of why God allows evil, pain, suffering, tsunamis, starvation, and the like to exist in the world has vexed people for millennia.
The Ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus expressed it as follows: “Either God does not want to eliminate evil, or he cannot; either he can but does not want to; or he cannot and does not want to; or he wants to and can. If he can and does not want to, then he is evil, which must be against God’s nature. If he does not want to and cannot, then he is evil and weak, and therefore he is no God. If he can and wants to, which can only be true of God, then where does evil come from and why does he not eliminate it?”
I am unsure of the wisdom of taking an entire class on this issue. It sounds complicated and possibly depressing. But one of the reasons I went to Divinity School was to tackle tough issues. And this issue is one that keeps many people from having a relationship with Christ, so deep engagement with the issue is worthwhile.
Spirituality and Discernment
Our academic bulletin describes this class this way: “An introduction to some theological and spiritual foundations of discernment as it relates to individuals, groups, and systems. Students learn processes for discernment as a spiritual practice using the Examen, the Clearness Committee, and the Social Discernment Cycle. Students practice individual discernment for themselves, group discernment with others in the class, and discernment of systems with an organization or institution of which they are a part.”
I have only the vaguest idea of what this class is about.
I am not very spiritual, in the sense that I approach most everything with a logical, cut-away-the-irrelevant-stuff bent and have to work to let emotions and feelings come into play.
I know I need some more of both of those things—spirituality and discernment—and the other classes I am taking this semester involve mostly logical thinking and preparation, so I think this class stands the best chance of making a lasting impact on my life.
Public Theology Internship
I will continue my “public theology” internship this semester, continuing what I started last semester.
I am speaking at churches of different denominations about theological topics. For most, I am speaking on religious liberty. With the case pending before the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of a state law under which a cake-baking business was fined for discriminating against a same-sex couple in refusing to provide a cake for their wedding, it is a timely topic.
I gave two presentations last semester and will give several this semester.
If your church class or small group might be interested, please let me know.
The presentation discusses 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 is saying. For most, it is two sessions of the regular Wednesday evening, Sunday evening, or Sunday morning class-times, but I am flexible.
I will also continue to publish blog posts on various theological topics.
I am taking the second semester of New Testament Greek. I was worried about taking a graduate-level course in Greek at age 48. The first semester was challenging, and I put more time into it than any other, but it went well and I learned a lot. Things will take a big step up in difficulty this semester, so I remain worried! I am looking forward to the challenge.
Thank you for all the words of encouragement and questions as I make my way through Divinity School. I appreciate them both.
An encouraging word from you is a bigger deal than you think.
I like to discuss theology, and I especially appreciate your substantive questions and reactions to the issues I am studying.
(The picture is one I took of the path I walk from the Divinity School to my car most days.)