The Hour of Decision

It’s decision time again, or nearing it. One of the pleasures of school life is selecting next year’s classes and perusing their syllabi. It’s also a pain trying to make the classes I want to take work with the classes I need to take as part of the program.

Decision A — Last fall I had decided to take the month-long intensive Greek course in May. Getting this introductory class out of the way will open up my choices for next year.  However, I had been warned by several people that when you take a month-long intensive language course you give up your life. I was dubious. They are morning classes. Surely I would be able to study in the afternoon and spend the evening at home with my family. And then last Friday a professor actually confirmed what had been told to me by students: with the intensive courses, you sell your soul to the language for that month.  I’m not sure I want to do that.

An additional quandary is that in May there will also be a couple of interesting modules taught by scholars from outside the school. Most notably, perhaps, is Tremper Longman III’s class on Proverbs, but there’s also Grant R. Osborne’s class on Hebrews.  Both Proverbs and Hebrews tend to be regarded as somewhat mysterious books which people are unsure of how to use. There is also a third, core course available at the end of May.

So many angles to consider: the subject matter; program requirements; unusual professors (e.g. scholars from the outside); which faculty members will be teaching the languages (they alternate from year to year); which courses will fit within the parameters of my program; which courses should be taken before which; which courses will require fewer other courses in the same semester; etc.

One of the frustrations is being “forced” by my program into not taking classes that I would like to.  Of course, I can take any course I want to, but at some point they will fall outside of my program requirements (credit and/or subject-wise). $1,000 a pop for courses which will not apply towards my degree is a bit steep. And auditing isn’t always a realistic choice. This semester, for instance, I had hoped to take 3 classes from a professor who will be leaving at the end of the semester, but because of scheduling conflicts and program requirements, I could only take one.

I want to make this decision soon, but unfortunately next year’s class schedule will not be available until mid-April. And next year’s class schedule will have a bearing on my choices for May’s classes.

Decision B — A fellow student alerted me to this once-in-a-lifetime deal on Karl Barth’s 14-volume Church Dogmaticsa savings of 90%–or NINE HUNDRED DOLLARS! ($100 for a $1,000 set)–on a foundational work of theology. My first impulse was to jump on the bandwagon and purchase the volumes (this is a pre-release special).  But then I realized from a short-term monetary perspective I could not justify the purchase. Plus there is the monument to impulse buys which is much of our property, including a number of our books. Plus there is the fact that I’m not likely to read them all.  So I had put that thought off for a while.

I mentioned it to my theology professor today–admittedly a Barthian–and he said that this was a price I’d never get again and that it is a reference work, essentially a set of commentaries which would be extremely useful to me (he also noted that he–a Barthian–had only read about 60% of it). He said that he wasn’t just suggesting that I buy it–he implored me to get these books. And when you consider the long-term monetary perspective, it does make some sense.

7 thoughts on “The Hour of Decision

  1. Linea

    I say buy the books. $100 for a whole set is indeed cheap. Almost any dental text is well over $100 and you will use them at some point in your career.

    For the Greek – how was the Hebrew as far as taking it over a semester? Did it demand more of your attention than the Greek would? Can you imagine doing it in one month? As to the intensity, I think I would agree that it will consume your life. You will never have studied enough and you may need your evenings for study too. But it is only one month. Then it is done and you won’t have it hanging over you all semester. Hard choice for sure.

  2. Toni

    If you read just 10% of it then it’s still half price (I guess). Worth it if you have the cash and storage space: otherwise it’s just possessions that will possess you.

  3. Mark

    Hey Marc, yes I hated making those course selections, something always lost out. Personally, I’d love to take that class with Longman on Proverbs – in fact, I’d be tempted to audit it -what days/times next semester will it be offered?

    Regarding the books that is a tough decision. Personally, I’d go for it. What’s a $100 over 30 years of ministry? Plus it would look so cool on your shelves and you’d continually tell the story of how you got it so cheap to everyone admiring your book collection for several decades. If you want to justify it, simply change the words “books” to “investment” and you’ll be all good!

  4. Marc

    Mark: I’m leaning more and more towards purchasing the set. It does seem like an “investment”.

    The TLIII “Proverbs” class is actually offered as a May intrasession. I’m not sure if that works better or worse for you.

  5. Scott

    I do not know about the classes, but BUY the books! Books are awesome, and better than crack and heroine…

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