Tag Archives: classes

It’s going to be a good year

After much panic last week about which course are offered when and which I need to take in order to graduate in 2012, I think I’ve got it down pat.  I’ve started 4 out of my 5 classes and I think this will be a good semester.  There will be a lot of work (particularly reading), but it should be good.

Here is what I will be taking:

1. Old Testament Text and Interpretation — in a way this class scares me most because it will be very technical, looking at various manuscripts and codices and whatnot for the Old Testament as well as scribal culture, etc.  It is taught by the legendary August Konkel, who I’m sure will make the class very interesting.

2. Survey of Church History — this is a required course.  I covered a bit of medieval church history in university and I took a patristic fathers course last year, so this will cover some familiar territory.  But I don’t remember what I learned in that university class, and the patristic fathers course dealt mostly with theological development in the church, which this class will not delve into much.

There will be quite a bit of reading and writing for this course, but the assigned texts are interesting

— Rodney Stark – The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries

Thomas Cahill – How the Irish Saved Civilization

Shusaku Endo –  Silence

Mark Noll – The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind

3. Exegesis of Hebrew Narrative – 3rd semester Hebrew.  I’m looking forward to it.

4. Homiletics I – preaching class

5. Clinical Pastoral Experience – visitation class (not a class in which we visit with each other, but a class about pastoral visitation)

It’s a fuller schedule than I had intended to have, but it should be good.  Now that things are rolling, I’m quite relieved that I did not end up taking Greek exegesis as well.  It would have been too much–two languages in one semester, back-to-back timeslots.

And so the second year begins…

Miscellaneous 1 (Delay; Classes; Pets)

Yes, yes, I know.  More England posts.  They’re coming. There’s a long way to go yet: Warwick Castle, Somerton, Oxford, Bath, Lyme Regis, Stonehenge, Bramley. I took a bit of a break, then I got preoccupied with a bunch of stuff going on (including a sermon yesterday).  And then our internet has been off since Thursday (I’m writing from a school building and I don’t have my pictures with me).

Some random stuff in the meantime:

* * *

I registered for this semester with great confidence: Homiletics I (preaching); intermediate Hebrew; intermediate Greek; Clinical Pastoral Experience (essentially visitation).  Then I noticed that there was an unusually large amount of required courses being offered this year.  So I spent a week stressing and hunting down professors and getting advice.  Turns out that there are several core courses offered this year but not next year, meaning that if I want to graduate next year, I had to switch my schedule around.

So now I’m registered for 5 courses and face an incredible amount of reading for the next 3 months (about 12 books, plus supplementary reading, papers, translation and two sermons).  I still have mixed feelings about the schedule–I’m not sure why I was so hung up about taking two languages this semester.  Greek will be a little more difficult with a full year between classes, but I’ll survive.  And all the classes I’m registered for look interesting (as do the books I have to read).

* * *

The kids want a pet.  I’d gladly get a 5-gallon fish tank and a school of neon tetras, but fish are, apparently, “boring” and “don’t do anything.”

This is what the kids have suggested:

  1. Kittens (possibly one for each of them)
  2. Puppies
  3. A hamster (which I ruled out immediately because–and I quote–“We don’t need any more rodents in this house.”)

I’m not sure what to say and Dixie and I can’t seem to come to any sort of resolution.  Part of me thinks we should wait until we have a more permanent residence, but I’m not sure why that is.  The previous owner of this mobile home had two large dogs and a cat (and a child).  One pet isn’t going to be a big deal in terms of space.

But then a pet is that much more financial and time responsibility.  And I think I’m a dog person, not a cat person.  Getting a puppy would be like having another child; getting a trained dog that’s a year old or so would be good, but wouldn’t “grow up” with the kids, which is something I’ve always thought would be nice.  Dogs have personality and you can wrestle with them (we’d get a bigger dog, like a labrador), but they’re high maintenance.

But, quite frankly, I’m not sure if I’m really not a cat person, or if it’s just left-over sentiment from when I was a boy, when it was easy to categorically dismiss things like cats and country music.

Dogs may have a more lovable personality, but cats are lower maintenance and would help with any future mice problems.

I don’t know.

It could be all Greek to me.

Well, today it was officially announced in class: introductory Greek will not be offered next year, as they are starting a rotation of the languages offered. Rather than teach all levels of every language every year, they will alternate intro and advanced years.  This provides some clarity in my decisions for which classes to take, but not enough to actually make the decision. This development means I take intro to Greek (which I must take for my degree) this May or in my third year.

If I take it in May, I will be able to take intermediate Greek next school year. I’d like to take the intermediate level of both Greek and Hebrew, but if I do, it looks like one of those languages will be on my own time and dime: that is, I’ll get credit for them, but they will be over and above my program requirements (I’ve been advised that auditing the languages is not a good idea).  Plus, Greek will be helpful and informative for future New Testament classes.

While I think having advanced learning in both languages would be very valuable in pastoral ministry (particularly if I will do a lot of preaching), the question is, do I want to take the time and money to do those courses now, or take them later as opportunity arrives or pursue some self-study? I’m not sure I’m disciplined enough for self-study, but then Hebrew has been one of my favourite classes and I usually look forward to translating it into English. I may develop a similar passion for Greek.

If I don’t take Greek in May, I will not take advanced Greek at all, because that would require us staying here for an additional year just so I can take two courses. As far as I can see at this stage, that option is unlikely.

However, I’ve been told that it’s quite an opportunity to be able to study under Tremper Longman III, who, as I said in a previous post, is teaching a week-long course on Proverbs in May. Then there’s the Hebrews course also offered.  And another core course.

I given most of these angles by my faculty advisor (who is also my Hebrew professor), which was helpful for clarifying the categories for decision-making, but still kind of leaves me in the same place: so many good options!

Basically, I need to decide in the next couple of weeks which language I want to take advanced courses for.  I wish it was possible to see a plan of all classes to be offered for the next couple of years so I could plot my whole course. Alas, I won’t even know what will be offered next year for another week or two.

I suppose I could just follow my program, which requires both intro I & II for both Hebrew and Greek and only one second-year language for only one of the languages. But languages are so fun and would be so useful!

Argh.

AN ADDITIONAL THOUGHT: I’m sick of writing papers for this year.  I won’t have to write papers for Greek and at the end of May I’ll be done.  With the other courses I’ll be working into June.

Plus other stuff…blah blah blah…

ALSO ALSO: If I don’t take the Greek course, it will be easier for Dixie to take a course in May which she wants to take.  But also, I think my heart might be telling me to take Greek. Or maybe it’s just my mind telling me it has had enough of research papers for a couple of months.

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.

Orientation Day

It was orientation day for the college and seminary today.  Mostly introductions, devotionals, advice and some ice-breaking, get-to-know-you games.  One of the get-to-know-you games was picking a couple of Smarties from a box and, following the colour code, share you favourite food or movie or vacation spot (etc.)  A couple of people went and listed movies or sports they like to play–pretty ordinary things.  Then someone listed Christian films and praying and fasting as their hobbies (and he was totally sincere).  Suddenly I felt horribly unspiritual.  I wondered how anyone could follow that with anything “secular”.  It was quite funny, actually.

But I do sometimes wonder if I’m “spiritual” enough for this–I don’t read the Bible as much as would be good for me to do; I’m not a good prayer; I’m pretty loose with my choices in films and books and music; I drink and occasionally smoke and cuss (not necessarily at the same time); and so on and so forth.  Some of the people here appear to be pretty intense people, spiritually.  But maybe it’s just a front.  I know being hyper-spiritual isn’t requisite for seminary (and possibly not a good thing in the first place), and I know that “spirituality” isn’t really about what you drink or which words you use, but I sometimes worry that we won’t fit in very well.

But it’s an institution of higher learning, so I’m confident that a variety of theological and spiritual outlooks are a good thing–the spice of education, if you will.  And there is certainly an interesting theological cross-secti0n of people that I’ve seen so far: lots of Mennonites, of course, and an Anglican minister, to name a couple.  One of the professors is working on his ordination for the Anglican Church of Canada.  So this isn’t necessarily a theologicallly homogenous group.

* * *

Every time I start something new–university, graduate studies after university, technical college, and now seminary–I’m the guy watching everyone else, wondering if I am as capable as everyone else clearly is.  I look for that person or persons who will work at my level, or–and I feel slightly guilty for this–someone who will do worse than me so that I won’t be on the bottom.  Perhaps this sounds horribly judgmental, but it’s not–it’s simply the need to feel that you won’t be the worst student.  If you’re going to fail, it’s easier if there’s someone to fail along with you.

That sounds horribly pessimistic, doesn’t it?  Actually, today I feel quite confident in my abilities.  Dixie and I had an argument about school the other day.  She’s getting preemptively annoyed at my work habits–she’s afraid that my mind will always be occupied with school and that the rest of the family won’t see much of me and she doesn’t know how it’s possibly going to work for her to take a class or two starting next semester.

Her concern is not unfounded.  Bible college and university were a breeze for me in a sense: I managed a low-80s average without a great deal of effort.  Lots of last minute paper-writing, etc.  But I can’t do that anymore–it’s not just me now, I have a family and the standards in seminary are higher and I don’t want to just pass–but I want to gain from this: learn, grow.  And all that.

But I think we’ve settled down about it.  It’s going to be a good year.  September is really the month to survive, it seems, between reading and assignments and finishing up the Briercrest course.

My first class is tomorrow afternoon – Theological Foundations.  Madeline starts school tomorrow morning–the school bus picks her up at 8:00a.m.–an hour before school starts and the school is a 5-10 minute drive away.  This is one of the reasons we did not have Madeline take the bus to school last year in Prince Albert.  Oh well.  She’s excited about it.