In Mark 12:30 Jesus said the greatest commandment was an echo of the shema of Deuteronomy 6. This is the first and greatest commandment that we are to follow. This implies that those of us in seminary with an eye toward leadership want to help people do that. But are we being prepared to do that ourselves?
Much digital ink is spilled on this topic in circles of seminary students trying to glorify God with their studies. I want to share my own story about this in hopes that it might be a blessing to others.
I came to seminary thinking that I had all my theological ducks in a row. I was ready to slap the heretic label on just about anyone who didn’t agree with me on most points. I had a little wiggle-room, but it was vitally important that folks agreed with me regarding counseling and soteriology, for example. To do less was to dishonor God and His Word, at least in my way of thinking.
Shortly after coming to seminary a couple of the younger pastors at my church introduced me to the Emergent Church movement. Of course, I initially wrote all of them off as heretics as any good conservative believer would (or so my thinking went). But it was also around that same time that I took my class on 1 Corinthians and learned about how many different viewpoints there are on the immoral brother and head coverings, even from conservative scholars. When you add in more liberal scholarship it starts to make the head spin.
Suddenly my dogma was not as sure as it once was. This led me into a very intellectual pursuit of God for a long time. I really wanted to study more devotionally, but I barely had enough time as it was. I really didn’t have time for deep meditation on what I was taught. I suddenly started looking at everything through an academic lens. I did not come from a dispensational background, but my school certainly does. My morning reading became a quest to see if they were right or not. I would sit in church and grade my pastor’s theology or mentally correct the lyrics to the songs we sang. Academia sucked the life out of my devotion to the Lord because everything stopped at my head and never made it to my heart.
While I have not gone back to my life of habitual sexual sin or gluttony, I have seen traces of the old unfeeling me that I really don’t like. When I started seminary I was much warmer with my wife and my children. I was ready to talk to people about the Lord every chance I had. I see how I’ve been on the return path to being cold and clinical. My study of theology started running everything through my head and it never made it to my heart. Rather than deepening my love for the Lord I started to hold Him at arm’s length.
This, of course, is backwards. The more I learn about the Lord the more I should love Him. I only have one year left at seminary, Lord willing, and I want to make this one count. It’s vital to think through all the heady topics we encounter at seminary, but ultimately I want to be like Paul who said to theCorinthians that he ‘decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.’ Or, as Karl Barth supposedly said when asked what he learned after all his study of Romans, ‘Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so.’
Brothers and sisters, that’s what it is all about. Jesus loves you. Remember that always as you go through seminary. All of this is about Jesus and knowing Him better. Let your learning lead to love.