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3 ways seminary will change you for the better
By Stephen Andrews
Sep 03, 2019
At Wycliffe’s recent Theology Pub Night on August 30, I was gratified when someone asked me if I was a student at Wycliffe College. I am often mistaken for a younger person, which I think I owe to my genes, but which my wife suspects may also have something to do with my behaviour. The hard-to-believe truth, however, is that this month marks the fortieth year since I began my formal theological training.
My wife does have a point. I suppose that by now I should be feeling a bit old and grumpy. But as the new academic year dawns and I see students begin to assemble, I recall what a thrill and a privilege it was to study at the feet of well-known theological thinkers and to make friends with others who were passionate about knowing God. It is a thrill that has never left me. I still get excited when discussion turns to theology. Like our last Theology Pub Night, where nearly a hundred gathered at the College to hear two well-known pastors talk about the public controversy over their theological differences.
1. Enlarging our views of God
One of the things the dialogue partners agreed on was that the nature of their quarrel was complex and that the social media that had fuelled their dispute had failed to understand this. It is an important point, and it really highlights one of the most significant ways seminary can change us for the better. Seminary can enlarge our views of God as we find our convictions tested and discover new insights. Now, this can be threatening. But in critically examining our assumptions, the aim is to grow in our certainty, and especially in the certainty that God is more beautiful than we had ever thought or could ever imagine.
Of course, it is our own church traditions that often provide the framework of how we think about God. When the discussion on August 30 turned to the matter of the authority of the Bible, it emerged that much of the apparent controversy had to do with the word “inerrancy.” In the denomination of one speaker, the matter had never been central to their historical doctrinal statements, while for the other, the word was at the root of a denominational split.
2. “Rubbing shoulders” with those who have other points of view
Now, many seminaries train students from a variety of different denominations. Our incoming class this year represents fourteen ecclesiastical traditions. It can be challenging to rub shoulders with professors and classmates whose views differ at key points from our own. But, in the cross-pollination of the seminary, our perspectives and our faith can be both stretched and deepened. It was while I was at seminary, in fact, that I discovered the riches of Anglicanism and resolved to align myself with this tribe. How I reached that decision is the matter for another blog.
3. Cultivating a community of colleagues
One of the consequences of my new allegiance, however, was that I had to attend an Anglican theological institution. So, my pastor directed me to his alma mater, Wycliffe College. And it was here that my life was indisputably changed for the better. Not so much because I gained an appreciation for the Anglican tradition, but because God fashioned a community of colleagues that continues to enrich and nourish my ministry. Most significant of all was that I discovered a fondness for a particular Anglican, for this is where I met Fawna Crowther! And if you don’t think this has changed me for the better, let me introduce you to my brother who will gladly enlighten you.
So, my friends, changes are afoot at Wycliffe College. We are a community in a continual state-of-change-for-the-better. In the course of our study here may our vision of God be enlarged, may our appreciation of the Church be enriched, and may God surround us with life-long friends and companions on the road of discipleship.
Stephen Andrews is Principal and Helliwell Professor of Biblical Interpretation at Wycliffe College. Wycliffe’s programs and courses will challenge your intellect, enrich your faith, and motivate you to serve. For more information on how you might study at Wycliffe College, check out our program and course listings.