Some Thoughts on Attending a Seminary . . .

During the Fall semester, if this blog was a house, then it would have been condemned crack house.  No posts have resided in it until now.  This was my final semester at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and it was a crazy one at that.  I graduated with two master degrees (Old Testament & Religion).  These degrees have allowed me the opportunity to study under several wonderful professors at the seminary and through the BTI.  Below are some of my thoughts on my seminary experience.  I hope they are helpful to future seminarians, especially those contemplating attending GCTS.

Take the “hard” professors.  I talked to too many students who avoided certain professors, because they had a reputation of being too hard.  One student told me to avoid Doug Stuart because “he would kill my GPA.”  This advice is terrible for several reasons, which I won’t bother to list.  You are paying good money to learn, so do not waste your money or time.

Be in charge of your own education.  Theology professors are likely to suggest that you should be taking more classes in their department, and a faculty member in another department will probably feel the same exact way.  While there is likely no malice in these suggestions, make sure the classes are in line with your interests and future career goals.  When you finally graduate you want to be proud of the classes and the choices you made.  I personally did not take much of the advice offered outside of my department, when it came to class selection, because the advice didn’t fit with my future goals.

Let others with more experience help guide you in your class and project choices.  This particular piece of advice is meant to temper the previous one.  Your professors have likely been around the block.  I am sure they have seen many of their former students placed into their dream vocation or program.  This means that they likely know what type of courses you will need to take in order to accomplish your goals.  Be quick to listen to their advice, but realize you are the one to blame for taking good or bad advice.

If you commute, then it is likely that you will not be an active member in the seminary’s community.  I drove 2.5hrs, one way, to make it to campus.  For you non-math majors, this means that my daily commute to campus came to a 5 hour drive!!!  I only made it up for essential meetings and classes.  If you fall into this category, you need to find an academic community to join.  I have found seminary to be an isolating experience.  The majority of your friends and family won’t get it.  Scholarship can force you into the role of resident alien.  For me, blogging became my community.  The blogs I interact with and the folks that interact with my material have helped to shape my scholarship in very positive ways, and I am so thankful for that experience.

Become an expert in something and write about it often.  My own research interests lead me to work on Proverbs 1-9.  I wrote at least a half dozen major papers on various aspects related to Proverbs 1-9.  This allowed me to read most every major commentary and article related to this one section.  I felt that this background knowledge continued to make my papers better, because I was drawing on a wider corpus of scholarly material than I would have been able to cover in a single semester’s worth of reading.

Take as many independent study courses that you can.  My favorite learning experiences at GCTS came from these studies.  GCTS offers several formal exegesis and language courses, but if you want to study metaphoric theory or lexicography you will have to do it on your own.  Try to find a faculty member that you would like to work with and that is willing to work with you.  Some faculty will be more giving of their time than others.  Try to find a faculty member that will give you the critical feed back you are looking to receive.

Lastly, I would suggest reading/listening to a good author at least once a semester.  I listened to books in the car (often the same two books by Dickens, Great Expectations and Tale of Two Cities).  However, I felt that my writing got better when I read/listened to folks that are known for having a great writing style.  Let’s be honest, scholars are not always the best writers.  Many of them are great researchers, but they are not necessarily word smiths.  Besides, reading something not specifically related to your research can provide your mind a nice diversion.  Also, I found that this type of reading often provided  insight into a biblical text that I was exegeting.

I have more thoughts on this subject, but I will likely come back to them later.

5 comments to Some Thoughts on Attending a Seminary . . .

  • Dustin Ray

    This is great stuff. I have been thinking about the value of keeping good writing on the brain. My writing has seemed to hit a bump in the road, and my vocabulary needs some variety. I’ll be reading/listening to some wordsmiths soon.

  • Adam Couturier

    Thanks, Dustin. I am sure you will love your experience at GCTS. What email would you like me to use when I send those papers to you?

  • Glad to see you around the intraweb again. Miss you, bro. And a big fat CONGRATULATIONS on another chapter complete! Another one bites the dust and I am proud of you.

    Wish we could celebrate together…someday soon, I hope.

  • Adam Couturier

    Thanks, Matt. I, too, wish we could celebrate together. It is very odd being done with this chapter, but at the same time it is exciting. However, I should have more time to devote to blogging. Let’s chat soon.

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