Wednesday, March 21, 2012

David Mathis: Keep Both Eyes Peeled for Jesus

Great word from David Mathis on seminary and a great reminder for me.
An essential mark of a solid seminary experience is continually being stunned by how everything relates to Jesus. When we look long enough, press hard enough, and feel deeply enough, we discover again and again that it all comes back around to him.  
The whole universe is about Jesus. The whole Bible is about Jesus. Our whole lives are designed to be about Jesus. And, for the love of God, any seminary experience worth a dime should be all about Jesus as well. Any institution, course of study, class, professor, or text that teaches aspiring pastors any differently — explicitly or implicitly — is throwing them under the ministerial bus.  
My Worst Experience in Seminary  
I remember it all too well — by far my worst moment in a seminary classroom. Normally, the minimizing of Jesus happens only implicitly in evangelical seminaries, but this once it was shockingly out in the open.  
It was the summer of 2006. An old hippie with a sweet beard and an Ivy League Ph.D. sat nonchalantly on the table at the front of the class, spouting provocative comments in succession, all under the banner of hermeneutics. Gotta till the rough soil before you can plant the high-yielding crops, he'd say. Many of his shock-jock statements were helpful, but one seemed almost demonic.  
As he steamrolled through the biblical covenants, fitting them all nicely in his neat boxes (and PowerPoint slides), subtly muting the uniqueness and centrality of the new covenant, he finally whispered to our captive class what some of us were sensing to be latent in his system: Jesus isn't a big deal.  
It's all about kingdom and covenant, he said. Jesus has an important role to play, no doubt, but in the grand scheme, it's a pretty small one. So don't go overboard making much of Jesus. He was a tenured prof teaching at a wonderful confessional seminary, but for a moment he seemed to embody the spirit of the serpent in the garden.  
That it was so explicit made it all the more alarming to us students. But perhaps his whispered admission did us a favor. It would have been more dangerous if the Jesus-minimizing effect of his system stayed implicit, left unnamed to ever so subtly influence the students to be centered on kingdom while diminishing the King, or be captivated by covenant while muting the Mediator.  
Resisting the Inertia  
Sadly, the inertia can be away from Jesus in far too many seminary classrooms. Unless the professor gives extra energy to relentlessly centering on him, that's the inevitable drift. There are so many other good things to learn, so many new angles to explore — and after all, the prof's under pressure to establish his niche and get published and all.  
But even though there can be this subtle danger away from Jesus-centrality, the seminary experience is not worth abandoning, but going in conscious (and staying aware) of the need to unswervingly and shamelessly keep Jesus at the core — to keep both eyes peeled for him everywhere. Ferociously resist the inertia away from Jesus.
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