Thanks to Seminary, I’m Dumber Than I Was
8 years ago I found myself in my first seminary classroom. I was nervous. I was hesitant. I was skeptical.
I was a lot of things.
Among all those things, I was arrogant. I thought it was going to be such a joy ride over the next several years as I earned a degree that certified I knew more than the average Christian and could speak with authority on a variety of topics.
The professor walked in and addressed the aspiring pastor theologians and said something I will never forget. He spoke eloquently about the glory of God and the majesty that is the Resurrected Christ. He spoke humbly concerning the deep things of our Heavenly Father and how that had changed him, humbled him, and made him forever grateful for the sacrifice of Jesus. He then said these words:
When you graduate from this institution, the goal is not for you to be smarter than you are right now. The goal is that you have less knowledge and have a deeper awareness of all that you don’t know. The goal is humility, not arrogance. In a sense, you will graduate dumber than you are. That’s the goal.
Delighting in the Glory of God
A dear friend of mine has described the corporate worship gathering of the church as the time when we corporately delight in the glory of God.
What a phrase.
What a task.
What an experience to be a part of week in and week out. But what I want to do with this phrase is connect it to the seminary classroom in such a way that explains my professor’s opening speech, one that probably wouldn’t find it’s way into a commencement ceremony.
As we study the Scripture and read from centuries of work from the faithful men and women of the church that have gone before us, it’s true, we gain more knowledge in that task. But as we delight in the glory of God that they themselves have experienced, we are getting a different view, a different angle, to the glorious grace and mercy that is encompassed in God’s character that we didn’t have before. In that, we are coming to know God’s bigger than we previously thought.
He’s wider than we can grasp.
He’s deeper than we’ve plunged at this moment.
Looking through the centuries and studying the Scriptures alongside the church and others in the setting of a seminary classroom should never make deposits into your arrogance, but rather continually unveil your humility and all that you don’t know about God. This is the great opportunity before us: to become massively aware of God’s greatness. As we do that, we will quickly understand the measure of our own.
You can’t simultaneously reflect on God’s greatness and your own.
If we believe the Scripture when it says God is beyond our comprehension, do we live our lives that way? Do we talk about him as if we can’t find him out? Do we speak with such awareness that he is more than we can ever say, know, or think? Or do we present what we know about him as if we are 99% of the way there to understanding him because we’ve been to seminary, read a certain book, or been a believer for a certain amount of time?
Friend, when we corporately delight in the glory of God we come to terms with our insufficiency and deep need of rescue and the chance to be made new.
If we have theological education, we should, in the corporateness of our classrooms, delight in God’s glory that is so cosmically massive that the more we find out about him the more we find out about our ignorance.
This was the nature of my professor’s wonderful monologue. If you graduate having learned more about the Lord and his nature, then you’re graduating knowing there’s more that you’ll never know. If you graduate truly delighting in the glory of God, then you will delight in the fact that his greatness creates humility in your heart and mind, not pride.
It’s true that scholars with years of education know a lot more than you and me in regards to things we can know about our great and glorious Father. But when it comes to who God is in his infiniteness, what John Piper and D. A. Carson don’t know about God is equal to what you and I don’t know. There is no final chapter on the nature of God.
He has no end.
The character of God is not the culmination of a theology textbook or blog post.
For this reason, I am deeply grateful for my seminary education and the years I have spent at Southeastern. Why? Because it taught me how to delight in the glory of God in a way that brought me to my knees in awe and wonder, not tower over others with a sense of accomplishment.
Seminary taught me how to rightly gaze into the beauty of God’s glory in a way that humbles me, not makes me arrogant.
May we speak of our God in such a way that brings evidence to his majesty, not the little we think we have.
Because he is majesty and encompasses all glory.