November News and Notes

Consider it the seminarian’s lament, but as I alluded to about a month ago during my last “update” post, after classes and commuting and work and marriage and errands and leading a high school small discipleship group and whatever else, my hours and minutes are few. Not even seminarians get a regular Sabbath!

But in the last four weeks I’ve been fortunate enough to rid myself of that ridiculous stack of books and turn in my two major expositions for the semester. As I trudge toward Thanksgiving(s), I still have plenty of work to do, but luckily, I’ve gotten slightly ahead of the game – at least enough to return to the blog without feeling guilty!

On the positive side, my recent weeks dedicated to coursework has produced somewhat of a backlog of blog-ready theological material, including three consecutive weekly Old Testament reflection papers, my exegesis on the bulk of Genesis 39 (Joseph and Potiphar’s wife), and a church history term paper on an interesting Jewish-Christian heretical group known as the Ebionites. I’m not quite sure how much of the longer papers I will end up posting – I don’t want anyone to get plagiaristic ideas, you know – but for now, I plan on dedicating a few posts to each paper. Here’s something you can count on, though: this Monday through Friday, I will post something each day at noon. Set an alarm for yourself, if you’d like!

(Earlier today I posted Part 1 and Part 2 of my exegesis on
Genesis 39, which got an unexpectedly fortuitous grade!)

Now for the brief rundown of my classes and how they’ve progressed:

  • Greek: For the first half of the semester we get a taste of different parts of speech, including nouns, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs and other special particles, albeit all in the present verb tense. Over the last 3 or so weeks we’ve branched out from the present tense to the present active form, the imperfect and aorist (past) tenses, and the future tense. Basically, when I pick up my Greek New Testament I am continually able to read more and more of the words, but there are still large gaps in my understanding. Everything must be proceeding as desired, however, as my quiz grades continue to look stellar.
  • Old Testament: Seems like not too long ago that we were stuck in Deuteronomy, but we’ve now rolled along quite swimmingly through Solomon’s reign in 1 Kings. The fun part about this is we’ve gotten into (and through) books that I’d previously never read completely. Doing so gives you a much better perspective about the history of the Israelites and, ultimately, the circumstance in which Jesus was born. Despite the heavy reading necessary for Old Testament, my grade is looking much better than I could’ve hoped for, especially after I received my exegesis back!
  • Church History: We’ve breezed past the Protestant Reformation pretty quickly and are almost getting into more modern periods of Christian history, such as the 1800s and 1900s. In fact, this is the last week that the class will be in a church history textbook: after this is a focus on African-American churches and reformers followed by the religious right. As I may have alluded to before, my particular historical interest is much further back: the historical Jesus himself, and the battles that raged for orthodoxy of faith in the centuries following his death. It is out of this spirit that my term paper on the Ebionites came about!
  • Theological Ethics: While my major papers for the semester are now in the books, I still have two smaller papers, about 3-4 pages in length, due for Theological Ethics. These involve ethical case studies and wrestling with the theological and social dilemmas they propose. They have no specific due date, but I plan to get on one of these before Thanksgiving, and one afterwards. This timing works out quite nicely with the heavy periods of my other classes. In Ethics class itself, I believe I have overcome my deference to all of the third-year M.Div students to participate frequently in class discussion. Ultimately my grade will be the arbiter of that, but I’m satisfied with my level of discourse in the class about the various topics, such as the medical-industrial complex (as a power and principality) versus the Christian ethical call.

Aside from schoolwork, I’ve been fortunate enough to dedicate some time each week to the Miriam Project, where I have applied my prior online marketing and public relations background. The Miriam Project is a Christian adoption agency in Anderson, a non-profit with a strong heart for children and adoptive families. If you weren’t aware, November is National Adoption Month – as dedicated by the President – and all month long, in addition to other things, I’m writing a blog series for the Miriam Project about ways to improve knowledge and perspectives about adoption. If you’d like, please check out our first two posts: Get the Facts and Consider the Scripture. I may eventually repost the latter of those on my own blog, but for now, learn about adoption through the Miriam Project, please!

In short, all is shaping up well for the end of the semester and the holidays. I’ve already registered for the spring term (maybe I’ll share this in my next post). And it’s hard to believe that Christmas is just 40-some days away! I guess we had better get to ordering our wedding photos for everyone! 🙂

If you are reading my blog, I’d love it if you left a comment or two – not necessarily on this post, but on anything you find interesting or challenging or whatnot. Either way, thanks for reading, friends.

~Rob

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Update on the Life and Times of Rob

As I alluded to yesterday, the combination of marriage, graduate coursework, a part-time job and church involvement has severely limited my blogging time! Ultimately, though, I wouldn’t have it any other way; I do find snippets of free time every once in a while, which I choose to spend sleeping. It is only by the grace and mercy of a Fall Break that I am able to devote some time to the blog and other things that refresh my soul.

Classes are going very well, maybe even a little bit better than I would’ve guessed, having been out of academia for a few years. Lauren tells me that it’s because I have big brains. 🙂 Ha! Here’s a sampling of each class…

In New Testament Greek I, we just had our toughest week to date. In the matter of just one week, we were introduced to demonstrative pronouns, adverbs, and personal pronouns with special adjectival use (a phenomenon difficult to grasp given that it’s not used in English). Quizzes are given weekly on Thursdays, and I’m waiting with bated breath for the score I’ll receive when we grade them Monday morning. I believe I did well, but who knows until I receive the score.

I’m also exceptionally lucky to be learning from the professor, whom my wife had and adored in her undergraduate studies at Anderson University. He should write a book about the life of Christ and peace… it would be a bestseller.

Anyway, as a class we have advanced remarkably well in the language for just seven weeks; in addition to learning the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” in Greek, we can compose sentences like: νῦν βαπτίζομεν ἐκείνους τοὺς μαθητὰς τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν καὶ πέμπομεν τοὺς αὑτοὺς μαθητὰς εἰς τόν κόσμον. (Now we are baptizing those disciples of our Lord and are sending the same disciples into the world.) I sincerely hope I’m able to come out of the semesters of Greek with the ability to freely read the New Testament in its original language!

Next week we will find ourselves involved with verb tenses other than the present tense, and I have heard from others who took the course that this last week may be the toughest of the whole semester. Let’s hope so!

In Old Testament I, our reading through this coming week has completed most of the first seven books of the Bible. We skipped the latter half of Exodus, all of Leviticus, and some of the beginning of Numbers; it’s a “survey” class and we can’t cover every little thing, I suppose. Each week, we have Bible readings, maps to mark according to ancient events found therein, and a commentary on the Bible readings. All in all, it gives an excellent perspective on the whole historocity of ancient Israel, and I feel blessed to be a student of the professor in his final year of academia before retiring.

Each week, we also have to complete a one-page reflection paper on “some topic, aspect or concept” from the volumes and volumes of assigned reading. I’ve decided to share these reflection papers as weekly blog posts that “go live” each Monday at 2:00 p.m., when class convenes (as often as I am able). We are limited to one single-spaced page each week, however, and in every case I’ve been forced to cut myself off from writing. Here are the first four I’ve written:

If you are interested in reading these in the future, they are all tagged with the category called OT Weeklies. Furthermore, I’ve set up a category called SOT Coursework for posts related to my academic pursuits in all classes.

The next “big thing” that will come due for me is an 11-12 page exegesis for Old Testament class, for which I have chosen excerpts from Genesis 39 (the account of Joseph in the house of Potiphar, and especially his involvement with Potiphar’s scandalous wife). I have selected books and commentaries on the topic (see the picture below!), but soon will need to get to work on the actual writing part. I’m sure that later in the month, after the exegesis has been turned in, I will feature a teaser from my findings!

I’ve got books upon books upon books just waiting to be read…

In Church History, we have breezed our way through about eight or nine centuries of Christendom, and have just recently finished a section on monasticism and the “challenge of Islam.” In the week to come, we will be broaching the Middle Ages head-on, including the inquisition and such. I am doing well in this class as well, though I consider it less important than the others.

But one great thing I’m finding about the School of Theology at Anderson University is that I’m relatively free to carve out my own niche, to explore what I want to explore within the context of each class. The term paper for Church History is relatively broad and open; thus I chose the topic of early Jewish-Christian sects of believers, such as the Ebionites, Marcionites, Nazoreans and some of the Gnostics. I am particularly interested in their possible superior application of the message of Jesus than proto-Orthodox groups, especially against the backdrop of the writings of Paul and the Roman Empire’s “institutionalization” of its preferred form of Christianity. This paper isn’t due until after the Old Testament exegesis, so for the time being, it has taken a backseat… though in the pictures posted above, the right-hand stack of books are research I’ve completed for the paper.

Theological Ethics is the class that I was most worried about going into the semester, given that it is a third-year M.Div course and I’m the only first-year in the class. I realize that I could participate more in the class rather than deferring to others, but I scored very high on the mid-term and have gotten good marks for other assignments. It turns out that my fears haven’t been realized! Hallelujah! The discussions and debates we’ve had in class have also been very fulfilling; it has been an honor to learn from the professor and my fellow classmates. There is no major paper in this class, though later in the semester I will have two smaller papers based on some of the ethical case studies we’re assigned.

Apart from the classes, I have also thoroughly enjoyed the camaraderie I’ve felt among fellow students and faculty. While it is difficult at times being a commuting student, even I have experienced the wholesome nature of my education, which in itself has been cognitively stimulating. If Lauren and I are able to move to Anderson next year – which hangs on many, many factors – we are chomping at the bit to do so. But if this doesn’t come to fruition, I still feel that the SOT is a true community, and I consider many fellow seminarians true friends.

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Last night, given her Teach For America connections, Lauren received free tickets to see Waiting for “Superman,” a new documentary about the terrible public education system in our country. It was an eye-opening film, even for this former substitute teacher. But it reminded me that I admire so much Lauren’s passion for early education; she regularly comes home troubled about some aspect of her students’ behavior or performance in class. So many things hold the educational process back, but I affirm the amount of hard work she puts into her underprivileged students. Right now, as I type this, she has been lesson planning for almost five hours with her teaching team, which is a microcosm of the incredible dedication she has for her students. Soon, she may author a guest blog post here about projects she wishes to complete this year from Donors Choose, a website that allows her to seek donors to contribute to specific classroom initiatives.

Well, it seems that my rambling has gone on long enough, and besides, coursework beckons! I do hope it’s not another month before I am able to post again!

Wedding Photos!

Recently, my wife Lauren and I received our wedding photos from our photographers Cameron and Mindy Braun! I decided I’d post a sample of their great work here, but if you’re so inclined, you can check out all of their galleries. It goes without saying that if you’re getting married within a stone’s throw of Dayton – their home base – you’re doing yourself a favor by booking them!

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In addition to this, I’ve added a Privacy statement to my blog. It’s short. GoDaddy told me to do it.