Well, it's official that I have finished another semester in my seemingly never-ending quest to get smart. I do not have grades yet, so I'm proceeding on a couple of assumptions: 1. I passed everything; 2. I could have done better. The latter is definitely true, and I hope for the former.
What did I learn these past 4.5 months?
I took the second semester of Hebrew. I learned that it doesn't get any easier in the second half. In fact, just like in football, if you dig too deep a hole in the first half, you can't come back. Other than that, I learned a great deal about the process and deep appreciation for those who translate the Scriptures into the common language of common people. Why? Because I'm not going to be doing my Old Testament readings in the original.
What did I learn for future reference? Cultural understanding is probably more important than pure language understanding: if you only grasp the English meaning of the Hebrew word, you haven't gained anything. You need to understand the way the Hebrews lived, what the land was like, what daily life was like. If you have that understanding in English that is better than a modern American life understanding in Hebrew. If you have an understanding of Israelite life in Hebrew, that's best.
I took Hermeneutics, which is the fancy word for the science of Biblical interpretation. There are principles of studying Scripture that can be learned and should be learned. I've been through this before, and it's a good study. It should be a part of what every church teaches in the process of discipleship---unfortunately we don't. The seminary coursework may be more detailed than everyone needs, but it's valid principles: try to understand what the words meant to the first people that saw them---then try to understand how that applies to us. Good stuff. Still waiting on my paper grade for that class, though. I may think I understand it and really don't.
Finally, there was the class that's right up my alley: History of Christianity. Really, any kind of history is fun. The truth is that I could study and read history all day, half the night, and then do it all again tomorrow. What did I learn from this? There's much of the heritage of where we have come from as believers that we just don't know. I'm not sure if being Baptist builds that ignorance or if it's just modern America, but we've got to get past this. It's fascinating to see that some of what we argue about today is the same stuff that was argued about years ago. And by years, I mean centuries.
One realization: Biblical Christianity has never truly defined a government---Constantine's Rome had to make immediate compromises, America was founded on a blend of Judeo-Christian Ethics and Natural Philosophy, and most other countries have flirted with blending religion and government. There's much more. Hopefully I'll get the chance to really chase the history studies as far as I'd like. We'll see.
That's this semester. In a few weeks, I'll be doing a one-week intensive in counseling. That'll be interesting….