Sometimes, during full moons, that part of me influenced by a short-lived burst of zeal for Calvinism daydreams about academic life; perhaps a degree in philosophy then on to Westminster Seminary? I used to have a romantic vision of Westminster as a shining seminary on a hill; the last bastion of conservative Christianity, standing virtually alone against the onslaught of the Devil and his modernists.
…but when the moon wanes, I return to my heart-senses. I could never fit in at Westminster and daily life there would be intolerable.
They make some of their courses available for free online and I’ve recently worked through two of them: one on the history and progression of medieval church theology and the other on the nature of apologetics. In both cases the professors assumed (without argument) that the development of a set of theological propositions stood at the heart of pure Christianity and that church history was a story of the rise of these ideas. The big names – the heroes – of Westminster, are the men (the professors would add “and women”, though they never mention whom they have in mind), who championed these ideas; John Calvin, of course, represents the culmination of pure religion.
My lunacy is checked when I hear these guys discussing unintelligible doctrines and hear them speaking about God as a mechanism rather than a person. Oh, they give lip service to a “pastoral” approach, where they make sure to utter poetic-sounding tripe to stave off criticism from their donors, but the serious students look to push through the mist and find ideals of substance to test, study, and dissect.
After hearing historical analysis from this view point, I’m left wondering about mysteries throughout history; the theologian-as-historian is left suggesting that certain events in history just happened and that certain men were accidentally on scene with their ideas in hand, but there’s no emotional context, no intuitive grasp of the warp and woof of history.
I know they wont do it, but Westminster ought to employ a poet on their staff, one who is able to bring the heart of Europe to bear on their historical and theological analysis.
…unfortunately, the Christians bards aren’t invited to seminaries. I don’t think I’ll attend either.