I’m not sure what I expected when I decided to go to seminary. I don’t know if I expected everything to feel like one intense Sunday school lesson or if I thought it would feel like a three-year-long church camp. Trust me when I say that seminary is anything but an intense Sunday school lesson, and certainly nothing like what I expected.
I guess I disillusioned myself into thinking that because I was going to be learning about God and Jesus that I would have the “warm and fuzzies” all the time. If anything, sometimes I leave a class feeling lost and confused. In many ways, it feels like the rug is being whipped out from under your feet. You feel like a lot of what you thought you knew and understood is an unintentional lie you were accidentally taught. You also feel cheated by people who taught you not to question or think about certain things on the basis that we shouldn’t. What’s so wrong about thinking about the hard stuff? All the hard questions your Sunday school teachers, youth pastors, camp counselors, or parents skirted around when you asked them are suddenly staring you in the face 24/7 and you can’t escape them or the confusion they bring. Not to mention that you sometimes think you grasped a complex theological concept in class and in your reading, only to find out you made a 60% on the quiz (which is what happened to me today).
Today I have two examples that I feel can really display some of the internal turmoil and conviction I’ve been feeling. The first being what role women have in ministry and bringing about God’s kingdom here on earth, and the second being discovering I was taught a bad analogy about how the Trinity works.
Growing up Southern Baptist, I always knew that my options in ministry were narrow in my faith tradition. I knew that, for the most part, I would be pigeonholed into family ministry or music ministry. For that reason, I ran from my call to ministry because I felt like it was too restrictive for me. I felt like I had so much to give, and felt like I could serve God better outside of full-time church ministry. Honestly, until I got to college, it never bothered me. I was content to rebel against God’s call rather than face the uphill climb. But the Lord wouldn’t let me leave my convictions. So here I am at Truett Seminary, and this conflict is discussed day in and day out in almost all of my classes. Most (I’m pretty certain all) of my teachers are in favor of women in leadership positions. The more I learn, the more I am convicted about the complementarian view of gender roles in the church. Eve made a mistake in the Garden of Eden. Paul told women to be silent in church. These are valid, Scriptural arguments for women to have lesser roles, and I do understand the logic used to justify this. However, the more I read Scripture, study church history, pray and let the Holy Spirit convict me, the more I am convinced that this alone is not enough to bar a God-fearing, Spirit-filled, Jesus-loving woman from fulfilling God’s call in her life whether that be serving as a pastor, deacon or chaplain, or simply serving her family and community through more traditionally feminine roles. The Bible includes many examples of women having spiritual authority over men. In Micah 6:4, Miriam is mentioned as a leader of Israel, equal with Moses and Aaron. In Judges 4-5, Deborah served as an admirable judge and leader of Israel. Women were essentially the first “Christians” because they were the first to tell the apostles that Jesus has risen from the dead! In Romans, Phoebe is a deacon (16:1-2), Priscilla is equal in status to her husband Aquila for their work (16:6), and Andronicus and Junia are said to be “prominent among the apostles” (16:7). There are others that I didn’t even list. I can’t comprehend why God would allow these women to lead and their ministry to be fruitful if they were going against His plan. I also feel like to ignore the cultural contexts in which Paul was writing the epistles is to also ignore that at different times in our history the Bible was used to justify slavery and oppression. How is this any different? This is something that is deeply convicting me, and I’m continuing to seek God’s guidance through prayer and Scriptural study. I don’t claim to know all the right answers, but I find it hard to believe that God would be angry about a woman sharing the gospel and love of Jesus in any capacity.
Another theological issue that I was confronted with just yesterday is how wrong the analogies we use to describe the Trinity are. I know many of you were also probably taught the analogy of water. The chemical compound of water is H2O, and that doesn’t change whether it is in solid, liquid, or gas state. It makes sense and doesn’t appear to be against scriptural teaching. Yesterday, however, I learned that this is an accidental teaching of a form of a heresy called modalism. Modalism is the idea that God isn’t really three distinct persons, but that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are simply individual manifestations of God. Basically, God wearing three different masks. Since water is the exact same in all three forms, it is simply different manifestations of the same exact thing. I’m not a theologian, and my professor could probably explain the problems of this analogy much better, but it was still shocking to learn that the way I had been taught was accidentally leading me into heresy against the idea that God is both one substance and three distinctly, separate entities. This is actually one thing about God we can’t completely reason out; eventually, we have to accept the mystery. There is nothing in the world comparable to the Trinity; that’s why all worldly analogies fall into heresy at some point.
These two issues are merely scratching the surface of the deep soul-searching I’ve been doing. Some days you feel so lost and confused about all of it, and it’s easy to forget your whole purpose for being in seminary in the first place. I imagine that many of you are in the same place, in high school, college, or even as an adult Christian working through your life. For me, in spite of it all, I’m glad I’m experiencing these questions and thinking through these convictions because I know that in the end, it will only make me firmer in my faith and in what I believe. My daddy has always taught me if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for everything. Thankfully, I know my faith stands on and for Jesus, and that if I continue to root myself in His love and guidance He’ll give me the wisdom and ability to reach logical Scripturally-grounded conclusions. At the end of the day, the only way to work through all of this is to let go of my past, my presumptions, and doubt and let God guide my heart, my thoughts, and my actions. Let go of the doubt, and let God lead. I hope that whatever your situation today, you will try to do the same.
Love & blessings,