Monday, June 29, 2009

Seminary Vision (6-29-09): Spiritually Enriching

The next of the IWU Seminary videos is "spiritually enriching."

So far we've featured the Missional, Communal, and Integrated vidcasts. Today's video is the Spiritually Enriching one.

There are two principle ways in which we are consciously attending to the spiritual dimension of the MDIV degree.

1. A one hour spiritual formation course that accompanies each of the six core courses of the curriculum. These are written to lead a person through the actual process of change rather than just sending you off to read the Bible and pray:

a. Change and Transformation--asks how change and transformation take place

b. Self-Awareness and Appraisal--leads you to assess where you are at in your pilgrimage

c. Goal Setting and Accountability--has to do with identifying where you need to move to

d. Mentoring and Spiritual Direction--deals with this important component in getting there

e. Personal and Corporate Disciplines--here we get to the component that so many spiritual formation programs focus exclusively on. Even here, they usually focus only on the personal disciplines. In good Wesleyan fashion, we will bring in the means of grace and corporate disciplines too.

f. Recovery and Deliverance--focuses on the arrival and embodies a tradition that is optimistic about God's power to transform for real.

What a robust approach! Without even realizing it, so much spiritual formation is anemic!

2. The second element of spiritual formation is a philosophy that will work its way through the whole curriculum. There are those who are anti-seminary because they perceive it to be harmful or distracting to faith. Some try to stop their ministers from going for fear it will make them liberal and corrupt them. Others think it gets them out of focus and gets their priorities out of whack.

Is this true or an urban legend? I suspect there is some truth to it. But the problem for me is not that seminaries teach false things. The accusation that they subtly change priorities may have more to it and the rise of home grown seminaries on site at megachurches (e.g., Mars Hill) helps because teaching is done in the ministry setting, as ours will be by requiring them to be in ministry. The potential danger of the onsite church seminary is becoming ingrown, of course... and no church has the infrastructure of a university like IWU that is some 14,000 strong (online, records, support services, etc.).

My sense is that the Bible and philosophy are the main culprits in faith challenge at seminary, and having some expertise in both areas, I can't say that the problem is that these challenges are false. The problem is that our paradigms are not equipped to incorporate the challenges into our faith.

So the approach to these topics we are taking in our MDIV is not to pretend that the issues aren't real (the fundamentalist dodge) but to appropriate some of the great possibilities of theological intepretation. We will not focus on the question issues but when we encounter them, we will be able to keep them in perspective. It is a great privilege to be born at a period when we are finally able to move beyond the dichotomies of the past!

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