Friday, March 7, 2014

Book Review: How to Stay Christian in Seminary by David Mathis and Jonathan Parnell

There are two kinds of seminarians: those of us who think they don’t need to hear what How to Stay Christian in Seminary has to say, and those who know they do. Many of us are part of that first group. We like the academic stuff, right? Give us a warm old Puritan before a modern Christian living book filled from beginning to end with stories and illustrations any day. We know how to talk about God’s grace. We know that we're sinners and can explain the ins and outs of the noetic effects of sin. Well if we know these things already, why should we read a book with a name like How to Stay Christian in Seminary? Isn't a book like this for somebody who just can't cut it? The answer is that, for the most part, as seminarians our biggest problem is not an issue of knowing.

As much benefit as seminary brings, it can also be dangerous for our souls. It’s true. If you’ve been at any seminary for any amount of time, perhaps you’ve seen temptations in your own lives unique to this particular season. We can be tempted to partition our lives into academic and spiritual compartments. We can also experience the temptation to "stuff your head with more than your heart can digest." We can even lose the vision of why we came here to seminary in the first place; the calling that brought us here to begin with. We may be tempted to neglect our families and simply bury our face in the books. "I'll see them when the semester is over," we may say. Hopefully these do not strike any of us as minor temptations.

The fact is, our professors try very hard to make these classes connect with our hearts and not only with our minds. They meet with us for prayer and to talk about spiritual challenges in our lives. Our participation in local churches encourages us to pursue intimacy with God through His Word and prayer. It also pushes us to be a part of the church and to serve her. Even with all of these positive influences, the temptations are still real, and often we need somebody who has been there before to gently prod, remind, and to warn us.

There are things which ought to penetrate the heart and practice of the average seminarian. This book is intended to help you, to identify potential problem areas, and to enable you to develop strategies and disciplines that can make seminary a time of growth instead of diminution. Yes, it’s a Christian Living book. No, it is not the hardest thing you’ve ever read. No, reading it won't necessarily give you the bragging rights you so deeply yearn for. But please understand—this book is written for you. None of us are too good to read this book.

How to Stay Christian in Seminary is currently on sale for $1.99 on the Kindle.

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