The Most Important Thing I Learned in Seminary

April 26, 2016

There’s something about alphabet soup. It seems to affect all of us in the same way. We see all those letters floating around and words start coming to mind. Words like “genius,” “smart,” and “intelligent.” Obviously I’m not talking about the kind of alphabet soup that comes from Campbell’s. I’m talking about the alphabet soup that comes at the end of some people’s names, like mine: BA, MDiv, PhD.

People are impressed by that string of initials. In one sense, they ought to be. Earning any one of those degrees is an achievement. On the flip side, however, sometimes we give too much credit to people with a lot letters after their names.

That happened to me recently. I just completed teaching a long series on the history and theology of the Reformation at a local church. On a recent Sunday, someone came up to thank me and to let me know of a conversation that she recently had. The gist of the conversation was this: Dr Beck knows so much, do you think he can learn anything else?

She was obviously being complimentary but her comment made me cringe. I quickly responded that I’ve got so much more to learn that I barely know where to begin. What she took as simple modesty was really an admission of the fact that I’m nowhere done learning. I learned that in seminary.

Seminary was a great blessing. I made lasting friends. I grew in my faith. I learned much about God and His word. I also learned a lot about myself and human nature. Here’s a few of the things that I learned along those lines:

1 – Doing all things for the glory of God includes studying.
2 – There are a lot of very smart people out there.
3 – There are a lot of very lazy people out there.
4 – Numbers 2 and 3 often apply to the same people. Thus, number 1.
5 – Some people think they know everything and insist on proving it.

But, the most important thing that I learned in seminary about myself was that I don’t know everything. The more I learned the more I realized that I had so much more to learn. As one friend put it, “the more I learn, the dumber I feel.”

Contrary to popular thinking, learning does not end. It is punctuated by graduations but the process itself goes on and on. No degree is truly terminal. As we learn something new, more doors and grander vistas open before us. The true student never stops learning because he cannot stop learning.

I have been given a great gift by God in my education. I am expected to do things with it for the glory of God. Those things include teaching and testifying to God’s goodness. I am also expected, like every other believer, to continue to grow in my faith and knowledge. Now that I have tasted of the good things of God, I should want more. I must move from the milk of my education to the meat of God’s universe. After all, I don’t know everything.

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