As I approach the end of my degree program at Lipscomb’s Hazelip School of Theology, it is only fitting to reflect upon my experience there. Overall, it has been a great experience, and I feel like I have grown as a student and a child of God. In my 9 years in the program, I have taken 27 classes (2 of which were audits) from 18 different teachers in nearly every available semester (Spring, Summer and Fall). Out of all of those classes, there are some that particularly challenged me and left a lasting impact upon my mind. The following classes stand out to me and particularly shaped me. Most of these classes introduced me to new models and methods of inquiry and shifted my overall paradigm in useful ways. If I were to recommend classes at Lipscomb, I would start with these.
- Science & Religion, taught by Mike Williams, explored the intersection of faith and religion. I became aware of how many specialists have input into the origins debate and other scientific endeavors (biologists, geologists, physicist, theologians, astronomers, anthropologists and chemists to name a few). We also considered the question of what the text is trying to say. Sometimes, we project our modern day questions onto the text and force it to answer questions it is not attempting to answer. All in all, it can get complicated, and this class gave me the briefest of introductions to this dense subject.
- In Theology of the Stone & Campbell Movement, Gary Holloway introduced me to both the unity and diversity that existed/exists within the Restoration Movement. This was a subject that I thought I knew about, but I found out that there is so much more to learn and consider. It was distressing at first to see how some things have changed from the beginning to now, but ultimately I have been able to learn from it. This is my religious history and understanding it a little better has helped me to appreciate my “upbringing” and learn how I have been shaped.
- Spiritual Formation, my second class in a row with Gary Holloway, took me into the world of discipleship and spiritual disciplines. I have always been surrounded by great examples of disciples in my life, but my own discipleship had become pretty haphazard at times. The need for discipleship had always been emphasized to me, but there had not been as much of an emphasis on exactly how to attain it. This class introduced me to the disciplined exercise of practices to remain continually aware of God’s presence. I saw various approaches to developing a life of discipleship throughout the long history of the church. This class allowed me to see more clearly what is involved with a genuine and intimate relationship with the Lord.
- In Systematic Theology, C. Leonard Allen introduced me to the rich, historical, systematic pursuit of theology. Many in the history of the church have thought much more deeply on the fundamental aspects of Christianity than I have ever known, and it was good to be exposed to a small part of their investigations. Dr. Allen also introduced me to Anabaptist perspectives and theology, a group within the Reformation that I would like to chase down some more.
- African American Church History was taught by Edward Robinson, and this class took me into the world of chattel slavery and its effect upon the African American religious experience. I learned that even though I try to rid my heart of prejudice, I have always viewed things from the perspective of a group in a position of power. This does not make me evil or bad, but it is a perspective that must be acknowledged. This class allowed me to view the subject from a different set of eyes, and it gave me an appreciation for the hope and dignity found among those who have been rejected by society. Religion also has something to say about human dignity, but sadly it has often been used to perpetuate inequalities. It was also interesting to discover the history of African Americans in the Restoration Movement and Churches of Christ, a history which is often left out of the standard rendering.
- Theological Hermeneutics, regrettably my only class with John Mark Hicks, addressed an interest of mine since I have entered the program – biblical interpretation. My understanding of biblical interpretation has always shaped my views in religion, and it lies at the heart of many of the differences in Christianity. This class helped me examine the hermeneutical influences that helped shape the Stone-Campbell Movement, and it provided some methodology for biblical interpretation. What I had always considered simple and straightforward has greater complexity than I imagined. Yet, there is a clear thread of simplicity and certainty to be seen in the Scriptures. It provided many questions that I have continued to pursue since completing the class. My guess is that I will consider some of these things for a lifetime.
- Christian Ethics, under the guidance of Lee C. Camp, was a pivotal class in the development of my academic interests. If I had to pick a single class that shaped me the most, this would probably be it. The class provided a framework for the discussion, traversing philosophy, sociology, theology and biblical studies. We considered the foundation for ethics, weighing between a universal rationality or a particular Christian story. The Enlightenment, Western political liberalism, Nazi Germany and Segregated America were all examined. Ethics were redefined as an overall direction in life and not just distinct choices between two actions. This class connected well with the other classes that I had taken and sparked my interest to further pursue Ethics in the context of the Old Testament.
- Introduction to Preaching, taught by Ken Durham, provided a skeletal framework for different types of preachers and their view of Scripture. The preachers I have always heard come from a similar perspective on preaching, which makes sense because they mostly all shared a similar background. This class showed me the viewpoints that contribute to differences in preaching styles. It also provided helpful instruction in sermon preparation and delivery. I came away refreshed and energized to pursue preaching and improve my abilities.