July 2009

One distinctive of our MDIV curriculum is the 1 hour spiritual formation that accompanies each praxis course.  So this Fall, online ministers in the program will take the six hour online Missional Church course with Charles Arn and they will take the first 1 hour spiritual formation course, “Change and Transformation.”  The online course will be taught by Robert Vaughan, whose DMin dissertation was about spiritual formation in online classes.

Onsite ministers in the program will come to campus on Tuesday from 9-12 for the Missional Church with Bob Whitesel, which will continue from 2-4 in the afternoon.  But during lunch, I’ll meet with them to eat together and process the spiritual formation tasks of the week.

There are two strengths of IWU’s spiritual formation sequence, which was designed more by Keith Drury than anyone else, although we are delighted for Robert to continue designing courses 2-6.

The first strength is the fact that we are not myopically focused on what people usually think of when they think of spiritual formation–highly individualistic devotions, including prayer and Bible reading.  Spiritual formation is much more than this.  It must, for example, involve a corporate dimension to have real depth. 

The second strength is that the course sequence actually follows the actual process of change:

Change and Tranformation–how does change actually take place in a person?
Self Awareness and Appraisal–who are you, where are you at?
Goal Setting and Accountability–where are you headed and who is going to hold you to it?
Mentoring and Spiritual Direction–you’re not in this alone, we need the body of Christ
Personal and Corporate Disciplines–a robust treatment, including means of grace
Recovery and Deliverance–you can actually change!

I don’t know of any other seminary that has such a robust spiritual formation sequence that is required.  And even one that comes to mind as considering itself a specialist in this area seems to have a very myopic and overly introspective approach.  I can’t take credit for how awesome this approach is–of course even the key player can’t either.  But we can be proud of it, in a sanctified way. 🙂

From weeks 4-7 of each of the 6 main praxis courses in our MDIV curriculum (missional church, leadership, proclamation, worship, congregational spiritual formation, and congregational relationships), ministers in our program will do exegetical research on biblical passages related to a pastoral issue they chose to address in Week 3.

I recognize the value of highly concentrated biblical work.  This iconic assignment regularly exercises the skills of our MDIV ministers in this area, along with other similar assignments that appear throughout the courses.  However, I would dispute that the overwhelming majority of Bible classes at other seminaries locate such skills nearly as well in the context of ministry.  And that is what an MDIV is supposed to be about.

Here is a look at what you/they will submit at the end of Week 7:

Integration Paper (up to 40 points for adequate completion)

a. In the third week of the course, you turned in a “Statement of Issue” to the professor in which you gave a situation requiring reflection by a person in a pastoral role. In the intervening three weeks, you have ideally selected biblical passages that relate to that issue. Then in theory you have brainstormed on the most likely original meaning of those passages given their immediate and broader literary contexts. Finally, last week you ideally began to explore historical background to those passages and have dipped into commentaries and other secondary resources about them.

b. The major assignment for this week is to organize your exegetical research on these passages and submit them. Your “chicken scratch” does not all have to be polished—you can even scan and send some notes in PDF form—but it should…

• Go passage by passage, including passages from both testaments and a cross-section of passages within testaments (i.e., not only material from Paul’s letters but from the gospels, etc…).

• Each passage should be addressed in three sections, finally in this order: 1) historical and socio-cultural background, 2) broader and immediate literary context, and 3) a polished conclusion on the original meaning of that passage.

• At the end of the assignment, you should have a summary of your results in total. At this point, don’t worry about joining the different passages to each other, creating a “biblical” position. That is part of the next stage.

• Although there is no official length of what you will turn in, it is hard to imagine that a good biblical investigation of relevant passages will turn out to be less than 10 pages of chicken scratch and conclusions, if you have done an adequate job.

c. Your work will be given to a Bible scholar who will look them over and give you and the professor feedback on the work. S/he will suggest a grade as a matter of feedback, although at this point the grade your professor will give is based on adequate completion of the assignment rather than quality of work. Then near the end of the course when you are formulating your pastoral response to the issue you have chosen, your professor will take into account then whether you have incorporated the feedback from the Bible scholar.

d. Criteria for feedback:

• Picks a cross-section of relevant passages from both testaments

• Does not confuse “that time” with “this time” in its exploration of the passages

• Makes good observations of the biblical texts themselves

• Reads the texts appropriately in the light of historical and socio-cultural background

• Engages commentaries and other secondary resources in relation to the passages

• Shows good reasoning in the conclusions it draws from each body of evidence

• Presents a good summary of the overall exegetical research

e. After you have assembled your work, submit this assignment to the professor by 11:59pm on Thursday night by following the Submission: Exegetical Research link in the Workshop 7 folder.

I value Ben Witherington’s values in a recent post no doubt alluding to our new seminary at IWU.  He raises legitimate concerns about a seminary curriculum that doesn’t look familiar to him.  I can’t force anyone to agree with our perspective, but I can present it. 

Here is a clarification piece to help translate our foreign-looking program.  We are so used to traditional seminaries that all look the same and all do things the same way that it is hard to decipher something that looks quite different.  So I depart from my normal pattern of posting on Mondays and offer this piece.  For further details, I offer our descriptions of the program on YouTube, as well as my own commentary elsewhere.

The disciplines of Bible, theology, and church history appear in our curriculum far more than merely in one course each:

1. Somewhere between a third and a fourth of our curriculum is dedicated to Bible, theology, and Church history…

2. … but it is packaged differently.  Yes, there are only three required, distinct courses (old educational paradigm)…

3. … but every week there is a dedicated assignment in Bible, theology, or Church history, created by a scholar in that area…

4. … and students do about 10 pages of exegetical work on passages relating to a pastoral issue from weeks 4-7 of every praxis course…

5. … and they do about 10 pages of historical theology work in relation to that issue from weeks 8-11 of every praxis course…

6. … and it culminates in an “Integration Paper” of about 10 pages turned in the 14th week, which is a “pastoral theology” paper.

7. In addition, students have to pass a basic Bible content competency exam in the first 20 hours of the degree.

8. You can take electives in Bible, theology, and Church history.  Each professor (including Bible, theology, and church history professors) will be encouraged to try to sell an elective in their field to our students at least every other year to begin with, and then yearly as we accrue more and more students.

9. Perhaps as early as this June and July we may have a “Summer Biblical Language Institute” that teaches a) the categories of Greek or Hebrew for use in preaching and teaching (June) and b) follows up with the specific forms of the language for those who want to continue on (July).  In itself, this is a highly innovative approach to teaching biblical languages.

10. Students can also take Greek and Hebrew onsite with undergraduate students.  One student is taking Greek this way this year.

11. Finally, we hope to unroll soon a new kind of MA in Biblical Studies, theology, and Church history that allows a student to set out their own individualized 36 hour course of study, supervised one-on-one with a Bible, theology, or Church history professor (Oxbridge model).

It is my firm conviction that what God has helped us to design here is not less Bible, theology, or Church history in terms of what the vast majority of students will take away.  What God has helped us to design is a more effective pedagogical approach to teaching the Bible, theology, or Church history.  

 Let me put it this way.  Most seminaries aim at the ideal in these areas, and fail in relation to the majority of students.  We have aimed at what will be most effective for the majority of students and will, Lord willing, succeed with the majority of students.  At the same time, we are devising creative ways for the “traditional minority” of seminary students to get these other “theoretical depth” features.

 So we do less and give more, while traditional seminaries do more and give less.

The pre-course requirements for the two August intensives have gone out.  I posted the ten books for the two courses as a comment under the previous post.  We’re now at less than a month till the seminary’s “practical” commencement.

I thought for this week I would feature a snippet of what the Cultural Contexts of Ministry class will be doing on the Wednesday you/they are here:

… Now get in groups of similar denominations or traditions.  In some cases, this may turn out to be a single individual or two.  Non-denominational and house church students can meet together initially, but they should not assume that they most belong in the same tradition.  For example, a particular non-denominational church might fit far better traditionally with a Baptist group than with a house church group.

The first goal of the afternoon is for each of these groups and traditions to map out where they fit in relation to the other groups and traditions in the room.  They can, for example, each come to the board and put their group name in an overall list at the far right of the board.

The next goal is to join these groups on the far right together moving back in time and tradition to the left.  This will probably require some erasing and reordering of the list on the right to make it easy to join groups together.  They might put important names and dates down as well at key junctures.

… This phase of the exercise is done when all the groups have mapped themselves to as common roots in American Christianity as possible.

There are two goals for the remainder of the day…

A) We want to see in general how these branches come back together in church history.  Most will be Protestants of some sort.  We will want to see how the branches go back to the fountainheads of Protestant tradition (Luther, Calvin, Anglicanism, etc.) and then back into Roman Catholicism.

B) The most important goal for the remainder of the day is to fill in blanks in American Christianity.  Depending on the composition of the class, we might end up either with a very diverse or a very monolithic group of students.  The more monolithic the class, the more the professor may have to represent other traditions. 

In particular, the day should not close without the class having some sense of where the Reformed, Presbyterian, Baptist, Anabaptist, Restorationist, Congregational, Lutheran, Episcopal, Methodist, and Pentecostal traditions fit on the map of American Christianity.

There’s a snippet from Aug. 12th, the third day of the Cultural Contexts of Ministry intensive class.

We continue to put the finishing touches on the August and Fall courses for the MDIV, and it’s looking pretty good.

August 3: The Pastor, Church, and World one week intensive course begins, taught by Russ Gunsalus, with a cast of seminary characters dropping in and out to orient everyone to the program.

August 9: The first seminary convocation takes place as students and adjuncts alike meet together.  If you are an alumnus or alumna of IWU’s MA in Ministry program–or are currently in the program–feel free to join us at 6:30 in the student center banquet halls at IWU.  All the new MDIV students will be there.  Keith Drury will be speaking.  Adjunct professors Charles Arn and Robert Vaughan will be there, as well as regular professors like Bob Whitesel and Ken Schenck and members of the newly formed undergraduate School of Ministry and Theology (the old Religion and Philosophy division).

August 10: The Cultural Contexts of Ministry one week intensive course begins, taught by Norm Wilson, covering everything from your local church demographics to the coming two thirds world Christianity.

August 21: The online 6 hr Missional Church course begins (with Charles Arn), as well as the 1hr spiritual formation course, Change and Transformation (with Robert Vaughan).

August 25: The onsite 6 hr Missional Church course begins (with Bob Whitesel), as well as the 1 hr spiritual formation course, Change and Transformation (with Ken Schenck).

Although the grand opening of the seminary will take place October 1-2, we are now officially open for business.  With some 160 MA students already, we will launch the first MDIV classes in August with about 200 students in the seminary as a whole!