A few weeks ago, Peter Enns reflected on his move from teaching in a seminary to teaching Bible at a Christian college.
I moved in the opposite direction after teaching undergrads for seven years.
I loved teaching college students. Undergrads have lots of energy and are always up for a laugh. They have great sensitivity to inauthenticity and pretension, and that helped me not take myself too seriously.
Further, their questions were pretty undisciplined—and I mean that in a good way. They weren’t the polite or safe questions one hears in church settings or predictable ones that come in academic contexts. They really made me think and I enjoyed the challenge of going over familiar material in fresh ways. A few research projects got their start from questions that made me go back to my office and look at the text more closely.
I also had my eyes opened about college students. Many of them have been hurt deeply, few of them have illusions about life, lots of them are lonely, and they’re desperate to be known by adults they respect.
Things are quite different in seminary, and I’m having a blast.
Rather than adopting a posture as “the expert,” I see myself as the “first student.” I’m sort of the lead learner, directing class discoveries and the communal journey through the material.
My main frustration teaching undergrads was that I wasn’t able to grapple with aspects of the academic discipline at a level that was satisfying.
Teaching seminary gives me that opportunity and I love it. I hate to admit it, but I’m teaching seminary a bit selfishly—I’m exploiting my job for my own enjoyment! I love regularly revisiting NT Biblical Theology, working through various Pauline letters, and engaging other aspects of the discipline even as I further my own research projects.
And seminary students for the most part are my peers. Many of them are in ministry and most are my age—I’m just a bit older than our average student. We’ve had similar life experiences and sharing all of this together makes for rich classroom conversations.
I’m grateful for what I learned teaching undergrads and I’m seriously enjoying myself teaching seminary students.