My summer term of seminary wrapped up a couple of weeks ago, and I was very sad to see it go. I took Introduction to Global Christian Traditions this quarter, and it was hands down one of my favorite classes.1 I especially appreciated the systematic movement through historical Christianity and listening to the voices and perspectives that have shaped and formed the church into what we hold today.
One of the reasons I chose Fuller Theological Seminary for my master’s degree is its intentional approach to thinking culturally and contextually about the story of Scripture and the expression of its truth through God’s people. Fuller doesn’t shy away from the shadow side of the Christian religion, nor does it approach theology from a single denominational perspective. This class was the first time I really wrestled with the shadow side of the Christian faith at each age and stage of our religion, and I got a brief entryway into why denominations exist and how they were (and are) formed.
This particular course forced me to wrestle with many things I hadn’t yet thought of in regard to the Christian tradition, especially where it related to church fathers and historical Christian movements. I tangled with the antisemitism and racist beliefs of Martin Luther while simultaneously holding onto the evident truth that what Martin Luther contributed to the church was much needed and revolutionary. I wrestled through the dualistic thinking of the early church fathers, as well as my own, the power struggles of the Christian religion, as well as my own, and the influence of Constantine and the current keeping of the church calendar because of him. I also came to the unsettling realization that the original church split was far more devastating and influential to the current expression of the Christian faith than I ever imagined. The parting of the ways between Jews and Gentiles is something I’m still chewing on and wrestling with as essential to our current church context and reconciliation of the people of God.
Overall, I read many good books and had loads of conversations with my professor and classmates that reshaped the way I think about my faith. My final research paper has me still pondering and researching for further discovery and greater understanding, and I’m sad to see this class come to a final close. It was truly a wonderful class.
Some books I read that I highly recommend to anyone:
- A History of Christian Theology by William Placher – This is the most accessible book on the history of Christian theology I’ve personally read. I would pick up books prior to seminary trying to get a grasp on church history, and I would peter out after the first few pages – so dry and sandpapery! But William Placher chronicles the whole of Christian theology with humor, eloquence, and skill. It’s readable and understandable, and I found myself even reading in bed because it was so interesting. Now, maybe you won’t think of it like I did, but I definitely think it’s worth a read if you’re wanting an overview of how the Christian tradition has emerged through the years.
- Finding Messiah: A Journey into the Jewishness of the Gospel by Jennifer M. Rosner – This book was actually written by my professor for this class, and I found it a gift to be let into the pages of this book. It’s part memoir, part Christian history from the perspective of a Jewish Christian. The parting of the ways between Jews and Gentiles in early church history is a travesty that we must reconcile as a modern church. This book is a good introduction to the challenges of our Jewish brothers and sisters not only in the Christian tradition but in Judaism as well. Understanding Christianity’s relationship to the Jewish faith is a key to unlocking the whole of Scripture. This book helps make the case for the healing of the schism between the two religions that were never meant to be parted.
Additional books I read and recommend if you’re interested in further study:
- After Our Likeness: The Church as the Image of the Trinity by Miroslav Volf – I picked this one up for my final research paper thinking I would use it as a support text. As I read, I discovered it didn’t fit my research topic, but it did fit my interests: the relationship between the church and its community. It addresses the rampant individualism within the church and the critical need of the postmodern church to give space for both the person and community to thrive within the local context. It spells out the image of the church in the person and work of the triune God.
- Structured for Mission: Renewing the Culture of the Church by Alan J. Roxburgh – Hands down my favorite find this term. I used this one in my research paper, and I read the whole thing cover to cover (not common when researching). This book addresses the unraveling of denominations within the Western church context and what pastors and leaders can do about it. There are A LOT. of marks in the margins of this book! It’s definitely a book for church leaders and church planters.
- Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism: Redefining Christian Engagement With the Jewish People by Mark S. Kinzer – I read several chapters of this book throughout the course. If you care about Jewish-Christian relations, then this is a good book to pick up. It’s dense, but it’s worth the investment.
I signed up for a class this fall, but I didn’t get the professor I wanted. After looking at the syllabus for the professor that was available, I decided to drop the class and put my name on the waitlist for the other professor. I doubt I’ll get un-waitlisted. I’m okay with that for now. I’m not in a hurry to complete my degree, and I have some things in my personal life that need my undivided attention right now. I’ve got a stack of books to work through, and some thoughts I need to process anyway.
I’m eager to continue learning though, so I have my eyes set on the winter term for at least one class. I’m also hoping I can complete the foundation classes by the end of summer 2024. If so, that means I’ll have 7 classes under my belt. It’s possible, but I also don’t mind following the Spirit’s leading as I walk this journey with Him. I’m immensely grateful for this opportunity to learn and grow in my faith as a follower of Jesus Christ. It’s not lost on me that this opportunity hasn’t been available to women for long. It’s a privilege I pray I steward well.
- I’m pretty sure I have said this about nearly every class I’ve taken. Regardless, I think it’s safe to say that this class really shifted my paradigm of reading Scripture historically and culturally and that was absolutely life-changing. ↩︎