Ah, the new school year: optimism is almost as high as the temperature on the Pasadena campus. New classes, new languages, new students, a new President for Fuller Theological Seminary. We even threw in a new SEMI Editor to boot. What is the SEMI, you ask? For our new students, the SEMI is the seminary’s student publication that hits newsstands every other week. Why does it need an editor? I’m not sure, but I am he. What does SEMI mean? If you thought it was short for “seminary,” you just fell for a trick question. The SEMI gets its name from the Greek word σημεῖον, transliterated as sēmeion. Yup, we like to transliterate Biblical languages to give us hip names. Welcome to seminary. Anyways, σημεῖον means “sign” or “signpost;” when we first started in 1957, the 210 freeway didn’t exist and the SEMI was a single-sided sheet of paper with campus announcements. We became an actual magazine in the early 90s when some of the people who now teach us were students here and writing for the SEMI. Hard to believe, but I have proof. Anyways, the SEMI has had many manifestations over the years. In this current season, we look forward to exploring the meeting place between what we have learned in the classroom and the world we hope to minister in, whether it be in the church, the clinic, the mission field, the classroom, the office, or the art gallery. We have a massive diversity of voices on campus, and everyone is here to learn how to better serve Christ and the world he loves. The SEMI hopes to host voices that help us wrestle with how we make the theoretical palpable, make the abstract substantive. We want to start conversations among Fullerites that trickle into our families, our churches, and our communities. We would love for you to join us in these discussions. In this issue, we offer up some words of encouragement. It may be week one, but midterms and finals will be here before you know it. With that, I have provided a crash course in Fuller-specific terms for those new to campus—I think returning students will also find it quite robust—and Tamisha Tyler, your wonderful and brilliant All-Seminary Council (ASC) president, has managed some inspiration for those of us nearing the finish-line of our degrees. (Speaking of the ASC, we have their mugshots and bios lined up for you to get to know the voices of the student body.) Last but not least, President Labberton helps us to put our studies at Fuller into a healthy perspective: we are not just studying on this campus, but we are learning how to be more truly human as God designed us to be. We pray this issue finds you well and leaves you better. Reed Metcalf, Editor
Managing Editor Carmen Valdés Editor Reed Metcalf
The SEMI is published every other week as a service to the Fuller community by the Office of Student Affairs at Fuller Theological Seminary. Articles and commentaries do not necessarily reflect the views of the Fuller administration or the SEMI.
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Fullerese: Grad schools are tough. This seminary is no different.
table in the church bookstore. I guess I was just thinking theologically.”
My first quarter here felt like I was drowning the whole time. There were the copious amounts of reading, the essays that blistered typing fingers, a schedule that wrecked the preexisting social life, and the gallons of coffee to modify my sleep schedule. Perhaps the most difficult part, though, was having to learn the new language.
speak to: odd little phrase that tends to mean, “Huh?” •“You say our dinner after class last week was not a date. Could you speak to that more?”
“Fullerese.” You think I joke, but people talk differently here, and you have to pick it up if you want to keep afloat. If you’re not ready for it, the first time you hear one of these gems you’ll do a double-take and find yourself even more lost. A quick sample of Fullerese terms that you hear in classrooms: robust: preferred way of saying, “more than just proof-texting or what we learned in Sunday School.” Conveys the meaning of more complete, truer to the entire witness of Scripture. • “I believe the inclusion of grilled onions makes for a more robust cheeseburger.” thinking theologically: though you may have come to seminary wanting to think otherwise, we in fact are being trained to look at all aspects of academia as if they are impacted by God’s rule over all the cosmos. • “I’m sorry, I saw Joel Osteen’s book on the display and I just had to flip over the whole
push back: no one at Fuller ever seems to “disagree” with another person. Instead, everybody “pushes back” with an alternate reading or focus. It’s sort of like disagreeing, but it’s more nuanced than that. Also, see nuance. • “Allow me to push back for a second: Voldemort wouldn’t last a minute against Darth Vader.” nuance: another way to not disagree. • “Perhaps a good nuance would be… ‘no.’” But seriously, when I first started at Fuller, I was coming from an undergrad (and part of a Master’s) in English Lit and Composition; I basically came into the academic world of theology blind. My first class here was Intro to the Gospels, and I was subsequently introduced to about seventy terms that I didn’t know and didn’t show up in Merriam-Webster’s College Dictionary. A good friend kept me afloat by whispering definitions to me as the lectures progressed, but it still took me some time to get my feet under me. In the spirit of my good friend, and with a pang of sympathy for those like me coming from a non-bible
Learning the Language and Surviving Seminary
by Reed Metcalf
college background, here is a crash course into terms, theories, and theologians that are actually important. No joke.
and occasionally ask them to go to the pub with you. Then you remember that you don’t actually know them.
THE “-OLOGIES.” There are a ton of these, but the most important are:
The Gnostics: Gnosticism was a religion that emerged about the same time as Christianity in the 1st Century CE. It blended with Christianity to make some superbly wrong teachings, the most important ones being: the physical world and our bodies are evil, the spiritual world and our souls are good; the god of the Old Testament was not really the Supreme Being, and Jesus came to do away with him; and Jesus had no body, because bodies are evil.
Theology: The study of God. Sometimes used to refer to the study of God the Father in particular. Soteriology: The study of the Savior or Salvation. Concerned with Jesus, his works, our relationship as individuals and the church to him, and the Atonement. Pneumatology: The study of the Holy Spirit and how it works in the world, the church, through the Son, etc. Anthropology: The study of Humankind in relation to the Triune God. This is actually thinking theologically about who and what humans are. See what I did there? Ecclesiology: The study of the church: what is the church, who is the church, what is its purpose, etc.
Arius: Early heretic who said Christ was not God, but instead the highest possible created being. Arius and his teachings (Arianism) pop up like roaches across biblical study and church history; just when you think they’re finally gone, you turn on the light one morning and scream as they scamper across the floor.
Eschatology: The study of last things: what happens at the Second Coming of Christ, the end of time, the resurrection of the dead, etc.
Constantine: First Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity in 312, following a battle where his standards carried a sign of Christ. He is responsible for legalizing Christianity in Rome, rebuilding churches, and calling ecumenical (church-wide) councils to unite the churches and weed out heresy.
PEOPLE. Whether theologians or not, you read and hear about these people so much that you will come up nicknames for them
Augustine: Perhaps the most influential Christian writer in history after the Apostle Paul. We can trace the origins for Just War
Theory, Calvin’s Predestination writings, and the most prevalent view of Original Sin to Augustine’s works. Thomas Aquinas: Medieval professor, monk, and theologian who argued that reason and faith were compatible, though Divine Revelation always trumped human reason and philosophy (he himself was a big fan of Aristotle). Tommy wrote a lot. One work of his—Summa Theologica—is over two million words alone. You’ll write about that much at Fuller. Martin Luther: An Augustinian monk, he tried to correct corruption in the Catholic Church but inadvertently began the Protestant Reformation that completely restructured Europe (and its colonies). Oops. When he found himself excommunicated, he went all out and became a prolific and foundational writer of what is now dubbed Protestant theology. John Calvin: Super stoked about what Luther was writing, this young Frenchman fled persecution by his Catholic king to Switzerland where he led the Reformation in Geneva. Is more or less the founder of Reformed theology. Fredrich Schleiermacher: The Father of Liberal Protestantism, Schleiermacher has a really awesome last name. He is also one of the most difficult reads in seminary; to try and sum him up is to do him injustice. It is good to know, however, that he invests a lot of ink in explaining experiences of the Divine as the heart of true religion. Karl Barth: Reacting hard against the school of thought that developed in the wake of Schleiermacher, Barth (pronounced “Bart”) published a commentary on Romans that rocked the theological world and brought the focus of theological study back to the Bible itself. By the way, if you thought Tommy Aquinas wrote a lot,
check out good ol’ Barthy’s Church Dogmatics: over thirteen million words. While we’re listing things, here’s some advice outside the realm of semantics. BOOKS you definitely want to get: A Reader’s Hebrew and Greek Bible, by Brown, Smith, Goodrich, and Lukaszewski. If you are an M.Div student, you will take 32 units worth of Biblical Language and Exegesis classes. At $365 a unit…. I’ll let you do the math; this $50 book will help secure your investment. This Bible will help you be able to use your languages everyday so you don’t lose them. As St. Jerome once said, “I’m afraid if I leave my Hebrew, my Hebrew will leave me.” Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism?, by James K. A. Smith. This is indispensable for understanding Postmodernism, which you will run into all the time in classes, articles, text books, etc. A Concise History of Christian Thought, by Tony Lane. It’s required by a bunch of history professors anyways, and it gives you a quick reference to all those peeps you don’t know. Uncommon Decency, by Richard Mouw. No, this is not simply a plug for the previous president of Fuller. The book discusses the need and means to being respectful to other people even when you disagree with them. Considering that Fuller has over 100 denominations represented on this campus in the student body, you’re bound to bump up against somebody who makes your stomach churn when they speak. This book helps you love your neighbor even when you don’t like them and think they need heavy nuancing. OTHER RANDOM TIPS to making it out alive:
Fuller has a Writing Center to help with paper-writing on the 3rd floor of the Library. Seriously, check ‘em out. Learn to read—or skim—at near lightspeed. Practice your languages daily when you are in Greek or Hebrew. I have a brain built for cramming, and cramming does not work for those exams, trust me.
the sake of Jesus and the world he loves. Seminary is like mental and spiritual boot camp, training us for these fields. It will be tough, but after a few classes, things start to fall into place and your synapses start firing like everybody else’s. In the meantime, invest in coffee.
Writing your sermon is only half the work. Practice delivering it. Parking in LA is rarer than a Baptist in a confessional. Walk everywhere you want to go. I know this is all going to seem completely overwhelming—and this is only the tip of the iceberg—but I truly want you (whoever you are) to succeed. Classes here can be brutal, but it is only thus because of how seriously we take the task we have been called to. We have been called to be missionaries, psychiatrists, pastors, professors—all for
Reed Metcalf (MDiv ’13) is the new editor of the SEMI. He is painfully aware of how little he knows about School of Psychology and School of Intercultural Studies topics. Please talk with SOP or SIS students to make up for his ignorance in such subjects.
Fuller students, meet your
All-Semin I can hear you now: “What is ASC and why should I care?” I actually asked that question last year of some of my friends who were running for positions in ASC. I told them I would vote if they could make me care. Well, they did. ASC is the student body’s voice to the administration of the seminary, and that is more important than you think. For instance, the reason the Library is open until 11:00pm? ASC accomplished that one; it used to shut down at 9:00pm every night. Believe me, come finals week you will rejoice over those two extra hours. ASC does plenty of other important things, and the SEMI will be talking with ASC more over the course of the school year about awesome council doings right here. With that said, here are the people we have elected to represent and take care of us for the next nine months.
Tamisha Tyler is a third year MDiv Student studying Worship, Theology, and the Arts. A SoCal Native, she is a lifelong lover of arts and hopes to pursue a PhD linking Arts, Theology, Narrative, and Imagination. As the ASC president, she hopes to help students during their transitional time at Fuller, and believes that relationships (mentorships, friendships, community, etc.) are a true foundation for success. You can often find her somewhere on campus, with friends, or at home catching up on TV shows on Netflix.
Nick La Casella is a native Angelino and is currently on his way to becoming a chaplain in the U.S. Navy after completing his MDiv at Fuller. Art Bamford is also an MDiv student who originally hails from Chicago and plans on pursuing a PhD in Media, Religion, and Culture if his modeling career does not pan out. As this
nary ASC Council yearâ€™s TGU co-presidents they have the following three goals in mind: first, they want to create a formal channel through which students can voice their frustrations during their time at Fuller and begin to work collaboratively with their peers, faculty, and staff to develop solutions to these issues; second, they want to provide extracurricular programming and resources that offer vocational discernment assistance; finally, they want to begin to seek out additional sources of funding that might be available to students (including grants, scholarships, and endowments) and help students through the process of applying for those resources.
SOPGU MFT CO-PRESIDENTS
Corynne Waken and Samantha Smith are both second year students in the Marriage and Family Therapy program. Both Corynne and Samantha were drawn to Fuller for the purpose of incorporating their faith with their studies. As your PGU MFT co-presidents, they hope to get to know the incoming students, connect students with faculty and staff, and promote community within the Psychology Graduate Union. Both Corynne and Samantha love being involved on campus and can often be spotted having coffee and good conversation with friends. They look forward to serving the student body and are excited for what this year has in store at Fuller.
SOPGU CLINICAL CO-PRESIDENTS The PGU Clinical co-presidents, Bri Bentley and Mandy Panos, are third year students in the Clinical Psychology PhD program. Bri and Mandy are actively involved in the Fuller community and desire to facilitate an environment of support and camaraderie in the School of Psychology. Bri, USC alumna and California native, loves to run, eat Chipotle, and work as a children’s ministry coordinator at her home church. She is part of the Thrive research lab and is interested in the practical connection of church ministry and psychological study. Mandy, Lee University alumna, considers herself a hybrid of the South and the West Coast. She loves writing poetry, finding ways to be fashionable on a budget, and becoming friends with strangers she meets on airplanes. Mandy is a research fellow in Dr. Warren Brown’s lab studying agenesis of the corpus callosum. Bri and Mandy are thrilled to lead PGU together this year. They believe that honest reflection, intentional relationships, and openness to possibilities for growth are the keys to thriving in graduate school.
Anica Leitch and Gwen McWhorter are excited to serve as SISGU co-presidents this year. Both are starting their second year in the MAICS program, Anica with an emphasis in Children at Risk and Gwen in Islamic Studies. Before Fuller, Anica lived in 6 different states and worked with urban youth. She loves traveling, coffee, and Netflix dramas. If you see anyone zipping around Pasadena on a blue moped, it’s Anica. Gwen spent 6 years teaching in Morocco before Fuller. She loves biking, cooking dinner for people, and playing paddleball on the beach. If you see anyone zipping around Pasadena on a red bike, it’s Gwen. Both Anica and Gwen have a heart for creating community among their fellow SISers and they hope to incorporate prayer into their presidential duties, both for Fuller students and for other concerns in the world. It’s going to be an exciting year in the School of Intercultural Studies and Anica and Gwen look forward to getting to know many of you.
VICE PRESIDENT OF DIVERSITY
Preety H. Dass is a second year MAT student, emphasizing in Christian Ethics. Originally from India, Preety immigrated to the United States in 1995. Her upbringing in a reli-
giously and ethnically diverse home, experiences as an immigrant, and the discrimination she has faced as a woman have made her passionate to speak for and sensitive to those whose voices often get lost in the wider conversation. As the vice president for diversity on the All-Seminary Council, she hopes to come alongside the groups that the VP of diversity position will be representing (gender & culture, international students, ethnic minorities, people with disability, and the LGBTQ community) and help them meet the specific needs of their communities by building a platform for equality and respect. In her free time, Preety likes to explore the beautiful Southern California sights, read, dance, and watch Netflix.
Denise Duke is completing her last year as an MDiv student focusing on Recovery Ministry. She was born and raised in San Antonio, TX and studied counseling prior to coming to Fuller. Last year she served as the Theological Graduate Union co-president. As the Sports Coordinator this year, she desires to assist students in the area of self-care through the participation of sports and recreation. Her long-term goal is to integrate counseling, spirituality, and fitness as a means for holistic healing for those recovering from trauma and abuse. Her favorite thing about living in Southern California is exploring the trendy coffee shops and visiting all the beaches.
Bethany Hager is a recent MDiv graduate from OH, but Pasadena is home to her now. She loves Fullerâ€™s ecumenical diversity, intellectual challenge, and value of women in ministry. She loves to bake, so be mindful when she is on the lookout for tasters of her latest recipe! As the business manager, she will be involved with ASCâ€™s inner workings and details, enabling ASC to care for you, the students. She, with everyone on ASC, welcomes you to Fuller and hopes that your time here will be blessed.
You’re Doing Excellent Work!
An Epistle to the Tired By Tamisha Tyler
To the Returning Students, As I write this letter to you, it is the final day of the Summer Term. I am sitting in the same library room that I have been in for the last two weeks, writing papers nonstop, and I am tired. It’s not just any tired, but the kind of tired where you can function but you are not sure if you should. You talk but it doesn’t seem to make sense and all you can do is pray that the words you are writing on the page are actually words and not random letters and numbers. It is the kind of tired that many students find themselves in every time finals roll around, and it is (to say the least) draining. So when I sat down to write a letter that I hoped would be filled with excitement, I couldn’t help but realize that part of that fatigue was still with me, lingering, unwilling to let go. Even with my excitement for the new school year, (working as ASC President, taking my first doctoral seminar, graduation at the end in June) it still lingers; like the stench of smoke after walking through
fire. And as I look around the library at other students, I can’t help but to see the same fatigue on their faces. It is because of the realization of this fatigue that I write to you, as I know that no one is able to survive such a state without encouragement. I think about the countless stories I have encountered, both in the Bible and in my own personal life, that speak of the same weariness, and in the end offers a word of encouragement that is not meant to make things easier, but to remind the weary of the purpose for which they work so hard in the first place. It is this type of encouragement that I write to you now, so that you do not give into weariness but continue to work toward the purpose for which you have been called. But first, let’s be honest: graduate school is difficult (as it should be). Not only are you dealing with the demanding academic rigor, but you are doing so in an 11-week span. Add to that a level of material that challenges the very core of your beliefs, often
times leading you through a process of deconstruction. Not to mention family life, loans and debt concerns, life challenges... the list goes on. It is a time that can be draining, leaving even the best students wondering how they are going to get through another school year. But it is a time that is not without reward, and what’s more, it is not a reward that
is only obtained at the end, but a series of treasures to be discovered along the way. Yes, several aspects of graduate school can be difficult, but it is often these same aspects that shape us, strengthen us, and make us better. That being said, there are three things that every returning student should hold onto as they enter another year of work (and especially if this is their last year, as it is mine).
1. You Are Doing Good Work I will never forget my first quarter at Fuller. I was excited to be in class and jump into schoolwork, despite the fact that I was scared and had no clue what I was doing. While taking one class in particular, I found that I was making
the same mistakes on an assignment and felt like it was the end of the world. Extremely disappointed in myself, I sent an email to my professor asking for ways I could improve. The professor’s response was pretty standard, but ended with a note that I often find myself going back to even now, “Don’t be too hard on yourself. My impression is that you’re doing excellent work!” These are words I’d like to leave with
you as you go into your classes this fall and beyond. Don’t be too hard on yourself, you are doing good work. This is not because you are completing all of the assignments and coming out with an “A,” but because what you are doing is important. Whether it is engaging in intercultural studies, psychology, or theology, you are being trained to help shape the hearts and minds of millions of people worldwide. You too are being shaped in the process. It’s easy for us to get caught up in all of the busy work and become overwhelmed that we fail to realize the importance of what we are doing.
at the moment, but that does not mean that it does not exist. Even during those times when it feels like you seem to be going through the motions, you are gaining ground. Your work is not in vain. 3. You Are Not Alone One day, during his devotional time just before the lecture, Dr. Bradley talked about the importance of relationship and community. I am not sure which scripture he used, but he stressed the importance of the formative relationships we were building while at Fuller.
Yes, several aspects of graduate school can be difficult, but it is often these same aspects that shape us, strengthen us, and make us better. 2. You Will Finish I have often found that the hardest thing about being on a journey is being smack dab in the middle of it. You begin to get weary because you’ve been doing it for so long, but there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. It’s right at the time that the beginning excitement wears off and right before you get your second wind. It’s difficult, trying to press on in this state, but it’s not impossible. To those of you who find yourselves in this state (mostly those in their “middle” year, whether 2nd year of the MDiv or years 2 or 3 for Psy doctoral students) know this: you will finish. There may not be an end in sight
He encouraged us not to forsake the people sitting next to us in class, and reminded us of the importance of connecting to others during this time. Though I’ve never doubted a Bradley devotional, I found this one to resonate more than the others. Not only do your peers have an understanding of what you are going through--mainly since they are going through it with you--they will be the very ones you will continue to grow in ministry with. I cannot tell you the number of times I have been blessed by a word, hug, or Facebook post. Besides the work of the Spirit himself, your community will be the thing that holds you up when you feel like you are drowning. Know that there is a place where you belong: it is
amongst those you see in class. Find your place among them. You will find that the journey is easier when travelled with a friend. 4. The Right Time Is Now Finally, I leave you with a very important point, one that I had to learn just recently. It is amazing how easy it is for us to get caught up in planning ahead. The pressure to need to know the next steps, to have a five year plan, or to have at least a job waiting after graduation weighs on you. This leads to unnecessary stress and worry, often pulling you away from present work. As I transitioned into this new position as ASC president, I found that I was always trying to plan ahead. Now, this isn’t a bad thing per se, but it got to a point where I wasn’t enjoying the present moments. I had to learn that future plans didn’t mean anything until they actually happened, and by worrying about them, I was actually missing out on them when they did materialize. Some say the present is a gift, and I was throwing it away. So, to the returning students I’d say this: the right time is now. Yes, you should plan for and be concerned about your future, but not
to the point that you miss out on what is right in front of you. Go on that coffee date. Visit that landmark you put on your bucket list. Lie out on lawn in the mall and stare at the sky. Take advantage of every opportunity. Know that God sees your work, knows your concerns, feels your weariness, and is still right there with you, both in the Spirit’s leading and in the people who walk with you. Whatever this year may throw at you, be encouraged. Don’t give up. You. Got. This.
Tamisha Tyler (MDiv ‘14) is the All-Seminary Council President, but you already knew that because you read the ASC introductions, right? Anyways, Tamisha is a writer and a pretty cool cat. She also doesn’t give herself enough credit for her preaching ability. (bio by The SEMI.)
President Mark Labberton
Who/ What Who are you/we going to be?
What are you/we going to do? Fuller Seminary exists to help you discover and live into answers to these two questions. Our best contributions should affect how you come to understand these questions and how
you answer them with your words and with your lives. These questions are central to being human. People throughout history and across cultures give answer to these questions based on many different convictions, beliefs, and actions. Of course, for most people in history, and even today, answers to these questions have been a reflection of
scripts handed to them by their economic, cultural, or personal circumstances. Little freedom of choice exists when survival is in question, when poverty makes choices few, or when the lack of water means you spend a substantial part of each day just finding it. Those reading this issue of the SEMI, however, face different circumstances. If we are privileged to be studying or working here at Fuller, we share time and opportunity to read, think, listen, write, reflect, write some more, and think some more about many questions, including who we are and what we are going to do. The God we find in the Old and New Testament is the God who has made usâ€” and now seeks to remake usâ€”to live fully human lives. When my wife and I and our two sons were all still living under one roof, I would usually ask what each of them was going to do that day. Then I would ask our dog what he was going to do that day. Our dog would always convey the same answer: I am going to be a dog today. Of the five of us, only our dog reliably lived up to his potential. For the other four of us, given the privilege of being human, we could use that gift to try and be more than human, or we could
ignore or degrade that gift and choose to be less than human. That is the story of our fallen humanity, and we replay it again and again.
We have been made to live into the fullness of being truly human. Jesus Christ is the center of that vision. I hope and pray that being part of the Fuller community will lead all of us into more fully and truly embracing our calling from God to live fully human lives: created in the image of God and being recreated by Jesus Christ to embody God’s love, mercy, and justice. These questions are also central to being disciples of Jesus Christ together. We believe that who we are and what we are going to do can finally be determined most fully only by and through Jesus Christ. The one who alone is “the first-born of creation” and “the first-born from the dead,” is “the one who holds all things together” (Col. 1), and is the one who holds the most comprehensive and profound answer to the meaning and action of our lives. And what’s more, Jesus Christ does this work of individual transformation together with others. We are in a transforming communion with God and with one another: a new community.
The Bible makes evident in countless ways that the human experience is complex, diverse, conflicted, significant. The Bible is no simplistic tract, but a witness to the complicated experiences of being human and of being a believer. Allowing our faith to mature as we mature means allowing the range of our questions and doubts, joys and pains to come into our life of faith. And furthermore, not just the questions and doubts of our lives, but the questions and doubts that come from the lives of others, too. Everyone who comes to Fuller does so out of some contact with Christian community.
Coming to Fuller usually adds a lot to this experience of the Christian family. As a multi-denominational and international seminary, most people at Fuller find it a place where our assumptions are challenged, our expectations are redefined, and our need to think again and act afresh in our discipleship will be frequent. This isn’t always comfortable, but it can be exceptionally valuable in our spiritual formation. We have the chance to grapple with the biblical text, with the Christian tradition, with the practices of faith and life that we believe matter. Our faculty lead us in this thoughtful, critical, faithful discipleship work. To ask who we are and what we are going to do is to raise questions at the very heart of our human and spiritual formation. Whichever school we are in—the School of Theology, the School of Intercultural Studies, or the School of Psychology—we are working on these questions. The richness of doing so in a context of such outstanding faculty means there are exceptional resources for our formation as persons and as disciples. The range and depth of our faculty’s scholarship and their commitment to the formation of students means our teachers contribute essential, transformative ingredients to the process. Alumni testify again and again to the profound impact of faculty, in the classroom and beyond. Take full advantage of our instructors, professors, and lecturers as you grapple with your questions and concerns, discerning life now and in the future. Our relationships with one another in community—as faculty, students and staff— are also a vital part of our formation. My life was permanently and positively affected by the influence of friendships that developed when I was a student here at Fuller. Some became lifelong friends. Others became colleagues and ministry partners.
Still others left indelible imprints from single conversations, or classroom debates, or hallway discussions. Friendships with some African students changed forever the way I saw my life in North America. Experiences with people whose spiritual fervor and maturity dwarfed my own whetted my thirst for greater maturity in Christ. I was decidedly closer to answering who I was going to be and what I was going to do as a result of the community I experienced with people I first met here at Fuller.
We have the chance to grapple with the biblical text, with the Christian tradition, with the practices of faith and life that we believe matter. These questions are not answered by a formula but through a process of formation. I am still in the process of answering the questions, “Who will I be?” and “What will I do?”. They are daily questions that deserve a daily response. Each day contributes in some ways to the cumulative evidence of how my life is being lived. Jesus says that building our house on the rock is about what we believe and about what we do as a consequence of what we believe. That double theme is central to being a credible witness to our new humanity in Christ and to the fact that we build our lives on rock, not on sand. It is never about a slogan or a formula but about a process of being formed further into the likeness of Christ. As I am still in this formation process myself, I want to urge all of Fuller together to be in this process with one another. We will need to take countless steps in varied ways.
Choosing the right classes, doing the work, reflecting on our studies, pursuing faculty conversations, and engaging in community can all be important. Finding a prayer partner or a weekly small group can be key. One step we could take together, as much as possible across all our campuses, is to join in one central weekly act of sharing in All Seminary Chapel. I am going to do my best to be there, and I hope you will, too. This is one unifying place where, as faculty, staff, and students, we can gather together before God who alone can make us who we are to be and can lead us to do what we are called to do. Asking questions is one of the most important parts of education. It is part of what enables us to be good learners for the whole of our lives. Sometimes education leads us to stronger and clearer answers, but our lives may be even more profoundly influenced by good questions. Who are we going to be and what are we going to do? Those questions are good for every day; and they are good for a lifetime, too. As this new school year gets underway, let’s pursue these questions to the glory of our God and for the abundant life into which we are called.
Dr. Mark Labberton is the Lloyd John Ogilvie Chair for Preaching and newly-appointed President of Fuller Theological Seminary. He served as senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley for sixteen years before rejoining the Fuller community as professor in 2009.