We had a free day in the middle of the week while we were in Dallas. Since Tagan has shown some interest in going to seminary, I suggested that we visit a couple of them. We had enough time to go to two, which of course is just a start .
The first one we went to is Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS). It's been regarded as an intellectual center for fundamentalism for some time now. It's very rigorous; they don't even offer the typical 3-year M.Div. degree; the starting point for them is a four-year deal. (At least that's how I've understood it).
DTS originated around a systematic understanding of scripture known as dispensationalism. It's a way of understanding the biblical narrative in specific historical categories, known as dispensations. It was first articulated by Cyrus I. Scofield, whose Scofield Reference Bible became very popular in the first half of the last century -- and it still carries over to today. Scofield was the Pastor of the First Congregational Church of Dallas, which today is known as Scofield Memorial Church. Interestingly, before he dedicated his life to Christ he lived in Atchison and Seneca, Kansas -- and was a member of the Kansas Legislature.
Today DTS draws from a greater variety of Bible scholars, much more than just Scofield. I suspect that he's seen more as a distant historical figure than as a towering founding father.
Here are the pictures we took while at DTS. Among the interesting finds: a display in the library on the Nestorian Christians who first brought the gospel to China. That was a surprise to me...
After visiting DTS we decided to go up and visit the Perkins School of Theology, which is on the campus of Southern Methodist University (SMU). Finding a parking spot was a challenge. I remember my days at KU all the challenges of parking on a big campus. I joked with Tagan that this was a way of weeding out prospective visitors: make the visitor parking a challenge, and then you know your visitors are up for the challenge of seminary.
After parking our car and taking a long walk to the site we made it to the chapel. A small lizard greeted us at the handrail by the door. I was reminded of the line from Psalm 150:6 - "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord."
The chapel is quite beautiful. I've been to a service there before. Back in my seminary days I used to spend my reading weeks down on campus there. A good friend of mine was a Perkins' student. Tagan and I stopped to look at it...
In the library they had an interesting exhibit about the lives and legacies of the first African-American graduates of Perkins. All of them went on to serve distinguished ministries in the United Methodist and Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) denominations...
This might seem like a contrast of extremes. DTS is really conservative. Perkins is a pretty liberal place (though the presence of evangelical scholar Dr. William Abraham would be an exception). There may be some more middle-ground places that would be a better fit. But we're just getting started in exploring possibilities.
A seminary degree is a good thing. Seminary-trained clergy are good for the churches. It follows the model of Jesus working with His 12 disciples for a three-year period before His crucifixion and resurrection. They had to go through a time of preparation with their Rabbi/Teacher/Master before they were ready to lead the church. And it's the same with the church today. So let's pray for Tagan, for all seminary students (prospective and current), for the different seminaries out there, and for the future leadership of the church in America and the world. God is good, and great opportunities abound with His Spirit leading the way and His power behind us.