As you already know, Janet and I reached a point in our lives when we both felt convicted that I should attend seminary. It had been many years since I attended school, and I dreaded the process of trying to figure out what schools I should apply to; and what criteria I would use to assess the choices, assuming I had any. But there was no denying that we both were convicted that I was supposed to attend seminary.
I knew that there were several things that we believed were non-negotiables. The business was still here, and we real didn’t want to move away from our children. Our financial position was such that we could afford to keep a smaller house, but a move to a different city would really hamper us. And I would be unable to continue earning a living while I was studying in a distant city. Of course, being separated for three years and living apart was not an option for us.
I actually contacted Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Asbury Theological Seminary (in KY), Trinity (in Deerfield, IL), Garrett at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL and several others. Two local schools were also of interest to me – Christian Theological Seminary (CTS), near the campus of Butler here in Indianapolis; and then a small independent school In Greenwood, IN, by the name of Heritage. The east coast Ivy League schools did not have suitable programs of study for what I felt called to do; and aside from being intimidating, I quickly learned that they were very liberal and did not offer distance learning opportunities. Garrett fell into the highly liberal category as well, which was very disappointing because both of my parents, and other family members graduated from Northwestern. I had been accepted there as an undergraduate, but my folks could not afford for me to attend, and so I kind of wanted to go there – but it wasn’t to be.
CTS, here in Indy, recruited me heavily, but then I found out that 70% of the faculty did not believe in the Trinity, and that knocked them out of the running for me – way too liberal. I did not want to attend a school where I would have to defend myself at every turn, when I was not sure of the strength of my theology to begin with. Asbury was a strong contender but the program was incredibly long and I would have to attend for 5 years or so before getting a degree. Classes were only held periodically and I would have to do modular work without real camaraderie in the classroom.
I finally went to interview at Heritage (now called Indiana Baptist College) at the suggestion of my dear friend Jonathan Byrd. He knew me rather well and correctly predicted that I would like to learn Greek and Hebrew, rather than read English commentaries that were interpreted by somebody else. Odd as it sounds, many schools do not require foreign language work in Greek and Hebrew to get a Masters of Divinity, and I for one, do not think that is right. So, I applied to, and was eventually accepted at, Heritage. It was a small school (still is), and although some people may think that a larger school would be much better, I appreciated the small, intimate classes. I forged friendships that will last the rest of my life.
Suffice it to say that it became my first, and only, choice. I applied and waited to see if I would be accepted. It turns out that two elective classes I took at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Old and New Testament surveys, almost 25 years earlier, allowed me to get accepted. Who would have thought? All my work had to be done from the King James version of the Bible, all my Greek from the Textus Receptus, and modern edition Bibles, such as the NIV and NASB were not allowed. I had to wear a suit and tie to classes; and attended chapel every day I was in school. And you know what? I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. It was tough – and great!
And another thing I found out was that if you make the conservative choice, you can always get a little more liberal if you need to. But if you take the liberal choices out there, you can never be accepted in the more conservative churches or schools. So, in my mind it is the best of both worlds. As you can tell from my writings, I am a staunch religious conservative, but I sometimes use the NASB and the NIV to teach. Some folks just find the King James too tough to understand. But it is beautiful, and the nuances of the language are more revealing than the more modern versions. I could write about these differences for hours, but the point is that God placed me where He wanted me. And I am grateful for having the chance to study with real scholars in the original languages.
And so tonight, in honor of my schooling, a verse from Jeremiah 6:16, from the KJV version, of course, “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.”
In other words, the old paths are reliable and true. Our history stands firm and we should not be so quick to change the way our forefathers practiced their beliefs. So my encouragement tonight is that you will consider following the old paths, even if only once in a while. While our society is quick to want to change things, sometimes there is nothing as beautiful as the 23rd Psalm from the KJV. And my prayer is that periodically you will remember, and read, the Bible used by your parents and grandparents. After all, until recently, it was the best selling book in the history of the world! And ye will find rest for your souls……………