In December of 2009, I received a Masters of Divinity from Southern Seminary. Recently, as I was looking over my class list and the required credit hours for my MDiv years, I thought about the classes that I enjoyed the most. Each of them were so good that I would take them again. Here are my five favorites in no particular order.
Hermeneutics with Robert Plummer
Plummer’s new book, 40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible, gives an overview of what we discussed in this class. I took Hermeneutics my first semester, and I’m glad I did. This class set the course for me to interpret the Bible carefully throughout the rest of my seminary education and during my initial years of preaching and teaching in a local church.
Ministry of Proclamation with Hershael York
Don’t let the fancy name fool you. This was a basic preaching class. Each student was required to preach in class while being evaluated by Dr. York and the other classmates. But what could have been an awkward situation turned out to be a very encouraging exercise. The ethos of the class valued faithfulness, excellence, and the desire to listen to the Lord speak to us through one another. Even more memorable than the preaching segments were the casual conversations with Dr. York that concerned life, family, and pastoral ministry. There’s nothing like taking a class from a professor who has the life and ministry experience to back up his theory.
The Sermon on the Mount with Jonathan Pennington
This was a January class in which we worked our way through the entire Sermon on the Mount in five days. Dr. Pennington began the class with some issues of interpretation. The rest of the time was spent discussing the text itself. The big project turned out to be very practical. We were asked to craft 12 sermon outlines from the Sermon on the Mount. I wound up doing 34 because I was planning to preach through the Sermon on the Mount on Wednesday nights. That teaching series lasted more than a year and culminated in my memorizing the Sermon on the Mount and then delivering it by memory at church.
The Reformation with Shawn Wright
What I remember most about this class was the enormous amount of reading and outlining required. I probably did more work for this one class than two or three other classes combined. The good news was that at the end of the semester, I had worked through all the historical research and come out with a deeper understanding of Reformation theology. Because this was a difficult class, there weren’t as many students willing to take it. The smaller class size fostered an open atmosphere for fascinating discussions. I came to appreciate the different theological emphases of the Reformers and the pastoral motivations behind the cultural movement.
Contemporary Theology with Greg Thornbury
This was a “J term” taught by visiting professor Greg Thornbury from Union University. The reading requirements bogged us down in some very difficult and dense work from postmodern thinkers. But the class conversations were spectacular. The main thing that I remember about Dr. Thornbury was his passion for the subject matter that he taught. That excitement rubs off on students, even when the subject matter is difficult to comprehend at times.
(Favorite visual: Dr. Thornbury – eyes closed tightly, totally engaged in his teaching, gesturing like crazy while kneeling on a swivel chair that continued to slowly turn until he was facing the whiteboard and not the class.)
Out of all the classes I took at Southern Seminary, I can’t think of one that wasn’t beneficial and enjoyable. I’m grateful for the educational opportunities God has given me, and I look back on all my seminary classes (but these in particular) with the fondest of memories.