Before a brief excersion in response to a friend, I was commenting on how seminaries should be purposeful about formation. How we do and do not educate will – I cannot emphasize enough the will – shape the future of our fellowship. There is no getting around it. “Knowledge is Power,” Foucault said, and I couldn’t agree with him more. Of course this has always been known and responsible teachers through the ages would have had no moral qualms about telling people how and even what to think, especially in early stages of learning.
Of late there has been a minor revival of so-called “classical education” largely in response to an essay written by the famous Dorothy Sayers entitled, “The Lost Tools of Learning.” I take this essay to be essentially correct and this (other) hyperbolic statement by Hauerwas properly frames where I am going with these next couple essays:
“As a way to challenge such a [liberal] view of freedom, I start my classes by telling my students that I do not teach in a manner that is meant to help them make up their own minds. Instead, I tell them that I do not believe they have minds worth making up until they have been trained by me. I realize such a statement is deeply offensive to students since it exhibits a complete lack of pedagogic sensitivities. Yet I cannot imagine any teacher who is serious who would allow students to make up their own minds.” —Stanley Hauerwas, “Christian Schooling or Making Students Dysfunctional,” in Sanctify Them in the Truth: Holiness Exemplified (Nashville: Abingdon, 1998), p. 220. HT: Faith and Theology
I’m preparing a very incomplete and theoretical curriculum for an entire seminary education that I hope to post in the next week or so. For now let us consider a significant if not the most significant aspect of formation (I’m here speaking as an Anglican but most any “Rule of Prayer” in continuity within the liturgical and spiritual tradition of the Church could work); the Daily Office. Any seminary worth its salt will pray, at the very least, the Morning and Evening Office. I’ve always found the “noon” prayer in the ’79 BCP to be lackluster and unfocused but of course the Compline as well as the Service of Light are both spectacular. It may not be of utter necessity that every student attend every single service, though I can’t imagine anything less than three weekday offices being at all adequate. Whatever the case it ought to be performed daily.
Going a step beyond this I think it would be a stroke of brilliance to incorporate the material of the Office directly into the taught classes. So hermeneutics, exegesis (same thing really) and Bible classes should teach from the Scripture readings each day. Instead of a class on “Pauline Theology,” or “Pauline Letters” or “The Synoptics,” a seminary could have a “Bible” track that spans the whole of the education which covers the same material that such a class would have, but is done in a wholistic manner.
Many of the classes could be taught this way. After learning the grammar, such a class could serve “double duty” as a “Greek Reading” class. A teacher could take the NT passage and teach how to grammatically structure that passage. Etc…to infinity. It seems to me that the connection between the Office and the classes could be made in any number of creative ways.
One weakness is obviously the current Lectionary. Anglican liturgical expert and spectacular blogger Derek Olsen says that the point of the Daily Office Lectionary, as compared to the Lectionary for use at the Mass, is to read and learn the Bible, not to be mystagogical. There is of course a place for that but not here. I still dig a two-year structure but it could stand to be more consistent in how it proceeds through books. The entire OT and Deutero-canon every two years, NT about once a year, and the Psalms once a month or month and a half seems both substantial and doable. The books should be read from beginning to end with no cutting out the non-liberal-protestant parts as it does now.
I am assuming that doing the dishes, cleaning the bathrooms and feeding the poor also fit into the general life of the Seminary but those are less “educational” in the same sense that I am talking about here.