After a time of prayer for my seminary students this morning, I composed this letter and offered this prayer. I trust and pray it might be of some Spirit-shaped use to you in your life.
My Beloved Students Called to Proclaim the Unsearchable Riches of Christ:
“Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Timothy 1:2 KJV).
On this first day of a new week, the day after Transfiguration Sunday, as the Church winds its way through those days known in English as “Lengthening” (Lent) days, and towards Holy Week and the annual Feast of the Resurrection, I want you to know that I am praying for you.
Something has been on my heart about these studies and your possible experience of them. Teaching a course on the fundamentals of Christian scholarship might appear to be less “thrilling” than other offerings in seminary. I can understand how that could be. It might seem to be the same feeling as one approaches New Testament Greek or Old Testament Hebrew. However, as I used to remind our students (when I was chancellor and president of another seminary), the opportunity to learn the original languages chosen by the Holy Spirit to record and convey the very word of God is an extraordinary privilege. Most believers do not have this opportunity. Yet, God in His goodness has allowed you to study these subjects. (And, I would remind them) Eventually, you will stand in this class and read John chapter one and verse one in the language in which it was written! Just think about that. Similarly, many do not have the opportunity to pause in their busy lives to have a concentrated focus on the kind of Christian scholarship that allows you to conduct a deep and lasting ministry, enriched by such study. And so I write to you with these things in mind.
I understand that it can be challenging, if not downright tedious, to undertake the amount of reading and study required for a course like this—especially in a compressed semester of eight weeks. Yet, I urge you to remember that scholarship is not an end in itself. Rather, my goal in emphasizing the importance of scholarship is singular: to equip you with the necessary intellectual tools for pastoral service in Christ’s kingdom. These tools—scholarship, and research—will serve you throughout your ministries. Always bear in mind, however, that it must be scholarship in the service of Christ and God’s mission in the world. Otherwise, it is scholarship for its own sake—useful but unworthy.
And now I want to pray for you:
OUR DEAR HEAVENLY FATHER: You have revealed Yourself through general revelation and the magnificent stars in the skies as well as the incomprehensibly nano-invisible world of cells and atoms; You have also disclosed Yourself to us in special revelation as the God of the Word and that we should think thoughts after You rather than make images of supposed deities like those poor people who have rejected Your truth;
Even as You have shown us that Jesus Christ is the Word made flesh, so strengthen our students in their quest to be good stewards of research, writing, and the full orb of scholarship that is in the service of Your kingdom that has come into the world through Jesus Christ;
I asked these things so that boys and girls, men and women may come to know and grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ through the study and proclamation of the Word of God by these dear students;
And, so, in humility before Thee and with confidence in Your Promises, I entrust our students to Thy sovereign goodness, and I offer this prayer in the name of our God and Savior Jesus Christ, who reigns with Thee, I Father, and the Holy Spirit, One God, to whom be all honor and glory, dominion and power, forever and ever. Amen.Michael A. Milton
The painting is “The Scholar in His Study,” (1640s) by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669). The Netherlands Institute for Art History or RKD (Dutch: RKD-Nederlands Instituut voor Kunstgeschiedenis).