29 February 2012

My Credentials and Views on Education- 3

My friends had all left for assignments in the United States or gotten out as well. As I found myself once more a civilian and back in the United States, I wrestled with what to do. Based off my own inclinations as well some gentle pushing from others I decided to attend seminary.



Sadly at that point in time I was still very much plugged into the Reformed world. Upon my return home I was part of the OPC and now looked to attend a PCA affiliated school. I entered but just like the start of my military experience...I was already in a state of transition. I started my short-lived military career full of doubts and not sure I should be there. I started seminary with a similar sense of apprehensiveness. I was being placed on a track that would put me into the PCA, OPC or some other Reformed body. I was dubious as to whether or not that was the course to take.

I was really disappointed with the school and the attitudes I found there. Many of the young men were career minded, almost politicians in how they dealt with things. I had already abandoned the idea of Presbyterianism as being the Biblical form of Church government but I was still naive regarding the rigidity and oppressive bureaucracy of the system. It claims to be Biblical but is absolutely burdened with endless man-made constructs. Robert's Rules of Order will probably accomplish more in a Presbyterian system than arguing from the Bible. I'm not the first to say that. Some even gave this as advice.

The school was not interested in pursuing study and real education. They wanted the students to regurgitate what was being taught. Academically it was disappointing. There were some good folks there and some good teachers. What benefitted me most was not the classroom time but the exposure and interactions with others. The one class that proved an exception and really benefitted me in that it piqued my interest and opened up some new realms to me was that of Old Testament Introduction...which for those unfamiliar with it, this has to do with manuscripts and texts, chronological issues, authorship, the history of criticism and things like that. That was an interesting class and I had not spent a whole lot of time with some of those topics previous to my attendance there.

Greek was another area. I'm not proficient but I also learned that 99% of pastors out there aren't either. Taking a few semesters of Greek gets you to the point that you can make use of the available tools and helps. You might know enough to work through someone's argument or know from the onset that what they're saying isn't valid. A handful of men keep at it and become proficient, where they can just pick up the Greek New Testament and translate on the go. But most have to wade through the text and it's an academic exercise not a language they're really comfortable with.

I quickly realized I had no future in the PCA or OPC. I wasn't a Presbyterian and there were too many points of disagreement for me to ever have any hope of functioning within that system. After two semesters of work, one of them during a summer session, I left. I was married then and neither of us really liked the South very much and so we returned to Pennsylvania where my wife is from.

What to do? I wasn't sure. I hadn't abandoned the hope of entering into Church leadership and teaching. I didn't then and still don't really accept the 'pastor' model. The New Testament clearly teaches a plurality of Elders. Presbyterians maintain the plurality but create two tiers of elders...the Teaching Elder or what is commonly known as Pastor and the Ruling Elder. The PCA tries to get around this and claim to only have one kind of elder under two different designations, but it's a bit of a joke and they know it too. It usually elicits a smile.

I had a wife and a baby on the way and I needed work. I had a private pilot's license but wasn't in a position to finish getting my commercial rating. Besides when I became a Christian I had kind of abandoned that idea. I spent a couple of years around aviation circles and learned the pilot's life was not a good one for a family man. I had wanted very badly to be a helicopter pilot and I even potentially had some connections, but I realized it wasn't for me. Besides where we now lived it wasn't an option.

I had experience working on a flight line. I could get hired on in an instant working for FedEx or UPS...but we lived in a rural area and the airports were far away. Prior to this my Sunday Sabbatarianism had been a deterrent. That career field goes seven days a week. I was no longer a Sabbatarian but it didn't seem to matter. It wasn't an option where we lived. The nearest airports were over an hour away and these are small commuter airfields with little activity. The bigger airports of Pittsburgh and Buffalo are two hours or more from where we live.

I had never finished college. Though seminary was considered Masters level work I was able to get in by demonstrating my ability and passing the interview process. Some schools won't allow that but this one did which I considered a plus. Upon graduation I would have received a Bachelor of Divinity instead of the normal Master of Divinity designation. Later if I finished my undergraduate degree they would have upgraded the BDiv to an MDiv.

Not a day goes by that I don't regret my leaving college. Why did I? I had no money, no direction...I was pursuing aviation and there were ways I could do that in connection with the Air Force...not as a pilot, you have to be an officer for that, but as a civilian pilot in a programme attached to the base. I was living in Alaska then and had hoped to go to Elmendorf or one of the big bases where they had these things called Aero-clubs...but I got sent to a small base in Central Europe. The flying and college kind of fell by the wayside.

Life happened. Seminary, marriage, a child on the way....and the next thing I knew I was going to take whatever job I could get.

I ended up working for a carpenter. I stayed with him for about four years. I learned carpentry, electrical, plumbing, roofing, drywall, and much more. I was upset by the many government contracts he took on...I hadn't quite shed all the Republican notions yet...and I didn't like that we were using tax money to help the poor get their houses weatherized and things like that. Today my attitude would be a little different. I’ll say this…The system is messed up but a lot of it has to do with the culture within the government rather than the principles behind what they're attempting to do.

Eventually I needed more money and decided to go on my own and that's what I've done ever since. I've been self-employed now for ten years.

Part 4


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