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A little stab at utopia

Over at the Gospel Coalition, a number of distinguished seminary professors and presidents are asked, ‘What is one thing you would change about seminary?’ Don Carson’s ‘utopian’ vision concerns an integrated curriculum, together with a faculty who are passionate about an integrated curriculum. Read the post here.

Well, jumping up and down like that little kid in the classroom bursting to tell his teacher his news, here at Oak Hill we are attempting to develop precisely the integration Carson is talking about.

Our newly revalidated CertHE, FdA and BA (Hons) curriculum attempts to break down the specialisms and compartmentalization between theological disciplines, while preserving their distinctive contributions to the required rigorous training and formation of men and women for gospel ministry. It’s about a curriculum that structurally evidences a key feature of knowledge: ‘unity and diversity’ and ‘one and manyness’.

The climax of this curriculum is in two compulsory, year-long ‘Word of God’ modules in the BA (Hons) third year. They focus on the book of Isaiah and the Gospel of John.

These are not simply biblical studies modules, but have been designed by the whole faculty of Oak Hill. All our faculty members have contributed by bringing Isaiah and John to bear on their particular ‘biblical’ disciplines, including biblical theology, doctrine, ethics, preaching, spirituality, women’s ministry, apologetics and mission.

The assessments will make sure students cross more than one discipline. This will enable them to apply this integrative model to other biblical books later on in their ministry.

We decided to teach through two biblical book as this will probably be the ‘unit of currency’ most applicable to pastors and teachers in their churches in terms of regular exposition. We also think it’s a good medial level, which means we can go both ways in terms of the bigger systematic canonical picture and more focused exegesis. Finally, of course, it’s not lost on us that God has decided to reveal himself in 66 books.

It’s been quite a job putting these modules together and we recognise the ambitious nature of the project. As a faculty we spent last year designing the modules and shaping the overall structure. The process culminated in two awaydays where we shared our teaching outlines with each other and received comments and feedback.

While it can be daunting to go outside the comfort zone of your own discipline, the development of a well-rounded theological faculty depends on it. The question we all asked ourselves was: ‘Shouldn’t I be striving to be a better exegete and biblical theologian?’

We’re trying not to get ahead of ourselves here. It’s a first stab and we are only four weeks in – I can rely on our students to give plenty of feedback on completion of the modules! However as a faculty we are excited about these modules, however rough they are first time around.

I’d love to be proved wrong, but I haven’t found anything like this in other evangelical seminaries. Of course I realize that we are a small faculty of only 11 and so it’s easier to do something like this, but surely something like this could be attempted on a larger scale elsewhere.

It’s not training utopia… but maybe it’s a start. Come to one of our open days and have a closer look.

Dan Strange

Dan Strange
16 October 2014

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