Tuesday, September 23, 2008

How I know I'm married to a seminarian....

Jeff recently finished the written portion of the licensure exam so he can be licensed to preach in this presbytery. Sort of like James Bond. Or something.

Anyway.... he "made a wild guess" for one of the questions and was pleased to discover he got it right.

His "wild guess"?

Sanballat. That's right - he wildly guessed Sanballat right out of the blue.

Who guesses something like Sanballat?? I've never even heard that word. And I've read the Bible. The whole thing. And I went to Christian School. And go to church a lot. And was on a bible quiz team that went to a national competition. (Seriously.)

Sanballat. (She repeats, while shaking her head.)

He never ceases to impress.

5 comments:

Ed Eubanks said...

But really, what's more maddening: the fact that he guessed and got it right, or the fact that there was a question on the Licensure exam about that?

Honestly, I think a lot of our presbyteries deserve a sharp rebuke for stuff like this.

Ken Shomo said...

Ed, don't you think there should be softball AND hardball questions on the exam? It doesn't mean you flunk if you get it wrong, it just helps the committee judge one's grasp of the Bible. It's nice to know where someone falls along the spectrum. (I assume this is the Bible content exam, and in most presbyteries is used both for licensure & ordination.)

Correct me if I'm wrong, Jeff, but I would venture that most of the questions on the exam were ones you'd hope any pastor would know... and that the obscure questions were fairly limited.

Ed Eubanks said...

Ken, I think you nailed it with the last sentence-- questions any pastor would know.

Sure, I think there should be difficult questions on the exam; if my exams hadn't been hard-- even gut-wrenching, at times-- I would have thought my presbytery had a lower view of ordination than I preferred. I love the PCA's rigorous requirements for licensure and ordination exams.

At the same time, I think that there are way too many exams-- especially the written ones-- that few pastors who have been in that presbytery more than five years could actually pass. I know of one presbytery where the committee divides up the written exams to "grade"-- from what I understand, because no one person on the committee could actually recognize correct answers on the whole thing.

This goes for Bible content, for church history, and every other area of examination. As one wisened, very seasoned pastor in my presbytery commented, "anyone on the committee or the floor could stand up and ask you 20 questions about church history that you won't know, and you could turn around and do the same thing to him."

Here's the question, Ken: is there a place for the "obscure questions" in this process? If you tell me yes, then tell me why. Is it a good measure of the character of the candidate? Does it reveal something about him that we need to see?

I'm new to this, so I'm willing to hear some substantiation for it. But from where I stand, I think it's possible to give a rigorous exam without feeling the need to set out to trip a candidate up. And if it's possible, I think that's what we ought to be doing.

Ken Shomo said...

Ed,

I certainly agree with the heart of what you're saying. I was fortunate (blessed) to be ordained in a presbytery with a really solid focus and love for (not suspicion of) candidates -- Metro New York. They are tough but genuinely seeking the best for each candidate.

To answer your question: I agree there should not be questions that are intended to merely "trip the candidate up." But some less obvious questions help for the committee to know how well the candidate coming in knows their Bible. I consider a question about Sanballat a tough-ish question, not something that is a trap laid for a candidate. "Who is the main antagonist in Nehemiah? Answer: Sanballat." That seems fair to me, but no one should flunk because they forgot his name. If they answer "who is Nehemiah?" that could be a bigger problem, but even then...

So I guess I don't see a question like that as *necessarily* being like a weird trivia question about weights and measures, genealogies, or somesuch thing.

BUT, having said all that I certainly agree with the heart of what you're saying. And I understand, and have even felt, the pain of presbyteries where you feel like you're "in the dock" instead of "among brothers." And I agree, that's an unnecessary evil. We need more Nehemiahs, and fewer Sanballats!

Ken Shomo said...

Regarding exams, I was also blessed to be part of the examining committee in Metro NY for about 2.5 years. I usually asked the church history questions.

I would tend to ask big picture questions, such as "why is church history important (i.e. for preaching)?" I was much more concerned that they understand the value of CH, and want to be lifetime learners, than that they know the answer to obscure questions.

But here's an example of a tough question I would ask: Outside of the New Testament, name one or two significant WOMEN from church history.

Usually candidates really struggled with this. But I asked it to get them thinking, and to have the opportunity to remind them that church history is not merely composed of theologians and famous men -- and that the women in their congregations will benefit from knowing something of the women in church history as well.

Another illustration -- when I took a Bible content exam in the summer preceding seminary, I was pretty sure my knowledge level was pretty good (I was an older student with plenty of ministry experience). But I was surprised at how many "trivia" questions I didn't know, such as things regarding geography. These were less important questions (in my mind) but helped me to realize that there is a certain kind of Bible information that I don't retain very well. This was humbling, helped me see how my personality affects what I look for in the Bible, and made me interested in paying attention to things I would tend to overlook. After all, it's God's word, and I want to know it well (I still am woefully far off from my goal).

This is not to say that I think every pastor coming out of seminary should know Tons of Stuff; only that such questions can be helpful, if asked in love!

Hmm, is there another long comment I can add to Jeff & Aubrey's blog...?