What are the best/worst classes you’ve ever taken?

I’ve spent some time recently talking with various people about classes they took in school, whether they found them worthwhile, and what schools can do to improve the quality of their education. It’s been fascinating. So, I thought I’d post a few of the questions that I’ve been using and see what you all think. If you want to make a comment, please don’t feel like you have to answer all four questions. Just respond to the ones that seem most interesting to you.

Feel free to offer comments on any class that you’ve taken in college, graduate school, or seminary. I’ve added my own answers in red. (Note to my students: You don’t have to list any of my classes as your favorite class. Of course, if you don’t, I will remember that the next time that you take a class from me. I’ll try to be gracious, but I can’t make any promises.)

1. What was your favorite class? Why?

Hebrew exegesis. Since I didn’t have any Hebrew as an undergrad, my Hebrew classes in seminary were eye-opening and challenging in the best way.

2. What was one class that you’d take over again if you could?

Philosophy. There’s still so much there that I’m just now starting to understand.

3. What was one class that you didn’t think was worth the money?

I once took a class on Christian education in which I’m pretty sure that I learned absolutely nothing. Granted, it may have been my own fault. But still, I wouldn’t mind having that money back.

4. What is one class that you wish had been offered when you were in school?

Any class on the great figures of Christian theology (Augustine, Calvin, Wesley, etc.). I’m sure that’s one of the reasons that I teach a series of classes on such figures now.

What about you? If you can spare a few minutes from your weekend? What do you think about the various classes that you’ve taken so far?

About Marc Cortez

Theology Prof and Dean at Western Seminary, husband, father, & blogger, who loves theology, church history, ministry, pop culture, books, and life in general.

Posted on June 11, 2011, in Teaching Tips. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. (1) My hermeneutics class with Gary Tuck (Western Seminary, San Jose) was one of the most formative. I greatly enjoyed an individualized study course I did with Gerry Breshears on Pauline Pneumatology. I’d say that my Hebrew exegesis with David Eckman was one of the best as well. And our philosophy class a few semesters was great, especially as everyone had to concede that the Parisian devils (Derrida, Foucault, and Lyotard) weren’t that bad and we could learn from them.

    (2) I wish my schedule would have been thinner when I took my Greek sequence. The first semester I had eleven credit hours and I was working full time! Not a good way to focus on the foundations.

    (3) I have a very long list here. In college my science class was a joke (basically an apologetic rant against evolution for several weeks).

    (4) I wish I had done more on the gospels. I will get a chance this fall to do some work but I still feel like it may be insufficient.

  2. 1) The Trinitarian and Christological Controversies with Donald Fairbairn at Gordon-Conwell. It’s an extremely important era that is hardly ever engaged in a manner that gives a proper amount of time to explore the important distinctions in the debates. Fairbairn’s approach was amazing – he follows in the footsteps of guys like Chadwick and Lionel Wickham (his dissertation supervisor) in his interpretation of the era. There is too much that was great to list here, but a few things are: the range of meaning of homoiousios between Nicaea and Constantinople and why many members of that camp agreed in meaning with those backing the term homoousios; the development of the terms ousios, physis, hypostasis, and prosopon; a broad understanding of how to approach Patristic texts; and on, and on, and on…this class was fantastic. A close second was a Negative Theology class that I took at Harvard with Mark Jordan and Charles Stang. Their lectures were well reasoned and insightful, and the assigned texts gave me a very good amount of exposure to primary sources that struggle with the idea of the limitation of knowledge and language ranging chronologically from Plato all the way to Meister Eckhart.

    2) Philosophy (really…not just stolen from @Brian). I was too deep in my former fundamentalism when I took the class in college to really struggle with the issues that were being presented. Now, I feel like there is no better preparation for theological study than a background in philosophy. I have had to do a lot of study on my own. I’m thankful that the Lord created Diogenes Allen and his very, very helpful book.

    3) Coaching Baseball. Yes, I took it. Yes, it was a joke.

    4) Anything focusing on Classical Philosophy; especially Plato, the Neoplatonists, and Aristotle (so as to have a good grasp on the change taking place in the Middle Ages).

    @Brian: we meet again. I may have to follow your blog now…

    • Oh, I wouldn’t follow Brian’s blog. They’re scary people and you never know what they’ll do next. (Actually, it’s a great blog. You should definitely check it out.)

  3. Favorite Class – Reading the Septuagint. This class asked hard questions and resolved more than I expected… but still left enough tension in place to appreciate the difficulty of understanding ancient texts. I don’t think any other class has helped me to understand the actual discipline of interpreting ancient documents better.
    Class I’d Take Over Again – I dropped a class on the book of Judges because life got too busy. I’d gladly take another shot at that one.
    Class That Wasn’t Worth It – I’m sure it has already been blotted from my memory.
    Class I Wish Was Offered – A course on intertestamental literature. It seems a lot of theological development was done between the testaments that was then picked up in the new. I would have loved the chance to look into this more through coursework.

  4. 1) I agree with Adam – Reading the Septuagint. Loads of work, but a really, really helpful class (though I may be biased). Second to this was the Judges class (also mentioned by Adam), because Judges is a fascinating study and the way Verbruggen approached it the class was also an introduction to discourse analysis of Hebrew Narrative. Great class.

    2) I took Letters of Paul in college. I wish I’d paid more attention because my knowledge of Paul is woefully inadequate.

    3) The only classes I took that weren’t worth the money, fell into that category because I didn’t pay attention in college.

    4) Something on the Bible and the Ancient Near East. I’ve had to piecemeal my knowledge of this area together myself. I would have loved to have a class on it. Or, a book study on Isaiah.

  5. 1.Seminary on the History of Exegesis. Love the seminar format, and loved the professor (Jeff Bingham, DTS). 2. 3rd semester Greek. I took syntax and textual criticism under Daniel Wallace. We’d done syntax (out of Wallace’s book) in undergrad, so maybe I was cocky, or just didn’t adapt to the class format. Either way I wasted a great opportunity for learning.
    3.History and Philosphy of Christian Education. I was promised history and philosphy. Needless to say I got neither.
    4. Seminar on Augustine or Barth or Cappadocians or Apostolic Fathers or History of Philosophy. (This is why I’m going back to school.)

  6. Favourite has been the Minor Prophets.

    Least liked was Greek – there being health limitations to really grasp hold of it.

    I’m looking for to Sociology which includes philosophy – which is something I have not studied at all.

    The one class I wish that was offered at school would be one that taught the philosophy of learning and why learning is important.- (There is no such class) I clearly remember asking my maths teacher how Algebra etc would help me in my future employment as a farm hand… Her reply was that she didn’t think it would…. So I tuned out of all maths classes not seeing the point of trying to learn it.

  7. 1. Independent study of Nietzsche for my senior seminar in college- it was just me and one other guy who met with the professor in his office throughout the semester. I ended up becoming friends with the professor, and got to read Nietzsche extensively.

  8. 1. Biblical Hebrew. It was the first thing I registered for during my undergrad. It was with Dr. Roy E. Hayden and it was life changing.

    2. Greek. I did not take the language seriously and skated through the introductory courses, but I remembered nothing. Because of this, I’m self-learning right now so I don’t feel completely lost when I take it in seminary.

    3. Some youth ministry course. The textbooks were terrible and it consisted of zero work. I did about half of the reading and still received A’s on all the exams. It was a waste of time to say the least.

    4. I’m not entirely too sure, honestly. Maybe a course on contemporary theological issues that included actual contemporary issues like free will theism and process theology, not the same old Arminianism/Calvinism gig.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: