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My Advice to Students — Fred Sanders Says Master These 3 Things

Jeremy Bouma on October 1st, 2014. Tagged under ,.

Jeremy Bouma

Jeremy Bouma (Th.M.) has pastored on Capitol Hill and with the Evangelical Covenant Church in Michigan. He founded THEOKLESIA, which connects the 21st century Church to the vintage Christian faith; holds a Master of Theology in historical theology; and makes the vintage faith relevant at

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9780310517092While I eventually learned in seminary that you can’t master it all, I wish I would have had this advice from Fred Sanders, theologian and co-editor of Advancing Trinitarian Theology.

Rather than shotgun it, he advises theology students to focus by mastering these three things:

  1. Master a major doctrine. “Resist the temptation to find some little tiny detail no one has looked at, but face up to a central doctrine of perennial importance.”
  2. Master a classic work (or two). While he says to stay up on the latest journal articles and scholarship, Sanders says know “a big old musty book” or two backwards and forwards.
  3. Master research languages early on. “Even though it’s a little bit crazy-making climbing the barrier of research languages early on…it really is worth doing.”

While you can’t master everything, if you follow Sanders’s advice, not only will you excel in your education, you’ll make a marked contribution to scholarship and Christ’s kingdom, too.

-Jeremy Bouma, Th.M. (@bouma)

“My Advice to Students” videos advise and guide students studying for a future of ministry in the Church, whether in the academy or in congregations. In these specially curated videos, leading scholars of biblical studies share their wisdom to help you navigate this important season of preparation.

  • Sean Williams 4 years ago

    I’d be curious on how one focuses on any one single doctrine when much of our current culture seems to be questioning everything.

  • Phil Faris 4 years ago

    While this “tip” doesn’t mention “Theology”, it seems to assume that all students are going to be theologians. That is, it assumes students are preparing for ministries in which Theology is used to qualify and to defend the substance of their ministries. In short, I sense that denominational purity is a major part of the picture the author envisions for today’s students.

    A contrasting set of tips might be to”
    – Master the Bible both as a whole and in all its particulars.
    – Identify the biblical holes in selected classical theologians thinking.
    – Master Greek and Hebrew.

    A self-starter today could go anywhere and plant a church with these for his background. But even an entrepreneurial and dynamic graduate today would have a hard time finding “ministry” opportunities outside of established institutions and denominations with the arcane theological training recommended by the author. Why would any professor wish to shackle students today with these limitations and dependencies?