Even seminary students can have fun!

I got this picture from the seminary archives. It's the only documented prank at Princeton Theological Seminary, which occurred in 1964. The building is Stuart Hall, where virtually all of the classes take place. Since it's been over 40 years, I think it might be time to bring back the pranks around here.


Shane said…
Make T-shirts with a picture of Emil Brunner and "Ja" in big letters. . . it's not technically a prank, but it would piss the Barthians off and that's probably close enough.

One interesting thing about PTS is that the Barthians don't have any kind of clear superiority (although we know that in the end, they are more close to being right than anyone else in the world could ever possibly be [and of course the discerning reader is well able to identify sarcasm]). In fact, my sense is that most of the rank and file of the student body actually come here, prepped by whomever in advance, to think that Barth's thought is some tired and tiring academic exercise. Gods help us all!
I think you're right, Travis. It's only my first semester, and already I've overheard at least three conversations about how Barth is "too difficult." "worse than reading Kant in college philosophy," "impenetrable," and similar such statements. It seems these statements often come from older adults who are moving towards full-time ministry as a career change. Such people are predisposed to dislike Barth because it reminds them of everything they didn't like in college.
Shane said…
ow, that's a shame. When people complain about reading being 'too hard', it usually means one of two things:

1.) either the person really doesn't have the background information to understand what is being said. (It seems to me that one really ought to know quite a bit about Kant, Schleiermacher and the reformers to get a grasp on Barth).

2.) This person is simply unwilling to take the time to learn how to read a closely written text. reading well is a skill that you have to cultivate, which requires much time and effort.

Of course, some texts simply are poorly-written, or intentionally obscure, but Kant and Barth are not that. It gets much, much more arcane . . . cf. Later Heidegger, Derrida, Blanchot.

Also, as glad as I am to hear that not all PTS students are in the thrall of Barth, it is distressing to hear that they don't read barth for silly reasons. Better to be a barthian than a cultured despiser of Barth's, or worse, lazily indifferent to him. I still think that Barth is the greatest theologian of the 20th century and people (especially reformed pastors) ought to read him. Of course, they also ought to read the greatest theologians of the 12, 13th, and 14th centuries, as well, but that's a different post.
I agree with you, Shane. As far as I can tell, there isn't a class on Thomas. Maybe Travis can set me straight if I am wrong about that.

Question for the day: Is there any hope for an ecumenical Christian seminary?? Or is that a contradiction, because denominations are too sectarian to allow their clergy to come from seminaries that produce Catholic and Orthodox clergy as well (and vice versa)?
McCormack has been threatening to teach a class on Thomas for a few years now, but the rumor is that he hasn't gotten it all ready yet. The man is a perfectionist.
Shane said…
i'd be interested to read mccormack on thomas. there are really interesting moments in thomas that make him sound quite 'reformed', even though he is unequivocally a catholic thinker. but of course, the same thing is true of augustine as well. i've been really interested in seeing thomas as an ecumenical theologian. i don't know enough to really press this thesis yet, but i suspect that Thomas really wanted his theology to be non-sectarian. if you start reading through the summa, pay attention to how and when he uses the eastern fathers, especially pseudo-dionysius and st. john damascene. i think he relies on these figures to try to create a bridge or entree for eastern theologians to understand the catholic west. there are historical reasons for this kind of a move too, there were movements towards reconciliation in the 13th century, and thomas's theology played a large part in those discussions actually. (eventually they fell through--read the latter half of pelikan's excellent volume on the spirit of eastern orthodoxy for more info).

i think an ecumenical seminary is possible, because i think an ecumenical church is possible, but it is a long way off. But it will require hella intellectual vision and spiritual insight. The issues separating the church are not merely intellectual or spiritual (they are also political, linguistic, cultural), but it seems to me in principle that no movement towards reconciliation is possible without a firm theological basis.

just some random disconnected thoughts.

I don't think that an ecumenical seminary is possible currently, but let us all hope. The biggest issue to overcome, in my mind, is cirricular - what are you going to teach? There would have to be a body of thought widely enough agreed upon and substantial enough to adequately train ministers. The problem is that you can't teach everyone's distinctives, so you have to move completely away from distinctives and focus on a centrist construction - which is very hard to teach because you have no good historical sources (if you tried to use them you would have to constantly be engaged in building the center position). Add to this the severe limitations of 3 years of study with people who are not necessarily expected to have any theological background, and you've got a darn near impossible task.