When I made a vision board in January (I know, I know — don't laugh) and added a personal goal of getting closer to God, I had no idea what, exactly, that would look like. Sure, I could read my Bible more regularly and keep up a better prayer routine, but what about digging deeper — what about understanding the very complex and historical underpinnings of the faith I subscribe to?
There are few things in life I'm fully sure of. Among those very few tidbits, I know that my faith should be my ultimate priority. And I also recognize that religion is an immensely important social and cultural issue with sweeping pertinence to billions of lives.
Christianity, in particular, is essential to the American experience and to my own faith walk and personal development. Raised in a religious home, I was exposed to biblical devotion at an early age, hearing all of the traditional Bible stories and sentiments and applying them to my life.
I would most certainly credit that dynamic as being the driving force that helped make me who I am today. The lenses through which I see many issues and my overall worldview are fueled, sustained and tied to this experience.
But I've felt for quite some time that the level to which I need to understand scripture — one that extends beyond the visceral — requires a more profound effort and a deeper-rooted study of the Bible, its contents and the history that helped shape it.
Sure, I'm a Christian. But do I really know the historical constructs, the authorship battles and the interpretive wars that rage in classrooms and seminaries across America? The simple answer: No.
But I believe it's something that I owe God, myself and my readers (and this seems to be similar sentiment espoused by conservative commentator Erick Erickson when he, too, announced back in May that he'd be going to seminary).
As the faith and culture editor of TheBlaze, I've had the pleasure to study and report on fascinating, profound, comical and breaking news stories that deal, to varying levels, with faith and religion (I've written over 6,000 stories in the past 3 and a half years, which seems unbelievable).
It is a position I have truly valued and an opportunity that has offered a wonderful platform for my writing — one I am forever grateful for (and a position I plan to continue into the future).
A few months ago, I had no immediate plans to attend seminary or to seek an advanced degree in Christian studies, though I had publicly shared my wish and interest in eventually doing so.
And when Bruce Ashford, provost of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, saw that desire, he reached out to me and blessed me with a scholarship opportunity to attend the school.
After applying and gaining admittance, I officially enrolled at the seminary for the fall in pursuit of a Master of Arts (Christian Studies) degree — and started classes two weeks ago. I'm currently attending part-time, taking one course in Old Testament studies and another with a focus on the New Testament.
Already, I'm seeing new perspectives and learning more deeply about the origins, tenets and impact of the most powerful book in human history. I'm ever-grateful to Bruce Ashford and to the seminary for both admitting me and offering up an opportunity to refine my journalistic and faith worldviews in such a wonderful way.
Just wanted to share that with readers and ask for prayer if you think of it. Truly looking forward to learning!
Oh, and I'll still be working full-time for TheBlaze as I make my way through the degree program. Feel free to post any questions over on my Facebook page.
P.S. Very big shout-outs to my wonder wife, Andrea Hallowell, and to my friends Liz Klimas, Justin Basch and Pastor Charlie Restivo for supporting me in my application process!