Top 5 Things I’ve Learned at Southern Seminary

This guest post was written by Danny Slavich who writes at Almanac of Captivity. Danny is an M.Div student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

I jacked this list idea from from Justin Buzzard. (I’m going to keep giving him props until the guilt of my thievery wears off…)

This is a strange list to make, but in honor of the start of the fall semester, I offer the five most important things I’ve learned in an SBTS classroom/assigned reading since I started in August 2005:

#5 Believer’s baptism is really important. When John Piper and Bethlehem Baptist decided to allow those discussed allowing those baptized as infants to join the church, many at SBTS were frustrated. I didn’t understand why then — I was in my first semester. Believer’s baptism was important enough to move me from California to Kentucky to attend the best non-Presbyterian Reformed seminary in the world. But it wasn’t that important. I’ve learned, though, that this is a crucial issue.

#4 Greek. Self-explanatory as to why (knowing how to read the NT in the original language is important…)

#3 Tracing. In Dr. Vickers’ New Testament classes, he made us trace passages every week. Man, I hated it at first. Like long division in the third grade, it didn’t click. But after working through it for two semesters, it started making sense, and has become one of the most important and practically useful parts of my seminary education. (I still need to tell him how important it has been)…

“Tracing” is a way to read the Bible’s didactic/teaching sections. Tracing breaks up a passage into propositions, in order to determine the relationship of one proposition to another. A proposition is a statement or assertion about something. So, for example, “I love the Giants” is a proposition. Take also, “I love the Giants because my dad raised me correctly.” In this case “I love the Giants” is a proposition and “because my dad raised me correctly” is a proposition. These two proposition are related to each other. The main point of my statement is that “I love the Giants.” But I also want to support this statement with a reason or ground for it, in this case, “because my dad raised me correctly.”

Tracing is the process of relating a series propositions to each other. I hope this helps somewhat. It can be difficult to understand/do, but is extremely rewarding. See Tom Schreiner’s book Interpreting the Pauline Epistles, chapter 6, for a good explanation.]

#2 That God is our Father. In my Calvin and the Reformed Tradition class, in my reading, I noticed a prominent theme: Calvin’s emphasis on the fatherhood of God. And it’s not Calvin’s idea. It is Paul’s. The whole fabric of salvation is tied to the theme of God as our Father, his adoption of us in the eternal Son, Jesus, and the down payment of our inheritance, the Spirit. Which leads me into the next thing…

#1 That God is a Trinity. I took Dr. Ware’s Doctrine of the Trinity class my first semester, and how I thank God that I did. I wanted to take Jonathan Edwards, but it was full. So I took the Trinity class. It has, probably, shaped my view of God more than any other thing I’ve learned. I read everything through the lens of God’s three-in-oneness now. (Just look at #2 above). It has forever changed the way I understand God to be. Before, I would have affirmed the orthodox doctrine, but it had to profound impact on my theology. Now, I realize that God as Trinity means that I know more of God as the God who actually is, the one God who exists eternally as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, co-equal, co-eternal, and all distinct yet one.

**Uncategorized: I’m not sure where to put this one, but it’s important. One day I was sitting next to Erin Perry in Theology of the New Testament, and she told me that I should ask a certain girl to coffee. I did, and, about 14 months later, I married that girl.

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4 Responses to Top 5 Things I’ve Learned at Southern Seminary

  1. Steve McCoy says:

    Good post. FYI, Piper has a paper online on arcing (the early version of tracing). Tracing was a big deal from me as I learned it from Schreiner. I think it’s more helpful than knowing Greek too.

  2. blackhaw says:

    Good post. However I do not agree with #3 tracing. If I have learned anything at SWBTS and by reading the Church Fathers and the Biblical text is that Tracing )as described) is not how to read the Bible. Dr Scott Swain (Now at RTS in Orlando) was very influential in my development. I just do not see that hte BIble is a document with a modern worldview. It is more like a picture and not only should not but cannot be broken down into just propostions. Fr. John Behr and Cyril of Alexandria and Gregory of Nazianzus were especially helpful also.

  3. Thanks for the comments.

    Blackhaw, I understand your point, because I used to be closer to your position.
    The defense I would make is this:
    Certain portions of Biblical literature cannot be “traced”. Tracing is not meant to be a way to read or interpret narrative, poetry or prophecy, per se. It is a way of reading the didactic and teaching sections of Scripture.

    That said, tracing does not presuppose a “modern worldview” — it assumes literary and argumentative coherence. Language by definition communicates, and there are only so many ways to communicate certain things.
    The notion of “therefore” (in any language) is the same — bring a conclusion or point based upon what was already said.
    I don’t think that you HAVE to trace Paul’s argument in Romans to understand. But I do think it’s helpful. Paul makes arguments, and supports those arguments. Tracing simply attempts to discern how he makes the arguments he does.

    God bless,

  4. blackhaw says:


    Okay but I have a few obsertvations.

    1. This might be a little nit picky but I think the Psalms and proverbs and the narrative portions of scripture are there for the teaching of the reader. It is just a different genre.

    2. I think I am okay a little bit with the rest of your post. I would just be very wary of it because there is a tendency to make the propositions into the totality of the scriptural passages. What I mean is that I can’t break down all of what Phillipians 2 or Ephesians 3 is meaning to express by tracing. There is more to it. I cringe when I hear pastors say that the Bible teaches these 3 or 4 propositional statements from such and such passage. Like that is all there is to it.

    BH- CARL

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