A Visit to GTU

GTU is the Graduate Theological Union, a fully accredited association of theological schools situated in the San Francisco Bay area. I visited GTU yesterday with my friend Andrew Sandlin. We went to look for that special book that we have not yet found! We enjoyed a gorgeous day, with a sunny blue sky and temps in the low 80s. We also enjoyed an incredible lunch with Andrew’s son Richard, a wonderful, thoughtful and tender-hearted young man who recently completed his B.A. in philosophy at Cal. Richard is now beginning preparation to pursue his doctorate in philosophy. I have no doubt that he will make a first-rate teacher someday.

GTU is an intriguing place. You can study subjects like art and religion, biblical languages, biblical studies, Buddhist studies, Christian spirituality, ethics and social theory, Jewish studies, Near Eastern studies and systematic and philosophical theology. They have just about every thing you could want in the field of religion. And you are across the street from Cal Berkeley, a world class university, where you can also take classes. GTU draws from traditional Christian roots but seeks to address current issues from a liberal social and political perspective. You can find traces of Christian orthodoxy at GTU but only traces.

The strengths of a place like GTU are the exposure you have to the modern world and the real dialogue with living religions. The weakness of GTU is evident and it underscores my central concern for the church in this age—pluralism. Almost everything I read and saw at GTU suggests that being a Christian is valid so long as you do not insist that "Christ is the way, the truth and the life" (John 14:6). While fundamentalism refuses to enter the dialogue with other truth claims people at GTU appear to allow the dialogue to determine the outcome, an outcome that is not acceptable to Christians who affirm the creeds and follow the historic Christ as he is revealed in the storyline of the New Testament. GTU invites conversation and research. This is great. GTU does not seem to offer much direction for the serious orthodox Christian. It may be a good place for strong believers to do research but it would not be such a good place to send a young student who is not yet rooted in the deep mysteries of the historic Christian faith. This is not a fundamentalist reaction but a pastoral concern for the formation of Christian faith in a challenging age.

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