Notes on a Visit to SBTS

We say Louweeville, and they say Looahvle (rhymes with doable). The sound is ugly, a bit clumsy really, but that’s what they do.

* * *

The campus is not all that big. Because they keep it up well, the buildings look a lot more modern than they actually are. It has the look of careful prosperity.

Books everywhere. Reading provided in your hotel room (Mohler stuff), in the hotel lobby (Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis Vol. III was there), printed material on racks scattered throughout, never mind the bookstore. A million holdings in the library. They even gave me the doorstopper tome on the history of the seminary published by Oxford just for having come.

They have a big chapel out of which the organ is gone–if there ever was one. Can’t imagine the sound of the piano is great enough for congregational singing unless the player just bangs when it is full. I’m under no illusion that in lieu of an organ they depend on a piano, but they do have a piano.

They also have a smaller chapel with a pipe organ up in the choir loft. It has pews that shut themselves in, in the old style. Nice quiet place.

* * *

Those people are into coffee. Nobody need drink anything substandard there ever, and can probably usually drink rather good coffee. They even have their own seminary blend. It is a bit hipsterish, and one wonders when all that will wear off (but evanelicalism can be counted on to be hipsterish a few years after being hipsterish no longer appeals in general, I think), but at the moment the coffee is good.

* * *

We were treated to lunch and had Dr. Haykin to ourselves. He’s the early church guy. He has a gimlet eye, and a barking voice (a heavily British tinged Canadian accent: he commutes from Canada to SBTS). He makes questions of the more penetrating sort, gets down to business–not a small talk type of person. I like him. We found out he was doing a seminar after lunch and proceeded to join. Had Gregory of Nyssa for two hours. Afterward, he showered me with publications: four journals, some G of Nyssa and some Basil.

Meeting Haykin was providential. If I go, I’d be looking to do something with him. And at SBTS I could do something early church.

In fact, that was one of the most positive things about SBTS, not only the personal attention we received from him, but the collegial atmosphere. It surprised me in a big place like that. I thought the faculty would come and go in a hurry, ducking into their office to do their work, not being generally available. I saw a lot of casual conversations, the pace did not seem hurried, and the IX Marks conference was looming.

Also we were conducted to the library and into the new doctoral commons, a project of Jonathan Pennington (who tweets about the furnishings). There they do pour-over coffee. Pennington was there and friendly. Very favorable though brief impression. He was engaging the students in extra-curricular reading and discussion.

Not like Central were you go out to eat with the whole faculty, however.

* * *

The worst thing about SBTS is the price of a PhD: 50k. There is little to no financial aid–which surprised me. Probably because if you’re a member of a church in the convention, you get a 50% discount on that price, which then gives you a very reasonably priced PhD. (There are ARBCA churches that are part of the SBC, but I don’t think they’re in Louisville, alas; on the positive side, there is one of our crusty RB churches there).

I have some misgivings, but I was mostly favorably impressed and I think the studying would be good with Haykin. Apparently they’re undergoing a bit of a boom on early church interest at the moment. They have a spirituality PhD which feeds people into reading church history and especially early church, for good reasons.

* * *

Of course, it depends on getting accepted. My quantitative GRE score, about which I was pleased, is actually quite low (only 37% of the people taking it did worse; on the other hand, I’m getting a whole lot of consolation from my verbal score and the analytical is jolly decent). I’m not sure at this point what it adds up to, but it does lie in the past.

* * *

I’m very glad I went. And since Katrina went, she’s got her own interesting observations. I think she’s for it.

Now I really want to see if visits to other places can be scheduled. One can read websites, but the detail of being there is a lot better, more interesting.


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