Our new series “From AC 2nd to…” profiles former History majors who have followed a variety of professional and educational tracks in their post-Bethel careers.
Today we’ll conclude our interview with Seth Rima (‘09), M.Div. student in Pastoral Studies at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. (Read part 1 here.)
What about your Bethel History major best prepared you for seminary? Is there anything you wish you had done differently in preparation for that track?
My transition into seminary has been remarkably smooth, largely due to the similarities I’ve found in preparation. If you are going to write on a topic in theology you need to find your sources, and the History track has prepared me well for the gathering of obvious sources as well as the sources that on first glance have nothing to do with the topic at hand. It’s also been helpful as I’ve worked to form theses and defend them, to know that there are several layers one has to peel back in order to get to the root of many topics. It is hardly ever right on the surface, and that is how it is oftentimes when we analyzed historical movements or the revolutions and coups that have taken place. There is always a spark, yes, but perhaps more importantly there is kindling to be lit ablaze as a result. So I guess you could say history made clear that context is crucial, so when I learned that in hermeneutics, it was only logical, and that appreciation for context has dramatically changed the way I read Scripture and apply it.
I also very much appreciated the discussion we would have and the market of ideas that would develop as time went on in classes I’ve taken from you [Chris Gehrz], AnneMarie Kooistra, and G.W. Carlson, to name a few. That has helped me not take offense when someone sees something in a different way than I do in conversation. It is much harder to harbor frustration with someone who you view as working with the same goal in mind, whether it is understanding a period or event in history, or discovering what the Bible says about faith vs. works.
I also just know the names that many of my peers aren’t quite familiar with, like Origen, Anselm, Martin Bucer, and the like. So classes like CWC and The Reformations were just very helpful in a practical way. They provided a kind of historical and theological scaffolding that many don’t have when they decide to enter Seminary.
I absolutely love history still, and always will. There is just something about history that just makes it so much easier to put yourself in another person’s shoes. I love all kinds of history, whether it is sports-related, political (particularly Presidential), or ecclesiastical. I suppose it’s far too late to save myself from “nerd” status at this point, so I’ll cop to some of my modes of learning these days. I lump political geography in with history, and I have been known to play games that freshen up my memory of things like national flags, the border/shape of nations, and the location of various sites/cities on a world map. I also use a website called Sporcle to do all sorts of quizzes on anything from the roster of the 2001 Seattle Mariners, to the 50 most populous US cities, to the names of the Roman Emperors. I also enjoy reading blogs, like The Pietist Schoolman (and not just to suck up)and anything on the two World Wars, or church history, and I hope to someday keep up my own regular blog. I also have a system for reading, and historical books have their own category, so for instance the next historical work I will read is Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow.
On top of all that I have a younger brother who is like a more studious version of me, so I love talking to him about various subjects, and look forward to doing that the rest of my adult life!
Anything else you’d like to say to current or prospective students thinking about majoring in History at Bethel and/or considering going to seminary after college?
Wow, dangerous move, giving a History Major an open-ended question like this! I think majoring in history is the best decision I ever made while in college (besides asking my now-wife on that date!), because it was something I enjoyed. Beyond that though, history is such a far-reaching subject. It touches every aspect of life, because it isn’t just (as some would say) boring stuff that’s already happened, it’s the stuff that happened that has shaped the world in which we live. Having a firm grasp on history means you can talk to anyone about anything, and therefore work to understand the context that they are coming from, because Solomon was right… “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecc 1:9).
With seminary, I think it’s crucial just practically speaking to make sure you are doing your research the right way, not cutting corners, and working hard on the little things, like formatting and procuring sources. History is a great proving ground for the work aspect of seminary, so it’s a natural fit. In reality though, no one should go to seminary if they don’t really feel the call to use the information that they gain. These days it’s pretty common to hear of a grad student who
is working in a completely different field, and it works pretty well anyway. With seminary, one should be making a covenant with their seminary that they are going to take the knowledge that they gain and put it to use in the world, because the one thing the world needs desperately is the gospel of Jesus Christ, and while that mission isn’t saved just for those who go to seminary, it isn’t something that seminarians can abstain from. The Seminary education has to flow out, or it’s just stealing.