Well, to be honest, going into my visit to CST, my expectations were low. Not because of the school itself, but because I have a very difficult time envisioning myself living back in CA for two years. My younger sister and I went to Claremont from Lake Arrowhead, where I was picking her up from for the weekend. We got there very early and drove around the small campus for a bit and commentated about the area and various circumstances I would face going to CST. While I met with an admissions officer and Professor Clayton, she waited at a local bookstore, one favorite past time she and I share…
So walking around the campus I was pleasantly surprised with the grounds. There was almost literally nobody there, being the summer time, but that was exactly what I expected. I suppose the same will be true of the rest of the schools I visit this summer, but oh well. I got a little more informational material from the admissions guy, answered a few more questions, etc. We also swung by the Center for Process Studies and talked to a resident theologian about Process Theology, which was very illuminating. I got to see the housing, which wasn’t half bad (and would certainly be complimented by much travel back to the OC by Metrolink…).
The real engaging part of my visit was when I sat down with one of the main theology professors for CST, Philip Clayton. Instead of talking my ear off about how great CST is, he invited me to discern where I would place myself theologically as well as politically, which is something I had not really done before. I was struck when I began considering where my Christology lay. So much of my past has been steeped in the Hebrew Scriptures and narratives and nonviolence (which can be somewhat topical by comparison), that I hadn’t ever really deeply considered what part the actual person of Jesus plays in my worldview. Of course I consider myself to be rooted in a firmly Christian identity, I cannot say exactly what my theology is as far as the divinity of Christ. Part of it is that I have an innate desire to arrive at that place independent of doctrine or dogma. So much of my history has been in response to bad theology and poor logic (mostly rebutting conservative ideology), that I feel a great need to discern some of these deeper concepts not in isolation, but without any undue external influence. I guess what I am saying is that I feel to blanketly accept many of the established doctrines of Christendom would rob me of ‘owning’ the intellectual leap of faith such doctrines inherently require (for the most part).
Anyway, all of this is fine and well and I look forward to thinking more and more about it all. Most of what we talked about was couched in the context of trying to figure out where I should study. We talked about where many schools I am considering sit in the conservative/progressive divide and what each of those labels main in the mainstream theological area of focus. I realized also that I do not want to have the religion of many progressive schools that are almost void of the deep connection to and appreciation for the God who works in our world today. An archetypal figure in my mind is Bart Ehrman, who is a writer and scholar who for many years was a Christian, but now describes himself as an agnostic. To me, it almost seems tragic to get so close to the text itself that it looses its flavor and color, it gets stripped to ink and paper (which is a folly I see many conservatives making, but with opposing results). So some of the more progressive schools I’m considering have lost a bit of luster for me, but not necessarily all. Besides, I still have a deep respect for the removed study of religion and society, but for me, I still have faith in the personability and personality of God and Jesus, and the vibrancy of the Judeo-Christian cannon.
More than anything, after my first campus visit, I am REALLY looking forward to the rest of this summer!