3.15.2006

Fuller Seminary

Post any experiences you've had either in visiting or attending Fuller Seminary.

17 comments:

Samuel Bills said...

Short of it...
Fuller is in an A+ location and has a very competent and diverse faculty. As the "largest multi-denominational seminary in the world" you could pretty well have whatever kind of experience you wanted to have here. Southern California presents a lot of minstry opportunities and Fuller is very focused on training future leaders of the church. Negatives are that because they are relatively young and have no denominational affiliation they rely on the fact that most students pay tuition. They are also on the quarter sytem which some find frustrating (like me :)
Slightly longer (and more nerdy)...
Fuller is a fascinating institution that is in a bit of an identity crisis, which in my opinion makes it a great place to study.
It claims to be a kind of center for emergent type stuff (Robe Bell and Tony Jones are alums people like Ryan Bolger and Eddie Gibbs are on faculty). At the same time it seems loaded with pentecostal and holiness types (esp. international). The librarian, David Bundy, is amassing collections of American and International holiness volumes. Well known pentecostal theologians like Veli Matti Karkainen are on the faculty. I could go on here but you get the point. It also has a lot of Presbyterian connections and has a kind of Dutch Reformed approach to theology and literature/art/pop culture . Additionally there is a growing contingency of Anabaptist students and faculty. Remembering too that being in Southern California you are at the birth place of American Pentecostalism (Azusa Street) the whole Jesus People Calvary Chapel and Vineyard stuff the Church Growth mvt. etc.
Some people see this lack of identity as a weakness, and thus I am always explaining Fuller when I mention it in an academic setting. I personally find all of it quite interesting as a context to learn within - and find it all quite typical of the place of Christianity especially "evangelical" Christianity, whatever that is. Fuller claims to be "evangelical" but you can see with all of these competing identities how hard that is to define.
I kind of happened on Fuller, but I think it is worth looking into for a kind of experience that would be distinctly West Coast and make you an interesting addition to the conversation in academics that is often centered on the east coast.

Anonymous said...

What's the difference between "inerrancy" and "infallibility?" More times than not, it's a play on words.

It's called the "slippery slope" FALLACY for a reason.

In most "conservative" worlds, Christ is not just one part of our lives, but the whole. There is no holiness apart from social holiness. Therefore, experiencing other opinions on politics while studying theology is not a bad thing. You cannot separate your life as a Christian.

God sent you there, to make your more conservative, and to hate liberal Christianity? You are in my prayers.

Ken Schenck said...

Hey Adam, sorry you've had such a bum time at Fuller! I have no great love of Fuller or interest in IWU students going there, so I'm not going to fight for Fuller.

I'll just say that I'm surprised if Fuller were at the outer limits of liberalism given the few names of people I know there. We've used Don Hagner's Hebrews book in Hebrews, for example, and he's pretty conservative on his theology in the book--more than me at times. I don't think he's any more liberal than, say, David Bauer at Asbury (both were the "conservatives" in the SBL Matthew group).

And Marianne Thompson is a smidge more liberal than anyone here at IWU on pseudonymity, but Joel Green and Bill Arnold at Asbury would likely be on about the same page with her. In fact, I would think that Asbury is only a smidge more conservative than Fuller, depending on the professor.

I actually look at Seyoon Kim as somebody who has significantly misunderstood Paul because his "conservatism" has led him to resist the so called "New Perspective" that seems so obvious to almost everyone else in the scholarly world.

And I wonder whether the politics of Fuller are really more liberal than Asbury, where they actually had American flags removed from the cafeteria to prevent a too easy association between American nationalism and Christianity (they got in real trouble with their constituency for that one). A good many of the religion department at IWU at least has significant questions about the morality of Bush's preemptive strike against Iraq.

What I'm getting at is I think Fuller is probably liberal evangelicalism, maybe even pushing the boundaries? Maybe it's about to jump completely out of evangelicalism! I can tell you think it already has. Maybe the profs I don't know are the ones you're talking about. I won't dispute your claims with regard to the bulk of profs that I know not of. Seminary sailors take warning.

But the ones I do know of look like fundamentalists next to profs at Harvard and Yale--even at Princeton and Duke seminaries. Of course fundamentalists have started calling themselves evangelicals (and so has the press), so it's always hard to know exactly which is which. In that sense I think you have probably compared Talbot and Fuller correctly. Talbot is fundamentalist (inerrantist) and Fuller is liberal evangelical (infallible). It's like the distinction between the Southern Baptists (inerrantist) and the Free Methodists (infallible).

I hope these comments are helpful. But I wish you nothing but delight at Talbot. I have a nephew at Biola right now and, apart from it being so Calvinist, he likes it--especially the situation of the campus!

Samuel Bills said...

Fuller is a great example of the failure of liberal and conservative categories to say anything meaningful about an institution - especially when it involves rather ambiguous words like evangelical. I agree with you Adam on the difficulty of finding the kind of community IWU offers at a place like Fuller. In this way it represents LA - spread out and somewhat isolated. However, by sticking it out here we have found a fairly solid community that has added to our experience (of course I am married - so I won't dispute your claim about the difficulty of single life).
I will affirm Ken's impressions about the NT dept as being one of the hold-outs of a so-called "conservative" reading of Paul. At a meeting I was at last year of a broad range of theological traditions Kim and Hagner were brought in for discussion as the representation of "conservative" NT scholarship.
I think President Mouw is himself a depiction of Fuller's culture - that is he is a child of evangelical revivalism (interesting to us Wesleyans is that Mouw is a Houghton grad. this tradition comes through in his book "Smell of Sawdust") who got a prestigious phd and became a Calvinist while holding onto the evangelical label. As Fuller has "grown up" they have become more Calvinist and perhaps subsequently more concerned with being "orthodox" and not less - as perhaps might be suggested in thinking Fuller has gone "liberal".
The very fact that Fuller is so entangled in liberal/conservative debates is probably indicative of their still firm footing within "conservative" evangelical circles. I suggest that what an IWU grad. (who wants to be Wesleyan in the sense of Schenck's blogs on the culture of the Wesleyan Church) will find frustrating is the Calvinist/Reformed side of Fuller - this has become the source of Fuller's engaging culture stuff (using Abraham Kuyper for example). This drives me nuts.
I suggest though that if one so desires there are pockets of Pentecostal/Wesleyan types who interestingly enough are the more radical people at Fuller (although probably not what Adam means by liberal)but who are in a tradition closer to us Wesleyans.
Adam - I am interested who gave you your impression of Fuller - we have talked but you have mentioned no names - just curious.
Here is why FUller won't hire me to work in admissions.
Here is an idea...
If you want to come to Southern CA go to HAggard @ APU. You will get a good grounding in the tradition there and some Wesley stuff (and with D. Wright hopefully this will only get better) As a student there you could take classes at Fuller - do some theology and history electives here email me and I can clue you in to which profs are worth the trip - you can also take classes at Claremont which will give you another side of the tradition should you so desire.
samuelbills@gmail.com

Samuel Bills said...

By the way Adam - I want you to know that I appreciate your sharing of your perspective. I have enjoyed talking to you about your thoughts on Fuller - I hope Biola proves to be a great place for God to prepare you for ministry.

Priscilla and Aquila said...

I'm a current Fuller student, graduating in June '06. I was shocked when I came to Fuller to find out how liberal it is! About half the students and faculty are Presbyterians and Calvinism reigns, although charismatic Arminians like me are tolerated. Unfortunately an "evangelical" Presbyterian is still a liberal, at least if you're coming from a Southern Baptist/Calvary Chapel/Vineyard/Assembly of God type of evangelicalism. The Bible is not considered innerant at Fuller, Paul did not write several of the books attributed to him, the Old Testament was compiled from oral tradition centuries after the events recorded, George W. Bush is a menace to the world and a disgrace, and even a former Fuller prof like C. Peter Wagner is treated like a joke. If you go to Fuller, enroll in the School of Intercultural Studies (formerly the School of World Mission) -- it hasn't gotten as bad as the School of Theology. Yet.

Mike Hensley said...

Ok... this is a really old thread, so it's probably a moot point - but I'll try to make it anyway. I love Fuller Seminary. It IS a moderate seminary. To call it liberal only demonstrates the fact that you have NO IDEA what the word "liberal" really means. I can say that, because I'm United Methodist - and believe me, Methodists know what liberalism is. Fuller ain't it.

Anonymous said...

Very old thread indeed . . . and yet I must chime in also. As a PhD student at Fuller I can affirm its liberal credentials. I came to Fuller only because it was a choice between Fuller or Claremont for a PhD in Southern California. No other L.A. schools have an accredited PhD program.

My "Fuller as a liberal institution" anecdote goes like this. I had a doctoral seminar with Marianne Meye Thompson a few years ago and in the course of discussion she affirmed that she did not believe that Jesus said anything that is attributed to him in the Gospel of John - not one word. That's about as liberal as it comes. When I asked her how that goes over with the Masters students and their churches, she said that she does not discuss such things with them, but rather that she reserves such discussions for "higher level" students. In other words, "If I tell the truth we may lose the bread and butter seminary students, so I avoid it."

I too have been fairly put off by the political gyrations of some of the faculty. However as the old guard changes hands (i.e. as those theologians like Colin Brown and Don Hagner retire) we can expect to find a more radicalized school in the future.

What is my Fuller PhD going to be worth when all the dust settles? Not much in the circles I travel in. As a pastor, almost every Sunday I have to plead with some visitor not to condemn me for my Fuller affiliation. I have to tell them that I actually do believe the Bible to be the inspired, inerrant Word of God. For some people such protestations do little good. Conservatives in Southern Calif. have been taught to think of Fuller as being run by the devil himself. As far as I can tell, Fuller is doing little to stem that belief and to reach out to conservatives. For most profs, tolerance means tolerance of everything except those who believe the Bible to be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

P.S. Azusa Pacific University has been taken over by Fuller grads and is now a satelite campus of Pasadena which serves as a cash cow for starving Fuller liberals. My daughter recently attended two theology classes taught by Fuller PhD students at APU in which they affirmed that there are serious errors in the text of the Bible. One went so far as to recommend that his students abandon masculine references to God and consider using "neutral" and/or an equal amount of "feminine" pronouns when speaking of God. Never mind how the Bible addresses God. It is more important to keep things egalitarian. Thus another "evangelical" college is not so "evangelical" any more. Hopefully evangelical parents will eventually get wise and spend their money to put their children through Biola.

amethyst said...

Question for those riding the current post 9-11 reactionary conservative wave: What if God agrees with Dr. Thompson and you're just misguided zealots?

Question for we Fuller "liberals": What happens when our quest for truth eliminates the demand for our jobs?

OJ said...

I can't speak on whether Fuller is liberal or not. But I think it's funny that Adam referred to liberalism as a "slippery slope". As if liberal is wrong and conservative is right. And you say your open minded?

Anonymous said...

I was an M.Div. student at Fuller, and I was also under the impression that it was "moderate." What a lie! Here is what I learned at Fuller:

-The Bible contains serious textual errors and thus we are unintelligent to believe in inerrancy.

-God created the world through theistic evolution... not even the day-age theory in Genesis, but theistic evolution.

-Being pro-life is too narrow-minded.

-Homosexuality may be an okay lifestyle.

-The OT was written after the Babylonian captivity, and was composed by the JEPD theory.

-The NT was composed of Q and several other resources like M, L, Ur Mark, etc... Jesus most likely did not teach the sermon on the mount, it was redacted by different editors... 2 Peter was written in the 100s.

-In systematic theology, it is better to talk about the philosophy of some obscure theologian rather than opening up the Word.

-Some of their philosophy profs believe that the reality of life after death is questionable...

-They tried to teach me that the emerging church is highly more interesting than traditional churches or mega churches... or even small churches... whatever the latest post-modern trend is, Fuller will hop on it...

As was said before, Fuller was designed to be a first class evangelical seminary... but when they hired certain faculty and took inerrancy out of their doctrinal statement, they became liberal. Originally, they were supposed to be highly evangelical and intellectual like Gordon-Conwell, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Westminster, etc.

Sad... they will be a Claremont in 20 years........

Anonymous said...

[This was after the second post above]

Ok, "anonymous" (even though I have a pretty good idea who it is), let's get a few things straight. If this is who I think it is, you have only experienced the conservative enviornment of IWU, so you really can't argue from experience that you really know what a liberal school is like - I can. Your own opening statement, What's the difference between "inerrancy" and "infallibility?" proves that your comments can't hold up to mine, for I have personally seen the massive effects of changing one's doctrine of Biblical innerancy to infallability here at Fuller. Yes, grammatically, it seems like I subtle difference, but I can assure you that it is not a mere "play on words" - they are a world apart! Infallability is an incredibly dangerous doctrine, as it opens the door to a never-ending downfall towards extreme liberalism. One only need to look at one of the greatest debates in liberal mainline churches today, homosexuality, to see the dangerous effects of infallability. This debate began when liberals decided to simply throw out the areas in the Bible that denounced homosexuality as a sin! Innerancy protects against these destructive consequences.

So you think the "slippery slope" towards liberalism here at Fuller is a fallacy? I have extensively researched the history of Fuller (check out Marsden's "Reforming Fundamentalism" - I've even talked with him!), so I can speak with authority on this issue - you can't. As I already stated, Fuller used to be a biblically solid, conservative school (and was actually founded by fundamentalists). The liberal slide can clearly be traced to 1962, the very year the school changed its doctrine of Biblical inspiration from innerancy to infallability. Just to illustrate the monumental impact of this event, most of the original conservative faculty left Fuller immediately following the decision!

As to your comments about it being good to hear other political opinions while studying theology - ah...I don't need to touch a hot stove to know I'll get burned! I'm a 24 year old adult and know exactly what liberal politics are and what they stand for! I don't need to "experience" opposing political views - which here at Fuller (and other liberal seminaries), means being bombarded by extremely biased faculty with liberal political agendas! We are here to learn theology - not politics, and I take offense to your uninformed opinion that I don't know what is best for myself - and how dare you presume to mock the reasons God sent me to Fuller!

And regarding your comments about social justice being the same as holiness - um...that's a very subjective opinion, and your comments DO NOT represent the majority of evangelical Christians (take into account the FACT that 75% of evangelicals voted for President Bush) - you are in the minority my friend!

In closing, Dr. Smith requested that I share my experience at Fuller to prevent students at IWU from making the same mistake I did in attending Fuller or other liberal seminaries (we have been in dialogue since last fall). In Dr. Smith's view, I represent the majority of religion students at IWU ("one of the Top 10 conservative colleges in the U.S.") in my utter repulsion of liberal Christianity. While Fuller may not be quite as liberal as Duke or Princeton (which isn't saying much!), it is closer to them than you think. Thus, since I represent the majority opinion of IWU, I believe that most IWU theology majors would hate it at liberal seminaries such as Duke, Princeton, or Fuller. The fact is, you my friend, represent a small minority of liberal IWU students. You are free to have your own opinions, but remember, you do not represent the majority of IWU students! So go to Duke, Princeton, or Fuller and see how you like it - God be with you! However, anyone considering a liberal seminary had better be grounded in their doctrine, or else you may lose your faith - and that's not an exaggeration! You will be in my prayers also.

The bottom line is that Dr. Smith asked me to comment on my experience at a liberal seminary as a warning to the majority of conservative IWU students considering attending seminary after graduation, and that is what I did.

Anonymous said...

[This was originally after the first post above]

While I agree with some of what my good friend Sam said about Fuller, there are areas where I disagree. While it is definitely true that Fuller's top draw is its location -indeed, the main reason I chose Fuller was because it is located in L.A. Pasadena is a top class city and I love living here (and being minutes from numerous Southern California hot spots). It is also true that you will struggle to find a seminary anywhere with faculty who are better published and well-known. However, I feel compelled to share my personal experiences with Fuller because the truth needs to be told.

As someone who deeply loves IWU and was so impacted there, I will share some information that I wish I would have known before committing to Fuller. First of all, I chose Fuller because it proudly advertises itself as a "moderate" seminary, half way between Princeton (liberal) and Dallas (conservative). Indeed, many of the IWU religion profs recomended that I attend Fuller because they believed this. However, I found this to be very innaccurate soon after arriving here last fall. I'll state it clearly here: Fuller IS a liberal seminary - period! Why the school chooses to lie about their theological stance is beyond me - I definitely feel betrayed by Fuller. Moderate conveys balance - thus, I expected Fuller to be half conservative and half liberal. While this may be true among the students, the faculty is almost completely liberal - which is not moderate!

While Fuller was founded as the first evangelical seminary in the world in 1947 by fundamentalists, it has increasingly turned its back on its history since 1962, with the monumental decision to change the school's doctrine on inspiriation from innerancy (which is IWU's and most conservative Christian's position) to infallability. Since then, Fuller has continued to plumit down the slippery-slope to liberalism.

In fact, Fuller has become so liberal, that the school really is not even evangelical anymore - the school is dominated by people from liberal mainline denominations (as Sam also mentioned)! Fuller is not like IWU, where students of traditional conservative evangelical denominations, such as Wesleyan, Baptist, Evangelical Free, charismatic, non-denominational, and other solid denominations dominate. Fuller is actually primarily composed of people(students and faculty)from liberal mainline denominations, such as Presbyterian (PCUSA), Episcopalian, Lutheran, Congregational, United Church of Christ, etc. Even though I was raised Baptist, I became very non-denominational and open-minded at IWU. However, IWU also grounded me in conservative doctrine. Thus, rather than making me more liberal, Fuller has actually made me more conservative as a result of experiencing the liberal side of Christianity for the first time, because I hate it! That is why I believe God sent me here this year.

I have also been shocked by the utter lack of theological training by the majority of the students. Even though I have many friends here, I have only met a few students who even attended a Christian college, and even fewer who were theology majors! Many of them are very new, immature Christians, and thus are easily influenced. I feel very bad for them, because I know they are being brainwashed by the liberal faculty, who know exactly what they are doing.

As bad as the theological liberalness of Fuller is, far more extreme is the political liberalness of the school. As Sam also mentioned, there has been a strange and growing influence of Anabaptist (Quakers/Peace traditon) activists among the faculty and students, who have really spearheaded the extreme leftist, anti-Bush, anti-war, anti-American agenda here at Fuller. This is probably where Fuller differs greatest from IWU ("one of America's Top 10 conservative colleges"). While at IWU, I honestly cannot remember one time when politics were mentioned in any religion course I took in 4 years there. While most of the IWU faculty are conservative, they logically understand that they are being paid to teach us theology, not politics. Not so with Fuller faculty - they just don't get it! In almost every course I have taken, I have heard the prof take a cheap shot at President Bush, the war, or American policy in class - this infuriates me, as I believe that politics and Christianity should remain separate! For some strange reason, Fuller faculty feel compelled to share their liberal political agendas in class. If you think I am exaggerating, take this into account. I was told that immediately following 9/11, Fuller faculty and students placed a "Wittenburg-esque" door on campus, and posted the "reasons why America got what it deserved!" When I first heard that, I couldn't believe it; however, after being here since September, I do now.

And just last week, in my Foundations for Ministry class, a feminist/socialist prof who teaches ethics here at Fuller went on a 25 minute, anti-Bush, anti-war, anti-conservative, anti-American, and anti-democratic tirade during class! During her outburst, she made extremely inappropriate and shocking statements that would make a liberal Senator blush, such as: how the right is "demon-possessed", how democracy is not the answer, and her hope that America shares the same fate as the Roman Empire! She also made an unbelievable comment about how some of her best friends are PRO-abortion activists! Yeah, and she is part of Fuller's faculty! Needless to say, I almost walked out of the room! I just shook my head, threw up my arms in disgust, and said out loud, "Get off your soap box lady!" As if I needed any more reason to leave Fuller, that cemented my decision!

Additionally, the utter lack of community here at Fuller is very disturbing (everyone I know here admits this). While it is naive to assume that a seminary will be like IWU, Fuller makes you question whether this is really a Christian institution. People pass by each other on campus without even saying "hello." Fuller has such a cold, academic environment that it doesn't even feel like God is there. If you want any semblance of a life outside of the classroom, you are on your own. Fuller definitely is designed for and caters to married students. Being single here at Fuller is frustrating. Even though I have many friends here, whenever I want to go out on the weekend, my friends either have to stay with their kids, write a sermon or paper, or work at their church.

And finally, Fuller costs way too much. To give you an idea, Fuller's tutition is on par with Harvard! There are several other schools, even in Southern California, that are a much better deal financially than Fuller. If you are set on living in Southern California like I was, check out the schools of theology at Azusa and Biola. Both cost less than Fuller, are more conservative (especially Biola), and offer a much better sense of community and things to do, as they are both located on the campuses of major Southern California Christian universities that are similar to IWU.

As for me, this is my final quarter at Fuller. I'm transferring to Biola University's Talbot School of Theology next fall. It is located in La Mirada, half an hour south of L.A. and 5 minutes from Anaheim, near the L.A./O.C. border. Biola has a "solid" conservative reputation, similar to IWU and holds to the doctrine of Biblical innerancy, which is key, so I know I will be happy there. I will be purusing my Master of Arts in Christian Education degree, specializing in youth ministry. I plan on graduating summer of 2008, and hope to be a high school youth pastor (hopefully in a church in Southern California!). I also plan on meeting my future wife at Biola, God-willing. I hope that these statements were helpful and I pray that you will seek God's guidance in deciding where you will pursue your seminary education.

Take care and God bless!

Anonymous said...

I go to the Fuller campus in Phoenix, and find it so biblically rooted and absolutely in love with Jesus. The director of the campus, Tom Parker, is someone who genuinely believes in Fuller's mission beyond the mission. So, Fuller in Phoenix has successfully done what Fuller has been trying to do since its inception: Fuller is a "both/and" school, not an "either/or" school. In other words, we do not separate our love and passion for Jesus/the Bible/the Church from our committment to being one of the leading academic centers among Christian seminaries.

We embrace the authority of scripture for our lives, we embrace Jesus Christ as the Redeemer of the world, and we whole-heartedly seek to live out our mission: Fuller Seminary Southwest exists to prepare leaders, passionate for Christ, to do effective frontline ministry in a broken world.

Thanks for the opportunity to defend the school where my faith has really "grown legs," and where my love for Jesus has grown in maturity in ways I never knew possible.

Glen said...

I visited Fuller at the end of this Summer. I was warmly welcomed by the Admissions staff, who all had smiles on their faces, and were very eager to answer any questions I had. I then received a wonderful campus tour from a wonderful person who had recieved her Master's and was pursuing PhD from Fuller. I saw nearly every building (Some construction was underway), but if I didn't see it, the building's purpose and function were thoroughly explained to me. I was even invited into my tour guides home, and invited to a BBQ if I were to move out. Then I had an informative conversationwith a current student about what life is like at Fuller. I was also invited to attend a class, that was very enjoyable, and rewarding. The professor talked to me for an hour after the class as I waited for my ride. He acted like he really wanted to get to know me, and gave me his card. He told me to come by and talk anytime, if I move out. There are so many oppurtunites in Southern California. There are any number of churches to get involved with, and organizations to associate with as well. Yet, the deciding factor for me was, I just felt like I belonged at Fuller. Everyone went the extra mile to ensure that I was comfortable, and all my questions were answered. Not too mention, people walking the campus would stop and ask me if I was a student. When I said no, they told me why Fuller was the place to be. Finally, the weather is pretty sweet. Pasadena is in between skiing, surfing, theme parks, and Hollywood. They've got the Dodgers, Angels, Lakers, and The Rose Bowl pretty close by. I chose to go to Fuller not for these things though, I chose it because I felt like God was and is leading me there.

jerry said...

Joel Green, who came from Asbury, seems to like Fuller.

psalom22 said...

Questions you have to ask yourself before attending Fuller. Do I need conservative teaching? If yes, sorry Fuller is not for you, actually Fuller is very academic and you have to be there only for the academics and to do it by shutting off your brain is a bad idea. I was a Fuller student and got my PhD in historical theology in 2007, actually my professor had to slow me down couple of times because even he thought some of my chapters went too far questioning some things, but nobody has been able to explain some things to this day, well, my friends, reason can be your very good friend, trust me!