Evidently, I actually still care about grades. I used to be pretty over-fastidious about the studying thing and find it kind of upsetting to get anything lower than an A minus, but now that I’m older and more relaxed (if you didn’t know me in college, you will find it hard to believe I am more relaxed, but it’s true, I promise), and have more procrastinatory study habits, I didn’t think I cared that much anymore.
Then I got my Christian Ethics midterm back and it had a B minus on it. A B minus?! That’s practically a C! That’s the lowest grade I’ve gotten since . . . well, probably since I stopped getting grades, but definitely since I took that miserable Philosophy 101 exam my junior year and only escaped an F because my essay about how I had no idea what I was talking about, was articulate and funny. (Unlike this paragraph.)
I discovered this B minus in the mail the night I returned from the Bro-Fam’s, and so it was pretty much midnight and I was tired (although grateful that, unlike my last return trip, all my flights left at their scheduled times) and I could not really read all the critical remarks in the margins. The whole thing gave me this ancient, long-forgotten but familiar feeling of unfinishedness and outrage and embarrassment and queasiness in the stomach. The problem with my two-point-five hours worth of essays was, evidently (as far as I could read), that I had not cited enough Old Testament and New Testament reasons for arguing the things that I did, and that where I did use such examples, I did not cite chapter and verse.
I had known the chapter and verse thing was going to be a problem. I had not known it was going to be a problem that would put me at the brink of a C. You may remember I recently found myself cramming a half a semester into my head in a week and a half, and since my brain retains numbers (any kind of numbers) like . . . well, I don’t know like what, because it doesn’t . . . I dispensed with memorising the references in favour of getting a pretty good handle on different ethics and points of view.
And I’m still not sure how I feel about the justice of this grade. I am a seminary student. At this seminary, it is believed that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. I myself also believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. I agree that, as a Christian who believes this, it is important for me to have a biblical basis for my ethical beliefs. Although I haven’t been very disciplined about this activity since probably London, I acknowledge the value of memorising Scripture passages and can recognise that remembering exactly where they are in the book can be very helpful.
However (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?), I’m rather inclined to think that when it comes to ethical decisions and lifestyle, it’s better to have absorbed the biblical ideas so that they flow naturally out of your life than it is to be able to cite chapter and verse. The Matchmaker keeps referring to himself as the devil quoting Scripture, and while I disagree that that describes him, I do agree that it’s possible to be able to cite chapter and verse, as well as the content of chapter and verse, and not have a relationship with God at all, just as it is possible to have a vibrant one and have no clue where in the New Testament that bit about our adoption into God’s family is.
What do you think? Is it important for a seminary student, taking biblically based courses, to engage in rote memorisation, or not? (And is that a loaded question?)