Sunday, April 10, 2005

Shpilkis Resolution

I promised a shpilkis update a loooong time ago. (All of the Shpilkis Chronicles are here: parts one, two, three, four, and five.) I applied to nine different doctoral programs to do work in the field of Christian Doctrine/ Christian Systematic Theology. (Specifically, I am interested in glory as a category for understanding God in the Christian tradition, and...well, I'm sure your eyes have already glazed over, so I'll spare you more details for now.) Specifically, I applied to Cambridge University, Duke University, Notre Dame University, Harvard Divinity School, Emory University, Princeton Theological Seminary, Loyola University Chicago, Durham University, and the University of Toronto. I would have been happy in any of the programs, but the first three in the list were my preferences, with Loyola being about fourth place. I thought I would probably be admitted to two to three programs of the nine, not a bad ratio, and it would give me some range of choice.

I actually was admitted to three programs, so my estimation was realistic (and I still haven't heard from Durham, strangely). I was offered admission to Cambridge, Toronto, and Loyola, the latter with a nice financial package. We (and I use the pronoun intentionally) have decided, after thought, prayer, and conferring with family, to accept the offer at Cambridge, in the faculty of divinity, where I will be studying with Dan Hardy.*

As I mentioned before, we needed to assemble a capital sum of about $150,000 in order to meet the financial condition, and our families have been very kind and generous in becoming guarantors for us. (Of course we will pay for the entire course ourselves, but they are backing us in going abroad.) We are overwhelmed with gratitude.
It is hard, of course, turning down an offer with money attached. Heck, it's hard to say no to anywhere that would have me. But Cambridge seemed the best fit in most ways, and it will be an opportunity to study with some of the greatest theological minds in the communion.

The funny thing is that I never intended to get into Cambridge.

About a year and a half ago I was talking with my wife about where I would apply for graduate school, and I mentioned that I was thinking of applying to Cambridge. She replied, skeptically, "Would we go?" To which I said, "Of course not! I won't get in, there's no way. The whole reason I am applying is that I don't want to wake up ten years from now at 3 a.m. wondering to myself 'What would have happened if I had applied to Cambridge?' This way, I will apply, get the rejection letter, and then I can sleep at night."

You can imagine my disappointment at failing to be rejected. Or rather the slack-jawed awe in finding something come true that was so wild, so wonderful, that we didn't even dare to dream it. I honestly can't even say that this is a dream come true because I never dreamed it. I never dared.

And now -- if I said 'no' to Cambridge, I'd never be able to sleep again, because I'd lie awake at night thinking to myself "I said 'no' to Cambridge? Was I nuts? What would have happened if I had gone?" I would say that the moral of the story is to be careful what you wish for, because you might get it -- only I didn't even really wish for it.

So here we are making sure our passports are in date, getting together enough for the capital sum, and putting our house on the market (anyone looking to buy a house?). My wife has become more and more sold on the idea (although truth be told she is still trying to discern what her role will be once we are there; this is an ongoing work). We are sad to be leaving our parish, our daughter's school, and our home in Michigan's Twin Cities. But there is an adventure ahead of us, it seems like a call of God, and we are trying our best to embrace it in faith.

And faith we will need as well as endurance, because there are numerous hurdles ahead: paying for the program, getting through it successfully, finding a position once we return to the States. So remember us, and pray for us, please.

Finally, I am proud to be joining other folks who will be starting their doctoral programs this fall too, including Gaunilo at Vanderbilt, and Jacob at Virginia.

* If you haven't heard of Daniel W. Hardy it is understandable, but also quite unfortunate. He hasn't written many major books, but in typical Anglican fashion has turned out many occasional documents -- conference papers, chapters and essays, sermons, and so forth -- that, taken together, articulate a powerful vision of Christianity and the church in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. His influence is also felt across the English-speaking Christian world in students he has supervised and colleagues with whom he has interacted. (He has taught at General Theological Seminary (briefly), University of Birmingham, University of Durham, the Center of Theological Inquiry at Princeton, and, in his retirement, he is a senior professor in the Faculty of Divinity at Cambridge.) Additionally, he has edited many books, including the Cambridge Studies in Christian Doctrine series. He came out a few years ago with a compendium of writings entitled Finding the Church: The Dynamic Truth of Anglicanism. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has called him "one of the Anglican Communion's leading theologians". In any event, I am proud to be studying with him (and hope I can measure up!).


Blogger Caleb said...

Congrats on making your decision. May your studies be richly rewarded with more of the insights you are good enough to share with us here!

Sunday, April 10, 2005 8:45:00 PM  
Blogger Gaunilo said...

Congratulations! I can well relate to your feeling of elation (and irreality - I still can't quite shake the sense that they mixed up applications or something at Vanderbilt, even after visiting). It's no small feat getting into Cambridge, so all due plaudits to you, my good man.

The issue of funding for UK schools is a formidable one; that was a major factor in my decision to stick to programs here in the US. My prayers will be with you as you seek to fund your studies!

With that topic, I take it von Balthasar will play a significant part in your dissertation?

Monday, April 11, 2005 12:24:00 AM  
Blogger Peter Young said...

Congratulations again. I know you will enjoy your time in England.

Monday, April 11, 2005 4:18:00 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

Thanks for the very kind remarks. It is interesting with the "strange new world of the blog" that here are acquaintances and friends who I will not have to say good-bye to. (I'll just be blogging 5+ hours earlier than you.)

Hopefully, Caleb, my studies will bring insights worth sharing and not simply make my thinking and prose too abstruse to be understood!

As for von Balthasar, yes, very much so. I have added in a couple books I am reading on Balthasar to my sidebar. I also will look to draw on Barth (one of the volumes in CD deals with glory rather extensively and doxologically (naturally)). I will also -- if it doesn't make my work too diffuse -- look at the Cappadocians' treatment of glory. Gregory of Nyssa is particularly interesting in this regard: at one point he says that the Holy Spirit is the glory of God. Intriguing stuff.

Part of my thought about the glory of God is that glory is conceptually close to beauty (although it also involves moral praiseworthiness), and that it is something which attracts and involves the self, that in that way it is persuasive. And so, more broadly, I wonder if this sense of God's glory is a way of understanding the processions of God into* the world, that the mission of Jesus and the sending of the Spirit manifest God's glory in such a way as to draw people into them, and in that way, draw them into the life of God. Also this might be a model for understanding atonement, moving beyond both penal/substitutionary and moral exemplar notions.

*A troublesome preposition, but I think one which is commonly used in this regard with the understanding that God the Father/Source/Arche is not "outside of" or distant from the world.

Monday, April 11, 2005 2:11:00 PM  
Blogger Emily said...

Congratulations! I'm so excited for you. And I'll mute my whining of moving a mere 8 hours down I-44 (and no passports or house sale involved).

I suspect the experience of a doctoral education at Cambridge studying under a fine Anglican theologian is like those commercials say: priceless.

I'm glad, too, that blogland affords continued relationships beyond geographical boundaries. It's not the same as a friend you meet weekly with for coffee, more like being a pen pal, with a more instantaneous response rate.

Monday, April 11, 2005 6:45:00 PM  
Blogger maggi said...

welcome to cambridge! be sure to come over and say hello when you get here.


Monday, April 11, 2005 8:58:00 PM  
Blogger Benedict Seraphim said...

A belated but hearty "Way to freakin' go, man!"

But having you at Loyola would have been nice.

Still . . .


Thursday, April 14, 2005 4:41:00 PM  

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