Great commencement ceremony at Trinity this evening. I love this school. I chose TEDS because I thought it was the best seminary in the world. On the night of my graduation, I still believe that to be true.
As I finish up this program, I think of all of the people who have been there for me. Not just these last four years, but my entire life. While we do have talents and work ethic that’s important to our success, it is also because of the people in our lives. For me, my parents and the love and support of them throughout my life. The rest of my family, my friends, the amazing teachers I’ve had at every level of my education. The mentors I’ve had who saw potential in me and challenged me to be my best. I think of the friends in this program at Trinity. Those who graduated before me, but whose wisdom was so valuable to me in the beginning of the program when they could empathize with the various challenges we face in this program.
I am happy to be done. But it’s not for the reason that people might think. It’s not that I’m so eager to be finished with classes or papers. I’ll miss it. I’m happy to be done because I know how hard this program is, and so I do feel a sense of accomplishment. I feel like it’s hard to appreciate the difficulty of this program if you haven’t gone through it. It felt like four years of ministry Navy SEAL training. There are so many components to this program. It’s not just reading the Bible. It’s Greek and Hebrew (two languages with two different alphabets that go in two different directions!). Theology, church history, counseling classes, preaching classes. I don’t know what area yet, but I also know I don’t see this as my last degree. So I don’t see myself as being “done.” In many ways, I have just scratched the surface.
It’s bittersweet to finish. I know there will never be another time like this. There were definitely ups and downs in this program. I feel like each semester had its own moments of academic infamy. And while I’m eager to have more time to study things that are specifically of interest to me, there will still never be a time like my years at TEDS. We studied the most important things in life, and I got to learn from some of the best scholars on earth. I was pushed my classmates who were incredibly smart and talented. Everyone at Trinity is smart. You don’t try to do this program at this school without being sharp.
It wasn’t just in the classroom that I grew in this program. I feel like I’ve grown as a person over these last four years. Certainly I, like everyone else, am still a work in progress. Some of the ways I grew were because of the class work. I was pushed harder than I’ve ever been pushed. In my early semesters, the end of each semester I considered to be “the most stressful time of my life” if you were to look at my TimeHop! But then I got to a point where I’d think “I’ve gone this far. I know what it takes. I’ll do this.” There’s a high rate for people who start seminary and don’t make it through. Maybe it was arrogance, but I never doubted that I’d finish. Although knowing how challenging the courses were, I know I wouldn’t have made it through without the grace of God.
Looking back, I can honestly say I had no idea what I was getting myself into. But I have no regrets. I’ve truly been blessed to be here. My thought process when I chose Trinity was pretty simple. DA Carson taught here, and I thought (and still think) he was the best New Testament scholar in the world. William Lane Craig and Ravi Zacharias had both gone here, and I loved Craig as a philosopher and apologist, and Ravi as an apologist (and at Trinity, I had the opportunity to meet each of them). I started to notice other scholars I had read, or pastors I had listened to and respected who had come through Trinity. I thought “Trinity must be awesome.” And it has been.
Josh Benner, MDiv