Master of Divinity: Charting A New Course

Master of Divinity: Charting A New Course

February 2017 Inscribed

YTI is equipping ministers to serve a world where Christianity is an afterthought

YTI begins its Master of Divinity  (M.Div.) program in the fall of 2017. It is unique, it is progressive, and it is sound—theologically, biblically, and culturally. It looks ahead to the needs of the Christian faith in the 21st century.

It is an educational experience at a whole different level of engagement. Students learn in seminars with professors who work and minister side by side with you. YTI’s professors are accomplished and have published in their fields, but understand that how we engage in the education process must change in this brave, new world.

We find ourselves in the middle of a cultural paradigm shift, driven by constantly evolving technology and the human attempt to come to terms with their humanity shaped by this technology. The paradigm shift has created a distorted reality, accompanied by disillusionment, dysfunction, and destruction. This is the brave, new world that faces the church today. In most of the United States, Christianity has become an afterthought, and the church across the board is in decline.

Why Yellowstone and—why now?

Within this cultural context, aren’t enrollments at many seminaries and divinity schools in decline? Isn’t the shift away from residential education toward online education better for the 21st century? Why Yellowstone—with its distinctly residential education—and why now?

We believe institutions that focus on spiritual and religious education need to change. YTI has noted two important areas of change: teaching-learning methodology, and a “recasting” of the theo-ethical perspective.

An integrated approach

First, the advent of the internet and associated technology allowing students to study for their degrees any time and from any location is a captivating idea. It is captivating because education then becomes convenient for the student. The problem with this perspective is that it either trivializes or ignores the community element of education. Who wants to see a physician who never touched a human body, never administered an injection, and never listened to a heartbeat? Then why would we want to trust a minister that never had a counseling practicum, and was never required to practice teaching and preaching, and never had a practical leadership laboratory?

Additionally, the current process of seminary education utilizes a model that came to be the standard in only the last several hundred years. The thought was that if you were able to compartmentalize knowledge, then students would be able to learn more thoroughly and more quickly. However, this approach can lead to artificial divisions between closely related areas of study, and tends to separate knowledge gained in the classroom from life in the real world. According to research done by YTI, many pastors in the Pacific Northwest believed that their theological education was incomplete.

Based on the model of the 12th century Abbey of St. Victor, YTI’s approach is to integrate subjects with immediate application in the world. Students meet from morning to early afternoon in three of four different seminars: Texts & Languages, Faith & Life, Practicum, and World Religions & Culture. Professors do not limit the learning experience to the seminar rooms, but utilize other resources and locations to emphasize the teaching topic. Following the seminars, students engage in ministry in the community, both on and off the YTI property. Rather than traditional grades, students are evaluated on a scale of expectations, and they complete oral comprehensives and write a thesis their final year.

Theology informs an ethic of love

Second, we recast our theo-ethical perspective in order to be effective in our culture today. The very idea of “recasting” theology give some people pause. They think that “recasting” means to change something so that it is “unorthodox” or even heretical. This is not the case. The question we ask is, “How must we communicate the content of the Christian faith in such a way that people in this contemporary context can understand and embrace the good news?”

The real “recasting” that takes place is the prioritization of the ethical aspect of the Christian faith. The concept of agape, or unconditional and selfless compassion for all, is the very center of the Christian faith. This love is both the fundamental nature of God and God’s action towards the world: it is both a theological and ethical concept.

At YTI, the theological and the ethical inform each other. Theology without ethic is dysfunctional; ethic without theology is incomplete. If our Christian theology does not inform a robust agape ethic, then it is simply speculation.

A life-changing adventure

The Master of Divinity  is a comprehensive three-year degree that is designed to transform the student for the sake of the church. It requires scholarship, spiritual discipline, and dedication. It is a life changing experience.

YTI doesn’t simply ‘train’ students for ministry; it shapes men and women for the adventure of a lifetime. Our educational methodology is designed to shape men and women to become scholars, leaders, and adventurers for the mission of Christ.

YTI is training adventurers to go bravely forward, planting, organizing and leading the people of God to make a difference in our world through the body of Christ.