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Finding his focus: Cal Samuelson, graduate student in theology

Posted: Mar 18, 2014

2014-03-18CalSamuelson
“I may serve as a missionary, a professor or a pastor, but I will be teaching,” says Cal Samuelson ’13. “In Olivet’s master of Christian thought program, I’m gaining valuable experience.”

Cal is the first — and right now, the only — scholar accepted into this new program, offered by the School of Theology and Christian Ministry.

The Master of Arts in Christian Thought (MACT) degree program is a 46-hour, two-year, on-campus program. Scholars accepted into this program take seven theology courses. In addition to the regular content that all students receive, they take an associated tutorial with the professor of each of the seven courses. The tutorials focus on the scholarly literature in each area, including the methods and research.

“God is calling us to bigger things, and we never have an excuse to plateau or become bored,” Cal says. “What I’m learning now is really important and changing my life.”

Challenges change students

As a graduate student, one of the toughest lessons Cal has already learned is the importance of diligence in undergraduate courses of study. Building on that learning, a graduate student learns much more than information or facts in his or her studies.

Cal is also finding that graduate-level research projects and papers require much more work. “I can’t just knock out my papers in a week,” he says. “Ideas have to have a lot more support. It hit me that I’m really doing scholarly work now. Time restriction is challenging the way I have to think. Basically, I’m thinking about and doing multiple assignments in three different classes, but I must keep those separated in my mind.”

As an example, he had to find a balance between theological reading and historical reading. During the same time period, he was researching and reading secondary works about John Wesley’s eschatological views for one class, and primary texts from the Church fathers for another class. “Essentially, I’m being trained to do good research,” he says.

Callings change people

In the context of his plan to teach, Cal is considering several career possibilities. “I believe God has given me the gift to teach,” he says. “That may mean being a professor, maybe even at Olivet. Or a pastor, although that probably won’t be immediately. I’m also really called to missions work.”

Next year — as part of his MACT program —Cal will be an adjunct professor at Olivet, teaching the Christian Faith course to undergraduates. This will be an opportunity for him to gain experience at the university level before he moves forward in his career.

“In this program, I’m seeing more of how God uses everything to build His kingdom,” Cal says. “There’s not a cut-off point.”

As he continues his studies, he will not only be acquiring knowledge, but also be involved in the synthesis of knowledge. “Sharing our knowledge about Jesus has very little value unless it connects with and is sensitive to an individual’s context and situation in life,” he says.

Cal is embracing opportunities to connect with different people in different contexts. This past summer, he completed an internship with a missionary in the Middle East. (Because of the nature of the work, he is not free to reveal any details due to security concerns.) This summer, he will be preaching and teaching in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“God is so much bigger than a degree or a vocation,” Cal says. “God will use everything I’m doing in my life for His good.”
 
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Acres of Olivet's beautiful, park-like campus in Bourbonnais, Ill.