Strong Arguments

  • A strong argument makes claims, and supports them carefully, with evidence. 
  • A strong argument is convincing because it has considered possible objections.
  • A strong argument attempts to persuade by clear, straightforward logic. 
  • An argument need not be controversial. It can be as simple as reaching an obvious conclusion by describing something, or giving reasons for it.
  • When you are writing, you don't need to win an argument. You just need to make your argument as strong as possible . . . by giving convincing warrants for your claim.
  • A strong argument is not a rant. It is cool, not angry, in tone. It listens and ponders before it begins.


A Strategy for the First Three Weeks

As the semester begins, one might imagine that days of winter, finals, and due dates are far off. Actually, this is the ideal time to think about the end of the semester--before it is knocking at the door.
The first three weeks of classes can make the last weeks manageable, if you:
1. Read your syllabi thoroughly before your classes start. Figure out the objectives and strategies of each course.
2. Read the table of contents, front and back matter, and sub-heads of all your textbooks.
3. Find ways your course material intersects with your own interests, future vocation, etc. Imagine ways to integrate your course reading and assignments with your personal goals.
4. Begin to gather new vocabulary for your courses. Look for words with which you are unfamiliar and start to collect and define them.
Use the first three weeks, when not much is assigned, to get ahead of the curve.


Defining and mapping words and concepts

The process of seminary education relies on two steps: defining vocabulary and mapping the connections between the words/concepts. Theology, in the above diagram, for instance, sits "atop" many related areas of inquiry.
How we understand God (theology) affects how we understand human beings and cultures (anthropology). It affects how we understand the church (ecclesiology), christology, eschatology, etc.
"Theology" could also be divided into different sorts/branches/approaches: systematic, contextual, dogmatic, biblical . . . It is important to understand the distinctions, presuppositions, similarities, and how each relates to the other.

Every seminary academic discipline has a unique vocabulary to be defined and mapped: biblical studies, pastoral care, missiology, church history, christian formation, etc.
Reading, writing, and listening helps you to define, create, develop and refine your "maps." The more sophisticated your maps become, the smoother your navigation. Look for lists, charts, and grids that will help you organize the information you are learning.