Two Cent Tuesday – Worst Grade in Semianry

by on December 16, 2008

I admit… I got a D- in Systematic Theology III. Now, I can rattle off my list of excuses, but I think I shall spare you the details as the humiliation is probably good for building my character.

The truth of the matter is that I am really embarrassed by the grade. Despite my constant writing about how unimportant grades are in seminary, the truth is they are still important to me. I do find far more of my identity in my grades that I probably should. I do wonder what my professor thinks of me and I want to hide my grade from everyone and anyone who might ask. But maybe that is part of the lesson this D- has afforded me.

Actually, the biggest thing my D- has has done is remind me that Jesus doesn’t have a grading scale… or at least (for analogy sake) he saw that I was going to bomb the test, so he failed it too in order that I might receive the blessing of the curved grade (uh… I know, not the best… but I did get a D-, so give me a break). But in reality, Jesus isn’t thinking, “oh, that Ryan… didn’t do too hot in Sys. Theo. III. Not sure I’ll be able to use him to expand my kingdom anymore.” And, silly as that sounds, I think some of us might struggle with that. Can God really use me if I get bad grades? Will he use me if I don’t finish my degree? These are real struggles and real battles that some of us face.

I guess, for me, at the end of the day I hang my hat on Romans 8:38-39. My D- can’t separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus. That, friends, is good news indeed.

Care to share you worst seminary grade?




The author of this post is noted above. and were created by Ryan Burns. He is currently on staff at Redemption Hill Church in Richmond, VA, and recently launched a site to help people find Seminary Scholarships and anther site to help people find Church Jobs. He also writes about his experiences doing GORUCK events on his hobby blog.


Something that motivates me to do well is the size of our classes. For example, my Hebrew class ended up with just 3 of us. Next semester it will likely be 4. I feel like I’m insulting the professor if I don’t give it my best.

However, I am trying to keep some perspective on all of this. Most of my papers are only of B+ quality because I’m not one to comb through the libraries three times in search of all the source material. My trips to the library are usually a sacrifice for my wife as that is time when I would normally be with the kids. I’d rather get a 90 on a paper than put forth all the extra work to get a 98.

I remember taking beginning Hebrew during fall semester one year. At the beginning of the semester I kept up with the work and did quite well. However, I soon started slacking and fell way, way behind. I did not deserve even the D that I wound up with.

At the beginning of second semester, this professor and several of us students were laughing and talking in a hallway prior to the opening day rituals of the semester. He was talking about Hebrew and I was laughing about how he gave me a D. His face suddenly got gravely serious. “Did you not think you deserved a D?” My response was, “You misunderstand. I’m not complaining. I’m thanking you for the gift!” Immediately the light-hearted mood returned to the conversation and he started laughing again.

Thanks for this post! As a first semester seminarian, I am now just dealing with incoming grades, due soon for the fall semester.

I do so want this experience to be about education, not a degree; learning, not grades.

That being said, I wonder how I will deal with my first bad grade, whether this semester or in the future (oh yes, it is out there!)

Thanks for the honesty and the encouragement.