Posts by Jesse Gentile

In life not everyone can be in first place. That position is for Jesus Christ. Perhaps you can have 2nd place and I can be 3rd or 4th. I am a PhD student at Fuller Seminary with interests in analytic theology, theological anthropology, epistemology, and hermeneutics. Equally important I fellowship and teach regularly in open Plymouth Brethren congregations in the LA Area and at conferences throughout N. America. I have been married for 14 years to a wonderful woman of industry and wisdom who works as a wills and trusts attorney. We have two young children. At home there are plenty of legos, crafting messes and things to laugh about. I have MA's in Biblical studies (Dallas Seminary, 2003) Instructional Design (Florida State Unviersity, 2008), and Philosophy (Talbot School of Theology, 2016). Fresh out of undergrad I taught social studies as a public school teacher. I've done piles of web and IT work. I'm a jack of all trades according to some. I enjoy working on cars, refurbishing old furniture, hatching ideas, and collecting books. I am an ENTP per the Myers Briggs type indicator. So I enjoy charting out ideas more than implementing them.

Discovering myself in the Matrix… the other matrix.

 (This is one of two posts moved from a separate site that I began blogging on before choosing to set up my own site).

I am in the second quarter of my Ph.D. program at Fuller Seminary (I’m working in Systematic Theology with a concentration on anthropology an interest in analytic philosophy/theology). I am reminded of a matrix I ran into when studying Instructional Design at Florida State University – the competency matrix. It is a simple matrix, and I’ve no idea where it originated. It applies as easily to those going through more academic theological or philosophical work as it does to other workplace skills. One starts out in the purple box and moves around counter clockwise. In graduate school, one spends more or less of their time in the bottom left quadrant. Many of us are painfully aware of vast fields where we lack “competence”. By “competence” I mean the ability to work with a properly tuned mental map/matrix/scaffold of philosophical or theological concepts in discussions. This includes knowing parts of this mental map affect other aspects. Ideally, it would include knowing what are useful works vs current-authoritative works vs classics in the literature regarding topic X.

As one goes through graduate work they slowly move into the green (bottom right) quadrant depending upon their freedom to work, study, and use material. I assume that one reaches “unconscious competence” (upper right quadrant) after they’ve taught sufficiently long enough that concepts and ideas flow for them in a second nature fashion.

If you are a student like I am, facing your incompetence “consciously” (i.e. quadrant II) I think it is important to remind you not to hang your “self-worth” on this. That is a huge temptation to those in academic work. If possible, shift your perspective to be actively grateful for the privilege of learning, the privilege of becoming aware of a new field. Gratitude, (I believe I got this from Jeffery Schwartz who teaches at UCLA) has a powerful impact on the brain and mental health.

Quickly, as I close up, another challenge here is that in contemporary academics their fields of literature and research are so vast, that one will always be incompetent in more areas than they are competent in. This is true for all humans. (What constitutes competence is a marvelous question here.) As Christians, my concept of self should be impacted by Paul’s presentation of the “body” of Christ – that I am not a lone ranger competing for prominence with others but am instead part of a community of diverse people whose skills and strengths work together for Christ’s agenda.  My hope is to work towards competence in a few areas that I hope will be useful to others,  meaningful to myself, and most importantly pleasing to God.

Until next time!