Student Relishes Debate but Ultimately Learns When Not to Speak

REAL Dialogue
Our students challenge each other to reach beyond what is comfortable and convenient

Third-year Master of Divinity student Ben Gosden likes to debate. A political science major in undergrad, he came to Candler armed and ready to defend his faith against any and every challenge.

“I was warned by all sorts of people to not let Candler ‘steal my Jesus,’” says Gosden.

Ben GosdenSo as he sat in first-year orientation, he was prepared for the battle to begin—until Associate Professor of Old Testament Brent Strawn efficiently and eloquently disarmed him.

“Professor Strawn told us, ‘You’ve all probably heard that Candler will steal your Jesus. Well, any Jesus that a seminary can steal is a Jesus that isn’t worth having in the first place,’” Gosden recalls.

It was a powerful moment, one that helped Gosden see challenge as an opportunity for his spiritual growth and vocational discernment. He likened it to a romantic break-up he’d had earlier in his life, a difficult time when he lost the markers that defined who he was, yet opened him up to self-discovery.

“It is a useful thing to open yourself and to be challenged, to have to reshape your life,” he says. It was that very “reshaping” that ultimately led him to Candler to pursue ministry. For seven years, he had set aside his calling to please his fiancée, but after they parted, he realized he needed to listen and follow his call.

“Only on the backside of that break-up did I realize my call was much more substantial than it had been originally,” he says.

During his first two years at Candler, Gosden relished dialogue. “Candler allows you to believe what you want to believe, and the only condition is that you can articulate why you believe it,” he says. “Every class is enriching even when you don’t agree with the professor.”

His favorite debates have taken place informally, in Brooks Commons during lunch or study breaks, when he learns different viewpoints from his friends in Black Church and Korean studies. “Candler ingrains in us that dialogue should be a priority, and when it’s not forced, when it’s organic, it’s a beautiful thing.”

Ironically, now that Gosden has reached his third year and spent three months serving the church as part of Candler’s Teaching Parish Program, he says he’s “learned to shut up.”

“I am learning when and how to speak,” he says.

A self-described “middle class kid from a single parent home who was prejudiced against wealthy people,” Gosden ministered to a number of “wealthy” people at Mulberry Street Methodist Church in Macon. Many told him money and a good job weren’t making them happy, and they shared with him their other tragic losses.

“If I had not been at Mulberry, I would not have listened to them, loved them or let go of the grip of prejudice. It’s opened my eyes a lot,” he said. “Only God can do that.”