Are traditional seminaries useless?

Discussion in 'Baptist Colleges / Seminaries' started by Alain, Jul 8, 2003.

  1. Alain

    Alain
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    This is a copy of a post that I made in another thread

    but since I would like to hear from current and former seminary students and faculty
    I post it here


    In my opinion, traditional seminary education as well as traditional scholarship is failing the Church(I should know, I am in seminary)

    Traditional seminary education can if one is not careful be a challenge to one's faith and does not always make one more spiritual at the end of the Journey

    I do not blame traditional seminaries for the lack of intellectual training (some seminaries could do better but overall one can be well equipped intellectually)

    What I have against traditional seminary education is that more often than not it fails to equip the future minister (or even scholar) where it matters the most: spiritually

    The "success" in ministry should be primarily determined by the spiritual state of the servant of God not his intellectual capacity. the academic knowledge is useful and good do not get me wrong (I love to study and consider the library to be one of my favorite hangouts...shame, shame) but it is not what is more important

    it is that love for the Lord and fellow humans, that passion for the things of God, the display of the fruit of the Spirit, the zeal for the word of God and His will that is the common thread among all the Great men and women of God in Scriptures...some like Paul were educated others like Peter were not

    I am afraid that the only thing seminary is teaching me to do in that department is how to fake it and say the right thing (ok , it is not always that bad)

    How many of us have confused reading a theology book or exegetical commentary with spending time with God?

    How many of us have looked at a “devotional” commentary with disdain and picked up the exegetical one for its greater “insight”

    Have you ever wondered why the qualifications of scholars who write our textbooks are purely academic (what degrees and where) and seldom spiritual (as in how is you walk with God)
    In addition, we imagine that spirituality (or the lack thereof) does not transpire in the work of our esteemed scholars

    We should do our best with our academic training and strive to be scholars but we should not forget what is more important, to know God intimately and walk in the Spirit


    I do not see the actual trends really changing but I am afraid that for some reasons the more academic a seminary becomes, the more the spiritual aspect takes the back seat


    The reason why I like the idea of a non –traditional institution is that it could provide the necessary and close link with the local church and its realities

    It could make scholarship for the sake of scholarship difficult, and could force the institution to set its purpose on first equipping the Christian for the work of the ministry and Christian living

    Goals that are the purpose of Scriptures and should be the ultimate purpose of Scholarship about Scriptures

    It also allows the members of the Church to benefit from the education; more “regular” Christian will be able to take classes or attend in-Church seminars; this goes in the direction of fighting the biblical illiteracy that plagues the Church
    Theological education should not be the monopoly of a select few but should be the goal of all Christians since we are all called to know God

    It also redirects the curriculum from primarily a reaction to what is going on in academia (dialogue with and or refutation of liberal theology and other scholarly “tasks”) to addressing the needs of the body without forgetting issues addressed in academia


    Your thoughts?


    In Christ


    Alain
     
  2. Hardsheller

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    Every Church should be a mini-seminary. Learn how to do it at the traditional seminary and then bring it home to your local congregation tailored by your congregation's need and by your vision for your church.
     
  3. RandR

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    I can only speak for myself, but I grew spiritually while in seminary proportionate to the amount of my own desire to grow spiritually. The semesters where I was only concerned with a grade, I did not. The semesters where I was seeking to grow in both intellect and spiritual maturity, attending chapel services reguarly, fellowship with other seminarians, etc., I did grow spiritually.

    I would argue that "success" in mininistry, as you put it, is NOT measured by ones intellectual ability. Success in seminary, however, is. I suppose a professor could give a New Testament student a high grade for being very sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit or for having a dynamic prayer life, but that probably wouldn't be much incentive for the studnet to learn about the New Testament.

    More and more seminaries are recognizing the same perceived deficiency, however, and are honestly trying to do something about it. Several schools have added "spiritual formation" groups that entering students assigned to and the groups are given faculty "mentors." Their purpose is NOT to discuss Greek noun declensions or the identity of "Q" but to help students process what they're learning in class and integrate that into their faith journey.

    So, no, I personally don't think that seminaries as a rule are becoming irrelevant. Some might never recognize or try to compensate for the imbalance of which you speak. But others are, and do. If your current school is that dry, you might look into a different seminary before you write them all off in one fell swoop.
     
  4. USN2Pulpit

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    Well put, RandR.

    I have not gone to seminary, but have done numerous independant (and accredited) studies. I'm about to embark upon a diploma course with Seminary Extension. I have found over the years that schooling at my own pace has been very rewarding, giving me opportunity to learn, to minister, while yet making a living and providing for my family.

    Speaking of seminary extension, there is at least one other on this BBS enrolled. J_Barner...where are you, and how are you finding the study?
     
  5. Alain

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    RandR


    I will agree will you that one cannot generalize and that different seminaries have different success with helping the spiritual lives of students.
    However, my goal is to examine the system as a whole, and see if the results warrant optimism or concern


    For secular discipline there is a marked correlation between success in academics and success in real life. This is even more noticeable among professionals (people that are successful in law school, Med school, engineering, computers will usually be successful in their corresponding field of work). This is what you use to judge the school and the potential of graduates

    Christian ministry does not fit this pattern and there is almost no correlation between success in academics and success in ministry. Sometimes we see reverse correlation


    This is where I see a problem
    And the state of our churches testify to it (do not get me started on that one)

    I am no saying that no seminary is trying to help people spiritually, mine is

    What I am saying is that the traditional system does not give the priority to spiritual formation, training that is the most important

    As you admit yourself the traditional system is unable to really factor one spiritual state into the equation

    Jesus trained disciples and future apostles, as their writings shows they ended up being very knowledgeable as far Scriptures is concerned, but book knowledge was not Jesus primary goal it was the intimate knowledge of God

    I do not believe that academica arein themselves opposed to spirituality, far from it but I believe that academics without strong spirituality could be toxic and destructive
    Academics are very important but it is there to support spirituality not to replace it

    Jesus (and Paul) taught by mentoring and setting the example in real life. The method of learning was by imitation

    The traditional system is no really equipped for that (I am not speaking of mentorship in thesis or research projects)


    How can one create spiritual growth in a congregation if himself does not have or has never seen it at work

    The ten steps for spiritual growth will not do

    Jesus did not leave it up to his disciple to grow spiritually; no, He led them into the process

    What should I expect any less from seminaries that are after all preparing believers for the ministry

    If one spiritual state is the key for “successful” ministry why isn’t the seminary investing primarily in what is key?

    or is it that the traditional system just cannot?


    Alain
     
  6. Dr. Bob

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    I think traditional seminary is a MUST for most pastors. In depth theology, hermeneutic, languages. Our Bible college-only or local church trained-only pastors just do not have the scholarship to stand up against some of the attacks in the world today.

    I went to seminary and "short-cutted" with an MA program rather than the full MDiv. Get out in the ministry because Jesus is coming soon. After 5 years in the pastorate, in over my head in counseling situations and battling ecumenical inundations (anyone remember Key '73?) I went back to school. And continued part time while pastoring for many years.

    It is arrogant of a pastor to think that he, as one individual, is competent to teach as a mentor all that a student should know. :(
     
  7. Alain

    Alain
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    Dr. Bob


    I am in no advocating downgrading the curriculum or avoiding "In depth theology, hermeneutic, languages"

    No, I am taking Greek and Hebrew beyond the required hours and like to delve into exegetical and hermeneutical questions along with Bible backgrounds and historical questions. I am planning to get a Ph. D. in NT studies but I do not even start fooling myself into thinking that this will qualify me for ministry

    That is good and necessary but it is NOT what is the most important for ministry

    The minister's spirituality is more important that the minister's knowledge (although both are necessary)


    I do not claim that the local church right now can provide the training I am talking about

    My point is that the traditional seminary is deficient on what matters the most


    It is not an “either... or” situation
    It is more a “both ...and” situation


    Alain
     
  8. gb93433

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    By the time I went to seminary I was so discouraged with all I had "learned" in the local church. I had so many questions from my personal study and going by the theology I had been taughtand the the books I was told to read. When I would ask my pastor some serious questions, he often had no answers. He had gone to very reputable Bible school. But he had bought into the theology that they taught. But I challenged some of his theology by asking many questions and trying to fit together what he taught. Neither he nor I could fit it together. Now I know why. But I didn't then.

    When I went to seminary it answereed so many questions and showed me the direction I had been taken by teaching that did not teach the Bible in its historical context.

    I had studied dispensationalism and raad many books by Larkin, SCofield and Chafer. But I came up with so many unanswered questions. I got to the point where I was so frustrated that I quit reading the Bible for quite some time. Finally, I began to pray and ask God for wisdom. Then I heard a sermon in another church and it made a huge difference. Seminary showed me the mistakes of the dispensationalism. A close friend of mine who was a Ph.D. student at a major dispensational seminary told me that the majority of younger professors believe very little of what the older professors do. Kind of intersting isn't it?

    While I was in seminary I had access to the library which is one of the largest theological libraries in the US. So I was able to read many books about what I struggled with. I waa able to meet with professors and ask them about their beliefs. Many times they would tell me in private things they would not say in a classroom. If they had said some of those them in a classroom there may not have been time to properly discuss those things.
     
  9. KPBAP

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    No, they are not useless by any means, but they are going through adaptations like all schools of higher education. I definitely believe that mail order ministry education is a joke. There must be interaction with other minds, voices and even ideas for true education to take place. The internet has altered education on all levels and the education community as a whole is still wrestling with and judging its relevance.
    I went to seminary when it was still education and not indoctrination. One must at least be exposed to differing ideas and must be challenged to grow. I know too many Christians and Ministers who only believe what one pastor/professor has "taught" them and have never internalized their education/belief.
    After having seminary students work for me, I also see a need for internships or a blending of ministry and coursework. So many students now come straight from college with NO church/ministry experience then get their seminary degree and fall and fail in ministry. Some major areas of weakness in all theological education I feel is in the area of counseling and budget planning.
     
  10. Pastor Larry

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    Maybe a different seminary would have been beneficial. Seminary is what pushed me over the edge with dispensationalism. Before going to seminary, I had been taught all the stuff about dispensationalism that most people think it is ... arminian, two ways of salvation, etc. But when I went to seminary and was forced into the text, I realized that dispensationalism was the only consistent way to interpret the Bible. I realized that two ways of salvation was not dispensationalism but merely foolish false doctrine. I realized that arminianism was not required. In short, seminary showed me the problems with all the alternatives because it was a seminary that insisted on exegesis of Scripture.

    I think seminary is indispensable. It is an absolute must for men who want to be in ministry.
     
  11. gb93433

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    In Chafer’s systematic theology he talks about two types of salvation– one for the Israel and another for those who believe (Systematic Theology Vol. 3 Soteriology pages 105-108). Are not those who are saved the church? Yet Chafer seems to indicate that they are not a part of the church. They are different. They are Israel.

    I read Chafer’s systematic theology 17 years before I went to seminary and had many questions then that went unanswered. So I saw the problems long before I went to seminary.

    At the center of dispensationalism is seventeenth century German rationalism that was popularized in the English speaking world through Scottish Common Sense Realism.

    The major flaw in dispensationalism is that everything is filtered through the theological system rather than drawing your theology from the historical context of the scripture. When they conflict the true dispensationalist will go back to the filter again. The dispensationalist uses the scripture not to establish his belief system from the Bible but “properly” read through this filter system of dispensationalism only serves to confirm his already established beliefs. Thus dispensationalism becomes the standard rather than the Bible.

    Progressive dispensationalists have thrown out much of the old hard line dispensationalism. The filter has been changed because it was not a sufficient filter. So it was changed some. But during that time the Bible has not changed nor its historical context. But by changing their dispensational view they have admitted that it had flaws.

    Spurgeon called the early dispensationalism “Darbyism.” Sometime read the book Genesis To Deuteronomy by C.H. Mackintosh. It will clearly show how early dispensationalists interpreted scripture. No one today would interpret scripture like that.

    If anyone has gone to a dispensational school recently they will notice that most of the hard line dispensationalism is gone. For someone to not have read Chafer’s systematic theology is to say that they have not studied the heart of dispensational theology.

    I have a close friend who was a Ph.D. student at DTS and once I told him that it seems that we agree on most everything and that I don’t hear him say much of what the older dispensationalists believe. He told me that most of the younger professors do not believe much of what the older professors do. Kind of even shows you what the younger professors think of the older dispensational theology.

    Progressive dispensationalism has changed the original dispensationalism of J.N. Darby, Scofield and Larkin.
     
  12. Kiffin

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    I think Seminaries are good and would encourage any young preacher called into the ministry to attend to get a theological education. I do not however think that seminaries are an absolute must for men who want to be in ministry. Not every man can attend and some of the best pastors and preachers I have known never attended seminary. Seminaries do not make a person a minister nor does a degree mean you have a education.

    Personaly I Think there needs to be a better way such as maybe mentorship rather than seminaries. In the OT we see the School of the Prophets, with Eli and Samuel, Elijah and Elisha and maybe Samuel and Nathan. A young preacher taught and mentored by a veteran pastor who he could serve with seems more in line with scripture. I think saying seminaries are an absolute must for men who want to be in ministry implies seminary educated preachers are more qualified to pastor than non seminary educated preachers. Some of the smartest preachers I know have never attended seminary and some of the most heretical preachers I know of have a wall full of degrees.

    Once again I encourage preachers to attend seminary but I do not think I am more qualified to pastor than one who hasn't attended. To say it is a must implies superiority of seminary preachers over non seminary preachers and has a hint of BIG Preacher LITTLE Preacher.

    [ July 09, 2003, 02:31 PM: Message edited by: Kiffin ]
     
  13. Pastor Larry

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    Needless to say, I disagree with virtually everything you wrote. I think you don't understand the basics of dispensationalism, but rather the caricature that so many try to espouse. As I say, a good dispensational seminary would have put much of that to bed. It is a shame that you abandoned it so easily. But back to the topic of the thread ...
     
  14. Pastor Larry

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    Needless to say, I disagree with virtually everything you wrote. I think you don't understand the basics of dispensationalism, but rather the caricature that so many try to espouse. As I say, a good dispensational seminary would have put much of that to bed. It is a shame that you abandoned it so easily. I don't see how you can say that dispensationalism is a filter in anyway. I can make a much more convincing case about non-dispensationalist approaches, using Scripture as evidence for it. Chafer wrote a systematic theology about what some dispensationalists believe. But it is not dispensationalism. The only dispensationally distinct doctrines are ecclesiology, eschatology, and to some degree pneumatology. There is no dispensational soteriology. Not understand what Chafer did and what dispensationalism is causes you to carry some unneeded baggage to the topic. I seriously wish these caricatures and misunderstandings would cease. A good dispensational seminary would have answered all of those questions. This is why I say that seminary is necessary. You abandoned dispensationalism becuase of a lack of proper teaching about it. Many of those espousing dispensationalism suffer from the same problems that you manifest. Chafer did not write for all dispensationalists and certainly not for dispensationalism. Covenant theology has many internal squabbles and intramural problems that manifest great problems for their view. Good seminary education will enlighten as to these things and equip one to make better decisions. In the end, it all comes down to exegesis.

    But back to the topic of the thread ...
     
  15. gb93433

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    You are assuming that because I don't buy into dispensational theology that I am a covenant theologian. I am not.

    Good exegesis begin with understanding the historical context. A. T. Robertson was a big proponent of this.

    I am sure you realize that dispensational theology has gone through a metamorphosis in the past three decades.

    I would agree with a lot of what dispendsationalists believe today but not at all with those of the past.

    But I guess when we get it perfect, we will see Jesus face to face. But until then we must study and share our faith and make disciples.

    I have seldom ever seen anyone stray far from sound doctrine who was sharing their faith with non-believers.

    Non-believers can often see through the nonsense of fruitless religion. I have seen many who have gone to a rigid legalistic church and then throw it away when they leave home. They never got a dose of real religion as James speaks about.

    But I would look for a seminary that will make you work hard academically and make you work hard to learn practical ministry.

    At one point in time you must stop being led and start leading. I think the ideal is when you begin leading and are led by someone who is more mature.

    A good seminary wil not give you all the answers and tell you what to believe just so you can spit out the work someone has done or reinforce the theology of someone else. It will give you tools so that you can study and learn well the things God has for those who study hard. A good seminary will also give practical help toward ministry not just tell you.

    Look at Jesus and what He did. He didn't sit down in front of a bunch of men and teach them. He took them out to do ministry as well.
     
  16. Dr. Bob

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    Amen! That is ideal! [​IMG]
     
  17. Pastor Larry

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    I agree with virtually everything you said in this post. I think the practical leadership is a necessity but it is never learned in teh classroom. It must be learned in life.
     
  18. j_barner2000

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    USN... I am here and have actually been busy studying for a final exam. Also had VBS and Children's ministry issues to take care of. Seminary Extension is great for a person who works full time, is interning and has a family. I can schedule my class time very flexibly. The materials are according to my pastor as tough as he was when he taught classes. It is imperative to have access to guided ministry experience. No matter where you get your academic training. Academic and practical experience are both indispensible. As a man who was called later (36 years old) in life, the most logical educational choice for me was Seminary Extension. (www.seminaryextension.org) Of course I am blessed by having a pastor with over 50 years experience who is willing to mentor me.
     

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