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Discussion in '2003 Archive' started by TheOliveBranch, Aug 30, 2003.
What do you think of a Pastor that hasn't received a degree from a college?
Maybe you should ask what I think about a Pastor who has? Ha!
Since his job is to 'travel back in time' to the era of the Bible to find out what a passage meant then, using all the tools of original languages and history, literature, customs and manners, society and culture of the time, then come back to our time and use sound hermeneutical methods and exegesis to make applications today, my only problem would be... where did he find the time and under whom did he study all that if not in college?
I mean, a pastor who didn't go to seminary must surely have gone to Bible college, right? And a pastor who didn't get a bachelor's degree in ministry at least got an associate's in pastoral studies, right? If you see what I mean.
I've sat under pastors with a high school diploma or GED and with less than a high school education. Their preaching, except maybe an occasional consultation with Vine's or Strong's and Adam Clarke's commentary, was entirely restricted to what they could get out of their English Bible--and uninformed by solid hermeneutical principles for good exegesis and by thorough historical understanding. For example, applying that verse in Amos that says "Woe to them that chant to the viol" and condemning those who "make unto themselves instruments of musick like David" as a main basis with NT verses that say Jesus and the disciples "sang an hymn" and Paul's admonition to "speak to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" as justification for prohibiting all instrumental music.
What do you get when you deny seminary training and original language study to peasants for generations and then let them develop a tradition that ends their formal schooling at 14--what are the results of the "hermeneutics" and "exegesis" produced by Bible study and preaching under such circumstances? You get the Amish.
The early apostolic leaders didn't need any more of an education than to read the Bible. Today's leaders need a great deal of education just to be as steeped in the society and culture of the apostles' time and their languages, in order to know the Bible the way they knew it and in their context, before bringing it forward to us to apply--because they have a different society, different culture, and different language. College doesn't ensure those things, but a pastor without the apprpriate training mentioned above could be pretty dangerous with the false applications, misreadings and misinterpretations, and inability to see original context.
And, of course, there's the other end of the spectrum...those who educate themselves right out of simple understanding....
Sam Jones, a Methodist evangelist of a different century said, "Get all the education you can, even if you're only going to drive a mule. It just makes that much more difference between you and the mule."
To be perfectly frank, there are so many good books available, one can be self-educated and be as efficient as any seminary or university schooled chap. After all, isn't education the self aplication of knowledge obtained?
I have heard some preachers make great references to the original languages and I wonder what languages they studied because it sure didn't resemble Greek or Hebrew.
I agree with getting all the education one can possibly obtain. I am also abhored at those denomination which demand a degree before ordination. Some very capable men have come on the scene without benefit of a degree, and I should not be guilty of restricting their preaching talents. Let God be God.
yes, I am Bible College, seminary and university trained, but I don't think it is for everyone. Using Dr. Bob's quote; sometimes we might benefit more from the mule.
I learned a valuable lesson early on in ministry. Choose the youngest listener in the congregation and preach to him. The doctor, lawyer and professor will equally understand. Is that not the aim in preaching? That they shall understand and receive the word. Fifty dollar words often need forty-nine dollar refunds.
I have heard good and bad 'uneducated' preachers and I have heard good and bad 'degreed' preachers.
One cannot get common sense or wisdom from a book and if a man does not have these to go along with a degree, that man is an educated fool...
Preachers and Pastors are two different subjects.
I believe that a Pastor of God's Church best be well educated and versed in the things of God, and His Holiness, in order to be the shepherd of the flock.
A Preacher on the other hand, is not a Pastor of a church, but an expounder of God's Word, in the particular areas that God has laid on his heart.
But not to say that a Pastor can't be a Preacher.
Ah, but Justified, the things that a pastor (a shepherd of the flock) needs to be well-versed in are most often matters of personal interaction and counseling...things which are founded from the Bible, of course, but not necessarily taught--or taught well--in seminaries.
Being in the military has given me opportunity to serve under several different pastors. The one I'm currently under, unlike the others, has never finished seminary (he started by correspondence). With the things that I've been privy to so far, and the on-the-spot counselings that I've witnessed, and the times that just he and I have gone out visiting together, I rate him just as qualified as the other pastors I've served under who are bona fide seminary graduates.
When I say we can sometimes educate ourselves right out of intelligence, I recall the story that Dr. Torrey related about Billy Sunday. He and a couple of his seminary colleagues had gone to listen to Mr. Sunday, because they were exceedingly curious how this uneducated man (compared to them) could be bringing in droves of listeners at each of his meetings. By the end of the service, Torrey and his fellows were pushing their way to meet with Sunday to ask him if they could please attend his discipling sessions and learn his methods.
There are many who need the teaching found in seminaries; there are those who do not. To say that you must learn the languages and context beneath our current translations is to imply mistrust in all current translations and make each suspect. Either they're good translations or they're not. Either we can trust them, or we can't. If we can't trust a translation, then we shouldn't use that translation period. If we can trust a translation, then there's not really a need to go back to the original languages; we can always get added benefit from going to those languages, but there's not really a need.
The need for education rests with the individual. The pastor/preacher who prayerfully studies and meditates upon the Word, whether educated by seminary or not, is going to be the more effective pastor/preacher.
Jim1999: I think all M.Div.-requiring denominations probably make exceptions. The mainliners are dying out, true, while conservative churches have to make such exceptions because there are fewer seminary students graduating than openings and need for new pastors.
Still, I know that the United Methodist Church, one of the most liberal denoms out there, requires an M.Div. or its equivalent from a seminary approved by its University Senate as a condition for ordination. It also makes exceptions for non-traditional candidates like career switchers, and has a process for ordaining those with less education. I knew a student pastor in that situation. In light of the shortage of folks willing to serve shrinking rural congregations, he had no trouble getting hired. He then followed procedures for getting on the road to ordination by being enrolled in school. When I met him, he was a sophomore or junior in college majoring in religious studies. And he was serving his second rural congregation, having grown both. Anyway, I'd suspect all M.Div.-expecting denoms make provision for exceptions.
The seminary of the Baptist General Conference has an M.Div. program that's fully accredited and takes about five years, where a pastor already working full-time can get his degree by taking classes a couple weeks or so a year, and doing the rest of his coursework at his own church. Other seminaries will admit a small number of students who never graduated from college to take all the coursework an M.Div. student takes, then grant them a B.D. or Th.B. at the end of study. Some denominations are perfectly happy with a bachelor's from a Bible college. There's a 2-year liberal arts college in Kansas that offers an associate degree in pastoral ministry designed for late bloomers.
Don: "Tradutore, traditore" (translation is treason). Nobody can translate with 100% accuracy from language to another, at least not at length. Nuances and shades of meaning are always lost, and there are always untranslatable ideas that can be at best barely approximated. A pastor who relies like a layman on just an English translation is missing tools for solid expository preaching. And context goes far beyond just knowing the original languages--for example, one cannot accurately preach about 1 Timothy 2's intent and original meaning without knowing about the cult of Artemis and the protognostics at Ephesus. Otherwise, preaching on the passage would be unbelievably incomplete not to mention inaccurate. Someone preaching on the verse commanding us to turn the other cheek has to know about that region and era's social hierarchy and distinctions and the implications of its assumptions of right-handedness--how many preachers relying on an English translation would come away with only a message of non-violence, while those steeped in context as well would also recognize Jesus' call for social equality in the very same words? (Turning the other cheek required the other, if he were still to strike again, to treat the stricken as his social equal by the way he would hit him.)
In the past 50 years there has been a strong movement within ifb'ers to assume that a BAPTIST BIBLE COLLEGE education was all that was needed to be a good pastor. Many went on to seminary, but not the majority.
I find it particularly intriguing that the rise of FALSE TEACHING (like KJVonly sect) and HERO WORSHIP (like the hylesites and gothardites) and BAD DOCTRINE (like the 1-2-3-pray-after-me soul winning) parallels the downward spiral of education in pastors.
I'd like to do a study on that. How many young men come out of certain bible colleges and say "I'm gonna pastor", only to show their ignorance, and destroy churches and lives?
There always have been godly, self-educated men without "formal" training. There have been some good bible college grads that have done commendable work.
But to be able to "give an answer" to those questioning, often takes more training. In this day of quality distance ed, no pastor should settle for being poorly educated.
Sam Jones was right. We HAVE enough mules out there; we need some men!
Maybe that is the challenge the "educated" face, but don't you think it better that they know through education, than to give the answer that they simply don't know?
This has been a question I have wondered about for some time. So many of the Bible Colleges are using secular based books to teach their students. I can't see them coming out of the college without some liberal thought tainting their mindset. On the other hand, how many came out at the same time the rise of false teaching, coinciding with bad doctrines, and turning themselves over to congregations that want the "new" ways of worship? Imagine what happens then to the uneducated who is then descipled by the pastors following the pattern.
Do you also find that it takes more education to give the answers to those that are educated in the congregation? If you teach your congregation to study, there surely will be more complicated questions. If your congregation gets a higher education than the pastor, what could happen? There was a time when pastors were preaching to a group of illiterates, or a group of very little education. But we are living in a day of educated people. Many more are being encouraged to go to college, and those considering this are asking the pastor for the good schools he recommends. I would think it could become a sticky situation if that student comes back with either a strange doctrine, or worse yet, finds the pastor has been teaching something that was false.
I would encourage all prospective preachers to go as far as they possibly could in their education. I would counsel them to be very cautious about where they went to school, but I do believe it should be pursued with diligence.
Now, I also keep in mind that educated or not, God is the one who makes competent ministers of the New Covenant (2 Cor. 3).
A sharp ax cuts more wood. But if you are too lazy to use the ax, it doesn't do any good to have a sharp ax or an ax at all.
Education will not make something that doesn't exist. It will not make a fountain in a desert.
"True knowledge comes so hard that it will serve to keep you humble and all you can digest will not hurt you, provided, of course, that you do not run after knowledge falsely so-called, but seek the real knowledge of God's truth."
"So all preachers cannot be scholars. But do not be afraid that you will learn too much. For your seminary course will not make you a scholar. You will be a long way still from any such goal. There will seem to be more for you to learn when you leave than when you came. You will know less about Cain's wife than you do now. But you will have more rapid and effective methods of sermonizing, clearer ideas of biblical study, and juster conceptions of Scriptural exegesis and doctrine and the relation of Christianity to the history and wants of men. And these are the main things that you need to get from a theological education." (The Best of A.T. Robertson, Compiled by Davis S. Dockery, Edited by Timothy and Denise George Foreward by Herschel H. Hobbs)
I find that I have to study more since I went to seminary than before. But what I have to give is greater also. I am not satisfied with just a cursory knowledge that I once had. I am not satisfied until I feel as though I fully understand the text to the best of my ability.
It amazes me how many uneducated men will say the scripture is so clear about something. The fact is they really don't know the context behind the scripture, and they don't realize how ignorant they really are.
[ September 01, 2003, 10:16 PM: Message edited by: gb93433 ]
I have said before and it bears repeating: I came out of seminary with all the answers. One week in the field and someone raised more questions.
The pastor must ever be learning. This may come from personal study, as many of the scholars of old, or distance studies, but study he must.
In a given area of service, there are men who excelled in their schooling, and one should not be so proud to seek advice and understanding.
You all know that I advocate all the education possible and I don't limit this to theological learning. Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was a medical doctor and he was a biblical scholar. What Bible college do you suppose he attended? He took over a lifetime ministry after G. Campbell Morgan, and was much sought after for his brilliance.
The co-founder of Youth For Christ decided he needed more education and graduated from Princeton. He became an agnostic.
The most liberal church in Canada demands higher learning. The few evangelicals in that denomination are Bible College graduates with only basic training at the denominational seminary.
I wouldn't limit the training at a Bible College, and I wouldn't glorify the training at a seminary. I took my doctorate at a liberal school, but remained an evangelical all my ministry. It all hinges on the commitment of the student to remain faithful to the word.
I balieve a good education to be a benefit to any man of God. But I also believe that God can use a man regardless of his level of education.
I have heard well-educated men speak forth the truth of God, and I have heard some so muddy the water that even the most devout were without direction or compass. I have heard country preachers murder the word and spirit of the Bible, and have heard some that would rival and D-Min for depth and perception (not many, but some).
I find that most uneducated preachers tend to take an idea, wrap it around a verse or two, throw in a couple of examples of Bible characters, and run full tilt with their own opinion. The vast majority do not even know what exegesis means, much less how to go about it. The people go hungry, lacking the meat of the word.
I do not have a degree, but am self-educated. I am not afraid to stand on the shoulders of giants (Vine, Strong, Cruden, Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones, MacArthur, Swindoll, Graham, and many, many more).
I prefer to sit under a man of education, if possible. But I go where God tells me, no matter what the credentials or initials behind the name.
If a Pastor is called of God, then I believe that he is a man of God. Read Exodus 4:10-12.
Some of the smartest people never went to college (Benjamin Franklin, for example). Some of the dumbest people I have ever encountered had more education than I do (a few of my professors when I was in college).
Also for example (piggy-backing on the North vs. South thread): Lee graduated second (of 49) in his West Point class (albeit with top academics), while Grant graduated 21st (of 39).
Billy Sunday, anyone?
Look, don't get me wrong. We should all always be looking to learn more. But in some regards, there's a misunderstanding. For example, I know nothing of what Tauf mentioned of Artemis and the protognostics in regards to 1 Timothy 2; however, I know that Paul wrote a letter to Timothy to give him advice, exhortation, and support. I know that 1 Timothy 2 starts with the words "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men", and find no problem with its meaning; and I know that the principle of what is mentioned in verse 9 is that of ensuring we don't draw emphasis to ourselves, but rather God in us.
Not saying you're wrong, Tauf; just hoping to come to an agreement that we should all strive to learn more, but that a seminary degree isn't necessarily the reflection of that learning.