What good is Seminary?

Discussion in 'Baptist Colleges / Seminaries' started by Rhetorician, Aug 5, 2011.

  1. Rhetorician

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  2. Siberian

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    Thanks for posting this; some great insights into the advantages and potential pitfalls of seminary. I thought his comments on reading for worship and not separating devotion from study were spot on.
     
  3. glfredrick

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    I agree that it is a good interview. Some good points were raised.

    One, early on, is perhaps one of the more important points that can be made concerning seminary (and one that I see mis-handled here on the board on a daily basis) is that (paraphrase) "seminary forces one to consider all aspects of various theological positions" and with that thought the things said about learning biblical languages, church history, critical thinking, etc.

    Some of the beefs heard from either Chandler or the interviewer concerning seminary had to do with personal practice and not the seminary per se. Each person has to resolve to make their own priorities, the school is just that -- school -- not church, not family, and not a replacement for active ministry. I will agree that many forget that as they get immersed into their educational endeavor via seminary or Bible college. I've seen it a number of times.

    Personally, while at Boyce College and Southern Seminary, I was continually a member of a church and active, holding the roles of senior pastor, church planter, associational moderator, deacon, Sunday school teacher, youth worker, international missionary, marriage and family counselor, and community group leader, amongst other local church activities. The "family" that we have in and with our various churches is closer to us than our genetic family. Also, I graduated both with highest honors, so it is possible to do church and seminary without that "dry time" mentioned in the interview. That seems to be a choice, not a mandate!

    Another point that was made was the academic nature of the work of seminary. It is indeed rigorous, as anyone who has attended an accredited seminary will attest. Reading 5-10 large and difficult works on theology, church history, apologetics, in each class per semester (with as many as 4 total classes in any given semester!), or working through Greek or Hebrew on top of that other work, yet keeping a life, family, work, and church can teach one how to manage time and remain productive. You either do it and learn to immerse yourself in the study, loving the evidence of God's magnificent grace that comes through the works about Him, or you "get by" and coast into what comes next. I "immersed" myself and found cause to worship God with almost everything I read!
     
  4. Earth Wind and Fire

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    to answer the OP..... What good is Seminary?

    A free one!
     
  5. glfredrick

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    Everything has a cost... I paid over $60K for my education, not counting the 3000+ (expensive) books, computer programs, etc., that were purchased to go with the classroom part of the process.
     
  6. Earth Wind and Fire

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    And what if you got it for free & you could roll that money into developing a church or give it to your kids or whatever.
     
  7. glfredrick

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    That would be nice, but I've found that what one does not pay for, one also often does not value very highly. Cost is an effective means to improve the process. Many a pator diseminates a seminary education (or tries!) into the hearts of his people as he teaches in his church. Most people care little about the process.
     
  8. webdog

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    I can't say I agree with that line of thinking. I didn't pay for my salvation, yet it is more valuable to me than the very air I breathe.
     
  9. glfredrick

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    I agree with the great price paid for salvation, and given to us as a gift... But there was still a great cost involved, just not for us.

    In the realm of education, one gets what one pays for, and yes, sometimes there is tuition money available... :wavey:
     
  10. rorschach

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    Seminary doesn't tend to force you to consider things from all perspectives. I don't see how one could argue that while also defending seminaries for being extremely strict about their acceptance of students based on statements of beliefs. Not a pre-tribber? You'll have a hard time getting into TMS. They explicitly intend to produce teachers who will teach what they believe should be taught.

    Attack or defend that, it's at odds with the idea that you are encouraged to consider things from all perspectives.

    Seminary can be useful, but I've seen far too many people with MDivs from "great" schools like SBTS or DTS, or even PhDs, who can't think, who don't understand Scripture, and who are essentially the same as when they entered seminary. Now, they're 60 grand poorer, accomplished iittle in those three years that didn't go towards their degree only, and are hardly more capable at teaching.

    I have seen seminary students admitted who have barely a scrap of knowledge of Scripture, and are complete strangers to the conversations they get involved in at seminary. What seminary intends to do to them, it generally fails at, and the burden falls on the individual to learn and prepare for life -- just as it did before seminary. Only doing it on your own consumes less time and money.

    The problem is in equating seminaries with learning, or being edified in other ways. Seminary can be useful, but generally it is not, aside from convincing its students that they are informed and open-minded. Even though they say this while at the same time repeating the words of whatever professors and books they encountered.

    Spiritual life suffers, as well. Seminaries tell you to pay more attention to your spiritual and family life than to seminary, yet they hardly structure their programs and acknowledgments in a way to reflect such priorities. One guy at TMS -- even with their required spiritual welfare groups, designed to keep an eye on you and hold you accountable as a Christian -- ended up obsessing over seminary so much that, on graduation day, his wife left him, leavig nothing but a stack of books on the bed and a note saying "You slept with these for the last 3 years, you can sleep with them for the rest of your life."

    I hear so many people talk about studying to show themselves approved, but it seems like little more than a proof-text to defend the unconsidered views of academia.
     
  11. TCGreek

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    Ouch! I hear that. :D
     
  12. Siberian

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    Hmm, you don't like seminary; I got it. But this is way too sweeping, anecdotal and cynical to be helpful (and all your posts sound the same). I'm not doubting your observations (that is what you have seen) only the generalized conclusions you draw from them. I'm sure there are plenty of seminary grads that fit your description and would agree with your criticism of seminary. And I am certain that there are many more who most certainly do not and for whom seminary was excellent training for the ministry.

    Maybe you should take a break from school for a while. Go to the beach, unwind a bit. :)
     
    #12 Siberian, Aug 5, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 5, 2011
  13. Havensdad

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    Yeah. Pretty much disagree with everything you just said. Self learning is great for seasoned, trained ministers who have spent their time learning from older men (preferably in a structured environment like Seminary), and have had a foundation set. Not so good for the new Christian. I wasted 5 years of my early Christian life, because I self studied and listened to the wrong so-called "teachers" and "pastors." Had to spend about a year just deprogramming myself!

    Seminary is USUALLY helpful, and necessary. There are exceptions. People who are lazy and just "get by" in their classes, for a grade, for instance. But how someone thinks 4 years of biblical study, study of church history, etc., is "generally. . .not" helpful, is beyond me.
     
  14. rorschach

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    Havensdad, how do you know that the schools themselves are providing the "right" teachers and pastors for you to learn under?

    I have a much better outlook on ministerial training than I do about seminary education in general. But, the problem arises, regardless of what context the training occurs in, that one must somehow determine what is "right" and "good" for ministry training. Many pastors themselves have 30+ years of experience...in doing things the wrong way. They are part of the club, though, and have many connections with conservative schools. So then, while the pastor is arrogant, only gives attention to his inner circle, refuses to re-examine his teachings, lets his children become prime examples of worldly living, etc, and defines ministry by doing things like visiting sick (and "higher up") members of the congregation in the hospital, his training is viewed as somehow valuable.

    One higher up member of the Indian Pentecostal Church has a lot of influence over what happens in their schools over in India, raising up pastors who are destructive, manipulative, obsessed with reputation, and sacrifice Scripture for the sake of culture. Yet he is conservative, says all the right things to his members, and has a great reputation in the conservative academic community as well.

    How is on to determine where to get good training? It seems that you chose to study certain people on your own, but then later regretted doing so. Have you not decided to trust a new group of people? And how will you know whether they are trustworthy? Reputations and years of experience are not indicative of whether a pastor is a worthy mentor.

    So I wonder how you would propose that such a dilemma be solved, whether individually or in the context of a seminary.
     
  15. glfredrick

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    What I have found is that the degradation of the work required for true scholarly study happens in about 2 generations removed from the seminary trained man. The one trained trains others, who in turn train others, but by then a lot of what the first man knew and taught is lost in the commonness of the teaching, and the man between them doesn't even know how much he doesn't know. By the time that sort of teaching reaches the third generation removed from the educated man, who knows what is being taught? (Well, actually we do know... We read it here every day!)

    I am all for "pastor schools" and especially mentoring of young pastor candidates in churches that can support that activity, as long as the ones doing the actual teaching and mentoring know what they are teaching. When it becomes the blind leading the blind, the church is in trouble, just as we see almost every day, both from posts on this board and in the real world that we all inhabit.

    That, and just try to find a decent ministry position without the sort of training that seminary provides. Yes, it is possible and many of us have done it. But as I send out my resume yet again, I am impressed with the fact that the entry level requirement for most pastoral positions now is, at minimum, an M.Div. There are a lot of men sitting at home thinking that their education level is at that point without seminary training, but I beg to differ with them. Except on rare occasion, it is not. Most don't have a clue about the original languages, church history, historical development of theology and doctrine, or even the current state of affairs in the Evangelical world. Worse, they believe they know their Bible because they have read it, but they cannot tie one big point into the whole of God's revelation because there is no "proof text" for that point. Sad state of affairs that could be remedied, save for the pride of a man who refuses to even acknowledge that he is deficient in scholarly ambitions regarding the MOST important topic in the world, the study of God.
     
  16. Havensdad

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    Seminary. That is the answer.

    A good Seminary does not indoctrinate. A good Seminary starts out teaching neutral subjects, like how to disseminate the scriptures (hermeneutics), and "Surveys" of the New and Old Testaments. A good Seminary includes multiple views, and shows you the pros and cons of each position. Since you have a foundation in Hermeneutics, and (preferably) logic and reasoning, when you approach the scriptures, church history, etc., you will have the tools to study them critically. Just reading the Bible, and reading books, without first studying how to study and evaluate them, often leads to grievous error. There is a reason the scriptures teach that the Older men should teach the younger...not that the younger should just "self study."
     
  17. Havensdad

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    Amen to ALL of that!
     
  18. glfredrick

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    Early on in my training, I was trained by pastors with many years of experience. Both in the local church setting where the pastor under whom I served when called into ministry and later at Boyce Bible School (before it became accredited and was renamed Boyce College) where local pastors taught the course work. As the transition occurred at Boyce, and as I graduated Boyce College and entered Southern Seminary and worked under the professors who held high level doctorate degrees in their field of expertise, I VERY soon came to realize that there is a HUGE difference between a local pastor and a scholarly educated man of God.

    The pastors taught as they preached, and every class was a sermon with illustrations and anecdotes from their church and family. Generally there was an outdated book assigned that the pastor was familiar with (or that a friend wrote, so that the friend could gather more royalties), and the content of the courses was anything but scholarly. Thankfully, this went on for just one year of my undergrad education, after that, Boyce Bible School underwent a serious transformation into an accredited institution, taught by seminary professors. Wow, what a transition. The handful of students who made the switch (some bailed out for Campbellsville University and other places) were in shock as the new staff came on board with a whole new set of expectations!

    The professors with doctorate degrees made us dig into source material, both pro and con on any given topic of theology or history and we were required to know the material well enough to write an exam or a paper that was both coherent and precise. It would be an understatement to say that I have been exposed to every theological doctrine under the sun -- that and more! I have read (both by choice and as requirements for courses) widely in church history, theology, theological history, hermeneutics, ethics, anthropology, biblical languages and their development, church practice, church planting (where I read just about every book on the subject in 3 years) and other issues pertaining to ministry like family and marriage counseling, etc., worship, etc.

    Just imagine sitting in an advanced level theology course with Bruce Ware, where one was REQUIRED to read a book per week, such as Boyd's work on the problem of evil, then figure out if that theologian was good or bad, and bring a contra augment for his work. Failure to contribute to the initial class discussion, when at any point Dr. Ware would call your name and ask a question, was a failing grade for that week. It took only a couple of those occasions to wash out of the course, as several students discovered.

    Or imagine taking Christian philosophy with Ronald Nash, one of the most prolific conservative Christian philosophers ever, and being expected to make a rational philosophical argument in a 30+ page paper that would gain his approval for your final grade in the course. Only one student received an A on that final paper -- me (A+, 1 point shy of a perfect score because I failed to cite one of his books that had a line of text on my subject matter.)

    Those profs expected their students to be conversant with the body of material that existed regarding their respective field of study while taking their class. That meant, in many cases, that the syllabus had a 2-3 page (or more!) list of books, with 5-6 works required reading -- the rest were very helpful if one expected to pass exams! At the seminary level, at least at Southern in the advance coursework, the profs did not "explain" things that should have been elemental by that time. They often taught in the original languages, added much in Latin, German, etc., and the student was expected to keep up. If they did not, that was the student's problem. This was master's level and beyond work.

    I doubt that a self-trained individual, or even one in a pastoral mentorship relationship will get that sort of training or accountability. Yes, there may be a lot of inter-personal skills shared -- and those are one of the areas that most people believe that seminary did not prepare them to handle, but those can and will be learned on the job, and should be learned while in school, if only the student would get out into the church world and do some intern work along the way!
     
  19. righteousdude2

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    It Depends on the Seminary?

    I live in Southern California, and seminaries abound practically everywhere. Here is the problem I've encountered in my lifetime with seminary graduates: quite, a few of them confess that while they attended seminary, they never once had to open the Bible. Everything they studied was from various theological writings, and philosophical writers.

    Of course, most of these folks did refer to their Bibles, but, it is a fact, that the Bible was not tequired reading.

    What a shame, :tear: but it may explain for the watering down of the Gospel by those who have achieved academic success at higher institutions.

    Pastor Paul
     
  20. rorschach

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    You are assuming quite a bit about seminary, aren't you? If I am able to think critically, I don't need a seminary to teach me to do it. I can just read the books (found on a curriculum page online) and think for myself. The problem is, you can't really teach someone to think critically. So they'll either end up spitting out just what YOU told them the pros and cons are, or they'll stick to their original thoughts without influence from yours. What gain has been made, then?

    The pastors who are failing to lead the Church well are often those who attended respected seminaries. Seminaries simply do not do what many on this board have imagined that they do. The problem is not that our pastors don't attend seminary. The problem is that their MDiv didn't make a difference.
     

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