Changes at BBS Reflect Growing Ministry Trends

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"Baptist Bible Seminary’s enrollment has stayed strong over the years, and today, over 90 percent of BBS students choose to study online or in short, on-campus modules a few times per year. ...Based on current national trends and future projections, this model of seminary education only promises to grow. In response to this, Clarks Summit University’s Board of Trustees is making strategic changes to best serve current and future seminary students."

Professors Mappes, Arp, and

Professors Mappes, Arp, and Gromacki may continue on as adjuncts, but will not be full-time in the seminary. There perhaps was another, but I can't remember his name.

What I received

Out but may continue as adjuncts:

  • Dr. Bill Arp, Professor of New Testament and Greek
  • Dr. Gary Gromacki, Professor of Bible and Homiletics
  • Dr. Alan Ingalls, Professor of Old Testament Languages and Literature
  • Dr. David Mappes, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology & Bible Exposition

Continuing as full-time faculty: 

  • Dr. Lee Kliewer will continue to serve as Seminary Dean
  • Dr. Wayne Slusser will continue to serve as Assistant Seminary Dean, Associate Professor of New Testament and Greek, and advisor for our MABA program
  • Dr. Ken Pyne will continue to serve as Seminary Chaplain, Director of Internships, and Associate Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Bible Exposition
  • Dr. Ken Gardoski will continue to serve as Professor of Systematic Theology and Director of Doctoral Programs
  • Dr. Mark McGinniss will continue to serve as Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew and Editor of the Journal of Ministry & Theology
  • Dr. Ken Davis will continue to serve as Director of Project Jerusalem and Associate Professor of Pastoral Ministry.

 

Sad to Hear

I'm a bit saddened to hear this. I was part of the "problem" though, because I did my M.Div. there on-line with a few trips to campus for modules. Rod Decker was a driving force at the seminary, and I'm thankful I got to take classes with him before he passed. The seminary lost its only active scholar (imho) when he passed.

Given the recent changes, I probably won't consider going there in the future for my Th.M. or D.Min.

Why Not?

I think the switch to emphasize virtual education is a very good move. Is BBS doing this because the school is in jeopardy? That is, is this announcement really just a sign that the institution is going down? Maybe, maybe not. But, the Seminary has some very good programs, and it seems to me they can reduce overhead by having adjuncts and going to a more virtual format. I like BBS, and I hope this works out well for them.

Fundamentalist schools have been left in the dust by their evangelical counterparts, both on accreditation and learning options. Maranatha (i.e. the "best" seminary!) has destroyed everybody on both these fronts. There is no other fundamentalist institution which has regional accreditation and a completely virtual MA and MDiv option. I believe this is why they're doing well.     

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

Virtual education: Time aligned vs non-time aligned

Virtual education is location non-aligned: The host location may be miles - even half a world away:

Location non-aligned (or virtual location): This is one of the great appeals: A student does not need to:

  • Move ($$ saved)
  • Sell a house / leave an apartment lease [when I went to seminary, we sold a house in Pittsburgh and bought a house in Grand Rapids]
  • Leave a job / find a job (a heard this fact from a business person: it takes 1 month per $ 10K of salary to find a job. Making $ 30K = 3 months to change jobs)
  • Leave and change churches: This too is huge - can stay in home church where one presumably has been exercising ones gifts vs new location where one has to "prove" himself

Time non-aligned: (time asynchronous)

  • Say the seminary class is 9:00 to 9:45 am Eastern time. Time aligned means that one must take that class at that time (in synch with the real lecture time) . In the Pacific time zone? That's 6:00 am to 6:45 am. In India (where many time zones are 11.5 hours off US time zones) that's at 8:30 pm to 9:15 pm
  • Time non-aligned means a student can take the class anytime - at the student's convenience

Time-aligned only is half a loaf. Not the pure virtual experience! Looks like MBU is the full virtual experience.

 

Jim

MBU is time non-aligned. But, it can work. I've taken Greek with an Egyptian student and people all over the US.

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

I did my doctorate through

I did my doctorate through Southern in a hybrid (partially online but partially one week modules on campus). The on campus experiences were far and away the best and most beneficial part of the program (both my undergrad and masters degree were done residentially). I honestly just can't imagine an all-online degree experience for me personally.

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Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

People are Different

I've done my entire theological education virtually or online. I was on campus for one single module. That's it. I don't "need" to have direct interaction with other students or faculty. I've exchanged perhaps 10,000 emails with my Greek professor over the years, and read a lot. That works for me. For other people, it doesn't work. People are different.

I''ve been preaching and teaching concurrent with my theological training, so perhaps that makes a difference. I've had to apply theology directly to the crucible of real ministry for years, and that means I don't really have time to sit in a student coffee shop and chat about the extent of the atonement. I've had to make theology practical for real people, living real lives. I've just never felt I missed anything from not "living in community" with other students on campus.

But, I realize I'm strange. I'm not knocking other people who found that experience life-transforming. I just never missed it or needed it. I think Seminary students can do without it, if they're concurrently serving in the local church in a meaningful way.

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

I understand what you are

I understand what you are saying, Tyler, and can appreciate your perspective.

One thing I do want to say, though, is that in both Bible college and seminary we were required to be involved in local church ministry, so we were "applying theology directly to the crucible of ministry" as well. I was a part-time youth pastor for 5 of the 7 years of college and seminary (in addition to having a full-time secular job and going to school full-time and being married and having a child). Most seminaries are similar, so it's not just theoretical knowledge that is being gained--it is "practical" and "real" at the same time.

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Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Ditto

Like I said, people are different. Not better. Not worse. Just different. Education is going to be virtual in the future. I predict on-campus attendance will continue to shrink. The lower cost and logistical advantages are simply too great. Go Maranatha . . . Smile

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

BBS Retrenchment

From what I saw and heard when I was on campus last May, this announcement is a significant retrenchment on the scholarship taking place at BBS. The Journal of Ministry & Theology seems to be defunct (last published Fall 2015); its former editor (Gromacki) now an adjunct. Slusser came in to replace Decker, and he's not even a close second in scholarship. Several faculty who published regularly have either left / retired or are near retirement. Now that the seminary has been "downgraded," it will be hard to find quality replacements (imho).

What I fear is that BBS's M.Div. program will be "dumbed down" into a Liberty-like on-line program.

I went to college and

I went to college and seminary at Tennessee Temple. While alumni heard rumors of low enrollment, enrollment numbers were never publicized, save there being a semester with a slight increase in enrollment and then a newsletter would boast an "X% increase in enrollment."  The tiniest step forward was triumphed over while the big steps back were spun into good news. Danny Lovett would announce the closing of a related ministry and then announce that it would help them do better what they did best: college education.  I think the last president was honest with the alumni,  but by then it was too late. So when BBS says their enrollment has stayed steady over the years, that had better be true or it will be abandoned by its supporters if the time soon comes when it would have to own up to being on the verge of closing its doors save a miracle. 

Sigh

Somewhat off topic, but it strikes me that if you read Jonathan's comment carefully, you will see two ways we fundamentalists can self destruct.  First, we can destroy trust by fudging the numbers--a former friend of mine commented that at his Hyles-esque church, the rule of thumb was to "round to the nearest goal."  Second, we can self-destruct by turning the long knives on each other when we see things are not going well.  We can be, sad to say, like politicians in that regard.  (sigh, and Lord spare me from taking part)

And of course I have no clue about Tennessee Temple, or whether BBS has followed their apparent/alleged lead in this.  Just thought the obvious implication/ gut check of Jonathan's ought to be noted.

Back to the topic, I wish BBS well as they seem to be transitioning to more of an online seminary.  While I know and value the role of interpersonal interaction in things like this, it strikes me as well that until we get our feet under us again (after a sometimes self-inflicted implosion of our movement), we're going to need to be clever about how we train new pastors.  Plus, it opens up seminary level education to people who cannot just pick up stakes and move due to family and job realities.

A necessary evil

So when BBS says their enrollment has stayed steady over the years, that had better be true or it will be abandoned by its supporters if the time soon comes when it would have to own up to being on the verge of closing its doors save a miracle. 

And even in the case of NIU, some of those supporters were more than happy to see the doors close rather than the school abandon things like dress and musical standards.  It's all about priorities.

I look at it this way - Christian schools and churches have to evolve to fit the needs of the society around us, insofar as we can do so while remaining true to the Word and Faith.  While it is sad that BBS has to sell one of their buildings and downsize their staff - and I feel awful for the staff affected - it's better than having to shutter the whole institution because they were not willing to adapt.

And for whatever it's worth, I agree with Dr. Long that an totally online seminary degree loses something over a in-person experience.  That being said, if I was ever in a position to pursue an M.Div or another degree, I would almost certainly have to have a non-time limited class experience because of my life.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

It's all going on line

The primary benefit of residential colleges is face time with instructors and students.  Take out that social and networking aspect of the residential bible college and I'm hard pressed to offer other compelling reasons to burden young people seeking to enter ministry with the costs of living on-campus.

In terms of academics, the online offerings of universities have jumped significantly in the last ten years, and the quality and interactive capabilities of lectures make the experience fairly enjoyable.  This should be fine for many students, especially those who come from home-schooling backgrounds and are already used to pre-packaged instruction.  Students would receive the credentials which churches are considering hiring as well as having saved some money by living and working at home.

I also recall a bible college administrator telling me that it would be nice if the fundamental schools could pool faculty resources to enhance the expertise available to students.  I think this would be wise, and would be very easy to accomplish through on line offerings.

John B. Lee

Off-topic, but I have taken

Off-topic, but I have taken modular classes at BBS.  I have NEVER gotten a single project in on time, I never needed more than 2-3 more weeks, but I have always needed more time.  I also took some classes at Calvary.  Since they only had modular classes two times a year, they provided more time, while at the same time trying to avoid having students still working on projects from their last modular when they need to be getting ready for the next one.  Since BBS has modular classes three times a year, they seem to provide less time.  I wanted to take a particular class last fall, but the professor only allowed six weeks to finish everything, and the syllabus stated that there would be one letter grade deducted for every day the final project was late.  No one registered for the class, so it was not held.  I know there is some tension between getting students to get things done and accommodating them when they need it, but as far as programs that will be taken by those already in ministry (i.e., the D.Min.) seminaries have to allow busy pastors the time to get things done.  

 

Bold? Visionary?

Jim wrote:
BBC is taking bold steps to meet the changing educational marketplace

Visionary leadership understands that as the environment changes, an organization must also change

I'm not certain these steps are either bold or visionary. How do they enhance the quality of education received by either on-line or residential seminary students? When you sell the seminary building and transition half of your seminary faculty to adjuncts, this is a retrenchment.

That being said, if the current seminary enrollment can no longer meet the financial obligations of the seminary, I agree you must take action. But, let's not couch that action as "bold and visionary" unless it's positioning the seminary to enhance the quality of education it provides in new and better ways.

Nothing in the announcement tells me that the education will be better or that better options will be available.

The old "online vs. in person

The old "online vs. in person" debate will continue until us old stodgy people have died off. But I continue to think the in-person experience is vital for decent education particularly at the lower levels. The devaluing of relationships with others on the same journey and with those who have been on that journey already is epidemic. When your regular peer group is made up only of people who are not on your journey, your education will be substandard. When you can't kick ideas around in the library with others who are thinking and writing on the same subject, your ideas will be substandard. When you can't sit down in a professor's office and "chew the fat" for a bit, you are not getting all you need. Yes, it saved you the money of moving and the difficult of finding a job, but that's a high cost. And in the end, you will pay the price anyway.

Of course, if we get education in its proper place, at the beginning of your adult life rather than midway through it, you are not really leaving anything except a one-bedroom apartment and a run-of-the-mill job. Pack up your wife and your belongings in your fifteen-year old jalopy and make the trek for a few years. It won't kill you; it will help you. Perhaps a large part of the problem is the pervasive mindset that wants now what previous generations had to wait for and earn. We want all the benefits of education (or at least the benefits of a degree conferred) without actually having to do what it takes to get the education. I have had both in-person and online/distance interaction. Without fail, the distance interaction was significantly poorer and less developed. If you doubt that, consider transcribing the last significant conversation you had with a professor and putting that into an email. Think of how much is lost when you do that. There is also the loss of focus and concentration due to the fact that you are simply adding something significant on top of everything else you are already doing.

JBL talks of taking out the social and networking aspects and the reason for residential education decreases. Well, duh? But why take those out? That is an important part of education. If you take all the books out and the papers, the need for residence also decreases. Having been in school for almost half my life, the relationships and face to face time is almost as important as the class content (and in some classes, it was better than the content). And there are many other benefits to in person/residential education that simply cannot be met offsite or distance. Consider something as simple as browsing the library. You see a book on the shelf and you can browse it for a page or two, maybe glean a quotation or an idea. You will never do that at home and the chance of you being near a good enough theological library to browse is slim to none.

Jonathan Charles talks about having time to get the work done. If you are going to be in a postgraduate education (or any other kind) then you make time to get it done. That was one of the questions on the entrance interviews: "How will you get the work done?" Students know at the beginning of the class when the work is due and it is typically 12-13 weeks away. If you can't get it done in that amount of time, then it is likely that your priorities are messed up or your personal habits need work. Someone in this situation may need to reconsider whether or not they should be in enrolled. Getting things done is not that difficult in most cases. A personal emergency or ministry situation that prevents you from getting it done is likely so substantial an emergency that it requires you dropping out of the program, at least for a period of time. I remember Someone talking once about seeing if you can finish the wall before you start it. It's a good idea. And if you are going to start plowing, then don't turn back. 

Signed,

Scrooge

Time management needed, but there is a cost...

Jonathan Charles wrote:
Off-topic, but I have taken modular classes at BBS.  I have NEVER gotten a single project in on time, I never needed more than 2-3 more weeks, but I have always needed more time.

One thing I quickly learned taking 6-9 credit hours / semester at BBS, working full-time, serving in my church, and leading my family of 6 is that time management is critical for success.

I learned that completing my required reading before the semester started helped tremendously. So, during the Christmas and summer breaks, I completed my required reading for the next semester. This freed up my time during the semester to write and to respond in the student discussion forums, to memorize my Greek or Hebrew vocab and paradigms, and to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

I learned that I needed to start writing my papers early in the semester instead of waiting the week before they were due, especially when I was taking two or more classes at a time that each required multiple papers to be written. That being said, when needed I was able to take off a couple days from work to complete my papers.

I learned that spending my extra time pursuing an M.Div. hurt my family relationships. My wife told me that during the six years it took me to earn my M.Div. she felt like a single mom. I was in the house, but I wasn't available to help with our children. If my wife were emotionally needy or needed regular physical affection, I never would have made it through seminary. Weekend camp outs with my children ceased. I could be irritable with my children when they were noisily playing around the house and I needed to concentrate. Consequently, my relationship with my older son (now 16) also deteriorated. Since graduation, I've made it my focus to reconnect with my wife and children, and spend my extra time with them. I told my wife that I will not pursue another degree until after our four children have graduated from high school.

So, seminary cost me more than just time and money. You have to ask yourself if the cost is worth it.

T Howard, your experience

T Howard, your experience bears out my point about getting things out of order in life. 

Proverbs 24:27 says, "Prepare your work outside And make it ready for yourself in the field; Afterwards, then, build your house."

Too many people build the house first before they are able to sustain it. It creates problems later on. Obviously, once it's been done, it's been done. But this is perhaps similar to the other discussion on growing up. Young people need to get their priorities straight and do things in the right order.

I enrolled in a PhD and a DMin program when my first son was 1 year old. I eventually dropped the PhD because I didn't want to spend his formative years doing academic PhD work. I ended up finishing the DMin instead. By the time it was done, I had two more kids. 

Larry wrote:

Larry wrote:

T Howard, your experience bears out my point about getting things out of order in life. 

Proverbs 24:27 says, "Prepare your work outside And make it ready for yourself in the field; Afterwards, then, build your house."

Too many people build the house first before they are able to sustain it. It creates problems later on. Obviously, once it's been done, it's been done. But this is perhaps similar to the other discussion on growing up. Young people need to get their priorities straight and do things in the right order.

Larry, the issue is God didn't call me to pastoral ministry until my mid-to-late 30s. I would have gladly gone to seminary in "the right order" had I believed God was calling me to pastoral ministry when I was in my early-to-mid 20s.

T Howard, My point wasn't

T Howard, My point wasn't directed at your personally but rather at the bigger picture. Your story is an example that others should carefully heed.

You are correct to point out that there is a cost and one must decide if they are willing to pay it. I wasn't willing to pay the time and relationship cost of the PhD program I was in. I know some who don't want to devote extra time to school because they just want to get out in ministry and start serving the Lord. I think that is a very short-sighted and narrow-minded approach. Hopefully there are less of those now than there used to be.

"Prepare your work and then build your house."

Cost / Benefit

Larry wrote:  

JBL talks of taking out the social and networking aspects and the reason for residential education decreases. Well, duh? But why take those out? That is an important part of education. 

 

The primary reason to eschew the residential experience is that it adds some $7K/year to the cost of attendance, or $28K over four years.  If my child decided to do an online bible college program, I would probably charge him $100/month just to keep him accountable.  Much cheaper.

The other reason I would tend to eschew paying the residential cost is because of the way the marketplace for graduates of fundamentalist colleges works.  My experience has been that churches in the market to hire these graduates don't really care about the skill set that the college imparts.  They do, however, care about the doctrinal and standards stance that the college reinforces in the graduate.  This is the primary purpose of fundamentalist education.  The institution you decide to attend determines the set of churches that will hire you.  Do you need the in person experience to attain this benefit?  Not so much.

In other words, the primary benefit of attending one of these institutions is to certify you to hold a staff position at the set of churches that approve of the school's doctrinal and cultural standards.  If that is what the young person wants, I won't begrudge him.  My recommendation however, is that he should obtain this certification at the lowest cost possible.

John B. Lee

Fundamental Divide

The good discussion here illustrates a rather great divide. Those who disagree with me will believe I'm being unfair, but here it is:

  • The locus for discussion, interaction and exchange of ideas should be the local church, not the Seminary. This means I don't care about discussions after class at a brick and mortar campus. I do care about discussions with other Christians, including Pastors and deacons, after Sunday School.

To be sure, there are several dozen caveats I could toss in, but won't bother to do so right now. I think this is a fundamental divide, and it reflects an adherence to a traditional form of education which is not necessarily better or more biblical. I profited greatly from virtual and online education, coupled with practical ministry lived out among the folks in my local church, both while I was a church member and a Pastor. I think online and virtual education is a God-send, because young men can stay in their local church, with the folks who know them, under the Pastor who can mentor him, while still getting quality theological education. What a concept. Smile

In general, the "interaction" arguments for brick and mortar Seminary sound a lot like the public school folks who cry out that homeschooled children "don't get social interaction." Not a good argument. If that's all you've got, then you ain't got much!  

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

Tyler

It seems to me that many in fundamentalism do not want the local church to be the locus of discussion, interaction and exchange of ideas.

The local church is the safe-haven from the world, and competing Christian doctrines are considered "worldly."  

I believe this is why certain churches funnel their young adults into certain schools, and why they only hire from certain schools. 

I also believe that this is the reason FBFI issues resolutions every year.  The social and doctrinal positions that the resolutions take are positioned as being unilaterally biblical, and differing views are no longer discussed.

I believe that the recent ejection of John MacArthur out of IFCA was done on similar lines.

John B. Lee

Presbuteros, no?

Per what Tyler is saying, we can start by noting that apart from Paul's studying under Gamaliel (Acts 5:34, Acts 22:3), there really isn't a clear reference to anything resembling a seminary--and of course that was a Pharisaical seminary, not a Christian one, that Paul attended.  Even in that "shul", as it were, we might infer that Paul had a lot of close interpersonal interaction with someone who was first an older rabbi.

So at the very least, we need to conclude that seminary is adiaphora, not specifically commanded or rejected in Scripture.  

And that said, it is worth noting that what we see described in Scripture is Paul telling Timothy to pass things on, Christ telling His disciples to pass things on, and the like.  Contrast that with the link Jim provided yesterday (?) about most young fundamentalists NOT reporting having been actively discipled.  

Houston, we have a problem, don't we?

And then we must confront the idea that Scripture speaks of "elders", men who are seasoned in judgment.  Now that can--e.g. Timothy--be a younger man, but at the same time, I think the word suggests it will generally be someone older--someone who has learned wisdom over the years and has what it takes to go "toe to toe" with people in the church who have their own ends in mind and not God's. 

In other words, it might be better a second or third career where the qualifications would be increasing Godliness over a period of decades, combined with the understanding of human "politics" needed to effectively deal with factions in the church.  We can all think of churches where they desperately needed someone willing and able to confront that faction, no?  And we might even wonder whether putting young men in the pastorate too quickly sets them up for a career of accepting the status quo as well.  

Which is a long way of saying that I think that, if I understand it correctly, this is the right move.  Today's pastors all too often cannot teach the things they learned in seminary in the same way that first generation homeschoolers had to learn how to teach.  Online seminary may be a great way of transitioning churches back into serious disciple-making,as opposed to Hyles-esque number counters.

TylerR wrote:

TylerR wrote:

The good discussion here illustrates a rather great divide. Those who disagree with me will believe I'm being unfair, but here it is:

  • The locus for discussion, interaction and exchange of ideas should be the local church, not the Seminary. This means I don't care about discussions after class at a brick and mortar campus. I do care about discussions with other Christians, including Pastors and deacons, after Sunday School.

To be sure, there are several dozen caveats I could toss in, but won't bother to do so right now. I think this is a fundamental divide, and it reflects an adherence to a traditional form of education which is not necessarily better or more biblical. I profited greatly from virtual and online education, coupled with practical ministry lived out among the folks in my local church, both while I was a church member and a Pastor. I think online and virtual education is a God-send, because young men can stay in their local church, with the folks who know them, under the Pastor who can mentor him, while still getting quality theological education. What a concept. Smile

In general, the "interaction" arguments for brick and mortar Seminary sound a lot like the public school folks who cry out that homeschooled children "don't get social interaction." Not a good argument. If that's all you've got, then you ain't got much!  

Once again, Tyler, you're drawing a false dichotomy. It's not either discuss stuff in a classroom or coffee shop at a far-away seminary OR discuss them with Pastors and deacons after Sunday school. In my seminary education experience, it was both, and both were extremely beneficial.

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Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Greg

Sure. I just don't think the in-person interaction is worth the financial and logistical cost of moving. As the years go by, many, many, many, many, many other people will come to the same conclusions. BBS is making a wise move. Go Maranatha.

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

Summary of Arguments

Larry's remarks, above, are probably the best and most representative arguments that advocates for "traditional;" Seminary can muster. Let me summarize his arguments, and briefly respond:

  • Relationships with other students. Don't know what to say. I've never had sustained contact with any other Seminary student. Don't really care, and don't feel the lack. I do have a secular degree from a brick and mortar college, and never really talked with other students then, either. Maybe I'm just an incurable loser? This could be a big one for some people. For me, I just don't care.
  • Relationships with professors. Maybe. I've had some very good discussions with professors by email. I'd be nice to chat at length about some topics. But, honestly, I can read any journal article I want, courtesy of the awesome Maranatha library (more on that in a minute). I have books, and I interact by reading them and analyzing arguments. I know, the purists will cry foul. Maybe I'm just really strange, but I do just fine reading arguments in articles and books, and emailing a professor if I really want input on deep things.
  • Library. I've never been fascinated by theological libraries. They've never drawn me, like a moth to flame. If I'm researching something, I compile a list of books I want, skim them at Amazon, and request them via ILL. More likely than not, I can find the same thing in condensed form in a journal article. Maranatha's library has excellent virtual capabilities, and I can pretty much find anything I need.

Alll told, these aren't persuasive arguments. I didn't come to Seminary as a 22-yr old, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed youngin.' I was older, had been married a while, and had three children and a mortgage. We weren't gonna move. Nothing to do with laziness or a sense of entitlement, just practical life. These arguments weren't persuasive enough to entice me to move, and many other people are coming to the same conclusions. Good for them. For the rest of ya'll, some of those brick and mortar-only Seminaries will still be there . . . for a little while. Meanwhile, you'll be in greater debt and our degrees are still regionally accredited, just like yours . . . Tell me again, how enticing is that professor's office?  

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

So basically you are 100%

So basically you are 100% confident that you did not need or would not have benefited from things you have never experienced. Smile

HSAT, I totally agree that for some people, relocating for seminary is an impossibility. And I might even agree with you, Tyler, that for some the cost of residential education vs. online outweighs the benefits.

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Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Greg

I've done a module class. I didn't spend much time directly interacting with students, and don't miss it. I mentioned I have a degree from a secular brick and mortar institution, where I went to class every day. I don't miss the interaction.

All told, all the traditional advocates have is the "interaction" argument. For some people, that'll be worth it. For many others . . . not so much.

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

Thanks for that clarification

Thanks for that clarification Tyler. Please see my edited response in my post above.

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Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Some of this may also be

Some of this may also be effected by what kind of a church you are in if you stay home. When I was planning on going to seminary I went and visited DBTS. It was an enormous blessing to be with men who share my convictions. I have done most of an undergrad online and other than one friend in another church, don't have that much theological interaction with others. I think it's fairly significant.

Josh

I think it's a personal decision everybody needs to make, depending on who they are, what their situation is, and how they learn. I don't think I'm normal, and my own experiences have been unique. I can't speak for helpful other people have found virtual and online education. It's been a blessing for me.

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

Blessing for sure

Being able to earn my M.Div. on-line with a couple modules on campus was definitely a blessing for me. I did try to relocate to either Scranton or Louisville (I was accepted at SBTS also), but ultimately couldn't find employment that would allow me to attend classes in person and support my family at either location. Thus, I chose to pursue an on-line degree with BBS.

I enjoyed the interaction I had with my profs. A couple of them stopped by and visited with my wife and I on their way to other places (we live within 5 miles of I-70). I was also able to meet with several profs when I visited campus. I still remember going to lunch with Dr. Decker at Wendys and talking about his fight with cancer, verbal aspect, and Wayne Grudem. Good times.

I would have preferred to be on campus, but that wasn't a realistic option for my family and me.

I don't know whether in

I don't know whether in-person or online instruction is best, but I am fairly certain that even if the former is better, the latter, online education, is where education is shifting to.  Just think of our children who are young enough to have never known a world without the internet and wi-fi.  What will be are their expectations going to be when they hit college, graduate school (for some, seminary)?      

Positives

For starters, I really wish I could argue with John Lee's comment from 10:36am today, and I'm sure he wishes the same.  Sad, sad, sad.

A couple of things I can say in favor of on-site seminary is that sharpening one's thinking with peers who are theologically trained can be one thing better done in a "high concentration" of the theologically minded, and that the experience of a good library is wonderful.  But with more and more great theological works being available on Bible software programs and via Google books and such, you need to love vellum and old bookbinding to get anything close to the same thrill these days.

And it's a good thing.  Praise God I can find these things without going to Alexandria or Heidelberg.  Thank you, Gutenberg, and thank you, Watson.

Choices are good

Choices are good:

  • Some prefer "brick and mortar" banking ... others prefer online banking
  • Some shopping at the mall ... others over the Internet
  • For some live education works ... others virtual

My view: brick and mortar only seminaries will continue to decline in enrollment. BBC is meeting the needs of their market

Wry Humor

i just want TylerR to let us know what the kickback is for constantly promoting  Maranatha.  3%? 5%?  A flat finders' fee of $200 per person?

Biggrin

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

JBL wrote:

JBL wrote:

It seems to me that many in fundamentalism do not want the local church to be the locus of discussion, interaction and exchange of ideas.

...

I also believe that this is the reason FBFI issues resolutions every year.  The social and doctrinal positions that the resolutions take are positioned as being unilaterally biblical, and differing views are no longer discussed.

To correct your point, the FBFI used to issue resolutions. Now we issue position statements. We think the term more accurately communicates what we are trying to say, and that is: this is what we as a group of local church pastors believe to be true concerning a particular issue.

Your characterization implies other motives, but I don't think it is correct.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Look at it this way...

Do you benefit from online relationships in places like this, or Facebook, or through email? I do. It doesn't always replace everything you can get from face-to-face, but even face-to-face is often enhanced by phone calls, texting, email, social media, etc.

I have an online degree from BBS, and am working on another. I have also taken live modules at the seminary level. I will say that at least in the BBS model, I interacted just as much or more with my online professors and classmates over multiple weeks in BBS's online format than I did in a compressed, week-long face-to-face format. I do miss some of what you get through lectures in person, but there were things I gained from online that you can't get in 5 multi-hour sessions.

I have just started a DMin through BBS. It is a hybrid program, some required face-to-face classes, and some online or directed study options. I have secured permission to take some directed study credits under Central Seminary profs. To me, this is the best of all worlds.

With the new formats, things are lost, but others are gained. Don't lament the past so much that you abandon all influence you could have into the future. Complaining about change ultimately isn't going to stop anything.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

SI

I want to echo something Greg Linscott just mentioned. I was thinking about not writing this, because it could sound sappy, but I really treasure the interaction and discussions we have on SharperIron. If it makes you feel any better, Greg Long, most of the discussions I would have had with classmates on campus took place in these forums. Smile

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

Online is better than nothing

I completed an online Seminary degree at Virginia Beach Theological Seminary.  I would have preferred to take the classes live and in person. In fact, I put some exploratory effort into moving to either Detroit or Virginia Beach but in the end that never panned out.  I was glad for the distance learning opportunity since live wasn’t an option.

Another benefit

The resident model is great for churches near Minneapolis, Detroit, Des Moines, Watertown, Greenville, etc etc. Not always as immediately great for congregations 2 hours or more away from them.

Distance models, whether online, module, or hybrid, help close that gap. People can learn while the serve. That helps churches in real time as well as down the road, but it also helps the student. A pastor or potential pastor can better understand what he needs a particular class or discipline for... how what he is acquiring will be a useful tool (but not necessarily a single, specialty focus that he wants to dedicate the rest of his life to). It isn't that a residence model doesn't provide service opportunities, but usually by nature they are more urban/suburban just because of where schools are located. A rural church can help develop someone, but send them off and never really get much benefit from the service that person could contribute. 

I'm not arguing here for one model being superior over the other. I am simply observing that each has different benefits.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Points of Discussion

Don:

In 1980, the FBFI issued a number of resolutions.  Resolution 80.01c affirms the deity of Christ.  In the same set of resolutions, FBFI affirms a national defense posture of maintaining nuclear weapons capabilities in 80.07, and a characterization of sensual music in resolution 80.12

According to your response last evening, the membership of FBFI believes each of these resolutions to be true.

I characterize myself as having a Biblical world view.  For me, a key element to a Biblical world view is that there is absolute truth, and that absolute truth is eternal and will never change.  I believe that Jesus Christ is deity and is God.  This is a Biblical and absolute truth.  I am not willing to discuss this in the sense that I am unwilling to be persuaded otherwise.

I am unwilling to classify a national defense position or a position on worship music as absolute truth.  I do not believe there is Biblical evidence to come to a truth conclusion on either one.  However, if the membership of FBFI has deemed that the positions of 80.07 and 80.12 are matters of Biblical truth, and therefore on the same level as the deity of Christ, would it similarly not be willing to be persuaded otherwise?  Would that not mean that any discussion about them would be more apologetic than persuasive in nature?

I believe that an apologetic discussion is different than the type of discussion that TylerR was speaking about, and the type of discussion that might be beneficial in a seminary or church.

John B. Lee

I, too, treasure and benefit

I, too, treasure and benefit from these interactions online.

You know what, you guys have convinced me of the value of online interactions. In light of that, I'm going to try to convince our pastors and elders to go to an all-online model for our church--preaching, teaching, corporate worship, and counseling will all take place online and via email.

Come to think of it, perhaps I should ask my wife if we could move all conversations between us to email and text. Smile

Look, I obviously don't have some kind of conscientious objection to online education as I am an online instructor. It certainly has a place for some who have the choice of online education or no education. But to pretend nothing is lost... (which is why I'm sending my high school senior away to Liberty as a residential student rather than staying home as an online student...online college education was really not an option we put on the table for him as a graduating high school senior).

I agree with the comment above that the hybrid model seems to be the best of both worlds in today's changing educational culture.

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Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Yes, Paul wrote letters to

Yes, Paul wrote letters to churches, which is "distance education." But he almost always expressed his desire to come to visit them in order to see and interact with them face to face.

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Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

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