Questioning the Seminary Approach

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Aaron Blumer's picture

It's kind of hard to tell if his beef is with ATS criteria or with the whole idea of pastors being thoroughly educated in beyond absolute minimum they can get by with. These are pretty different questions!

I've met pastors who didn't use their education well, including PhDs. But I've never ever met a pastor I thought was over-educated.

pvawter's picture

Jim wrote:

https://www.ats.edu/member-schools

 

I'm sure there are a number of seminaries that are exactly as White describes, but there are also a number of excellent ones on that list. Seems like he's throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Instead of telling churches that M.Divs are worthless, maybe he should tell young people to seek out a good seminary.

Jim's picture

pvawter wrote:

Instead of telling churches that M.Divs are worthless, maybe he should tell young people to seek out a good seminary.

This article is severely flawed and his ideas misguided 

ScottS's picture

I think White makes some good points and some bad points (and some unsupported assertions) within his article.

I have seen MDiv programs that do not have enough emphasis on the areas he notes: Hermeneutics, Bible, and Biblical Languages (many today do not even require the languages). I do think those should be added to ATS accrediting requirements, but I see no issue with the four broad categories that ATS does look for in accreditation. (And I'm very unclear why White even makes the notation at the end of the "Spiritual Formation" section, as it makes it seem that he is against trying to have any classes that "provide opportunities to assist students in developing commitment to Christian faith and life," and so against forming "expressions of justice, leadership development, the devotional life, evangelistic witness"!)

And while I think I understand the heart of his statement that

In my view, I wouldn’t want a pastor who didn’t cut his teeth teaching Sunday School, sweeping church floors, mowing church grass, going to church fellowships, and learning church methods.

relates to having a servant's heart, unfortunately many pastors continue to "sweep" and "mow" and other such tasks for the church, which are not what they are called to do, and in fact statistically make for a less effective pastor:

Comparison [i.e. the lesser effective] church leaders spend eight hours a week – more than an hour each day – performing custodial duties at the church.

That's not to say a pastor should not chip in once in a while to help with church maintenance (on a church work day or something), but the church building/grounds should be generally maintained by others (whether hired or volunteer).

I agree with others here that each MDiv program needs to be evaluated on its own as to what it emphasizes in coursework, how much it costs, how many credits it does require (the new minimum is unfortunately 72, which I think does cause issues for getting a more rounded education, especially since the advent of "advanced standing" for undergraduate work that can apply to the graduate level credits, where one can basically get the graduate degree for doing as little as 50% of the graduate work if 50% is gained in advanced standing).

Scott Smith, Ph.D.

The goal now, the destiny to come, holiness like God—
Gen 1:27, Lev 19:2, 1 Pet 1:15-16

Ron Bean's picture

After seeing  too many seminary graduates from good schools struggle and even fail as pastors and seeing men whose training was only in their local church do likewise, I've come to the conclusion that perhaps we could learn something from medical doctors. Get a good education and then enter a purposeful internship. (The latter being more than being your father's youth or assistant pastor.) I know it's being done effectively in some places.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Aaron Blumer's picture

Yes. I really do think this is how it should be done!

We had internships built into the program during seminary, and it was helpful, but at the time the program seemed to me to be only about half built. I don't know what Central has for internship now. 

Bert Perry's picture

The article reminds me of the fact that the same accrediting agency that accredits Harvard also accredits many community colleges.  The goal is not to ensure top quality, but rather to ensure minimum standards.  For that matter, the best cars and worst cars in the world are both built in plants which are certified under ISO16949.  Same basic principle. 

Waiting for Tyler to come out with a "Maranatha Ruleth" here, by the way.  :^)    But seriously, arguing that what an accrediting body doesn't test impugns schools is to simply ignore the other measures of quality education that you'll have; what professors publish and where, where graduates get hired, hiring rates, graduate education rates, and the like.  

That noted, I would agree with Ron that some degree of apprenticeship would be a great thing for pastors, not to mention a lot of other professions.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Here's a crazy idea - let the Seminary teach theology online, and leave the mentorship to pastors in local churches as their young men take classes online and apply their studies to the real world in their home churches. #winning

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Steve Davis's picture

I don't know Randy White but see he is the Founder and CEO of Dispensational Publishing House with an MDiv and DMin. I also don't know where he went for his degrees but maybe he didn't receive good training and that's why he's still a dispensationalist. Sadly, what he writes might help perpetuate the view/myth that many dispensationalists are not well-trained and have not been challenged outside their box. If men are going to be trained in churches then there has to be someone with more training than the trainee and the time to do it. 

Aaron Blumer's picture

maybe he didn't receive good training and that's why he's still a dispensationalist.

Yeah, that's gotta be it.

Steve Davis's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

maybe he didn't receive good training and that's why he's still a dispensationalist.

Yeah, that's gotta be it.

I was joking but maybe need to use smiley faces. I just found it ironic that he has an MDiv and DMin but doesn't speak highly of MDivs. I wonder where he received his degrees. 

Aaron Blumer's picture

Well, I did chuckle, so it worked fine.

Meanwhile, your comment also touched on a problem with internships: when the pupil is fully trained, he is like his master... So what internships do is perpetuate whatever is already there.

Ron Bean's picture

Perhaps an internship in a church other than one's own church would be beneficial along the lines of what is being done at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. Sometimes there are places that are "doing church" better than we are. 

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Bert Perry's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Well, I did chuckle, so it worked fine.

Meanwhile, your comment also touched on a problem with internships: when the pupil is fully trained, he is like his master... So what internships do is perpetuate whatever is already there.

Yes and no.  Keep in mind that very few people know who Calvin's advisor was, nor do they know the names of the masters under whom Stradivarius and Boesendorfer studied, no?  I would argue that the master is the one who knows the ropes and prepares the student, but if the master does his job right, the student is then prepared to surpass the master.  One would certainly argue that with, say, the chief professors who taught Luther, Calvin, Wesley, and the like, no?

Perhaps the difference is whether the master teaches the person primarily what to think, or how to think?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dmyers's picture

Per his bio on the Dispensational Publishing House website, Randy White "is a graduate of Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Tex., Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Forth Worth, Texas (where he received his master of divinity degree), and Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary [now Gateway Seminary] in Mill Valley, Calif. (where he received his doctor of ministry degree)."

His father Elbert, who is director of church relations for DPH, "is a graduate of Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo., and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas" (where he earned an M.Div.).

You'd think Randy would at least acknowledge his and his father's degrees and explain why they recommend against doing what they did.

 

Jay's picture

I don't know too much about how this works, but Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary offers something called the "Timothy Track" program which is supposed to pair practical internship-like training with their M.Div. program.  It sounds pretty neat and maybe a model worth emulating.

"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

Aaron Blumer's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

 

Meanwhile, your comment also touched on a problem with internships: when the pupil is fully trained, he is like his master... So what internships do is perpetuate whatever is already there.

Yes and no.  Keep in mind that very few people know who Calvin's advisor was, nor do they know the names of the masters under whom Stradivarius and Boesendorfer studied, no?  I would argue that the master is the one who knows the ropes and prepares the student, but if the master does his job right, the student is then prepared to surpass the master.  One would certainly argue that with, say, the chief professors who taught Luther, Calvin, Wesley, and the like, no?

Perhaps the difference is whether the master teaches the person primarily what to think, or how to think?

My reference to the fully trained pupil being like his master was a quote from Jesus in Matt. 13:52. He was most likely referencing a well known adage... well known because widely recognized as true. The master can only teach the pupil "how to think" if he knows how to think. He can only point the way beyond his own expertise if he believes in doing that and knows how.

For that and other reasons, I'm inclined to think some kind of blend of internship and more traditional academic training is the ideal.

Bert Perry's picture

You sure that it's Matthew 13:52 you're referring to?  I'm thinking of a general (I'd argue not absolute) principle that I could draw from elsewhere, but I'm not quite sure I follow you here.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Aaron Blumer's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

You sure that it's Matthew 13:52 you're referring to?  I'm thinking of a general (I'd argue not absolute) principle that I could draw from elsewhere, but I'm not quite sure I follow you here.

That's what I get for posting before I've had enough coffee... then running out the door. 

It's Luke 6:40

"A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher."

I agree, though, that the master can prepare the apprentice in such a way that he eventually grows beyond his master.... after the apprenticeship is over.