The Future of the Bible College

NickOfTime

Bible colleges are being pinched these days. Many collegians are choosing to remain at home and attend community colleges. Others are opting for state universities. Of those who go off to Christian schools, a higher percentage than ever are choosing liberal arts colleges. The focus of ministerial training has shifted away from colleges and toward seminaries.

The question is being asked: Do Bible colleges still have a place? If they do, then what shape should they take?

Some Bible colleges are responding to this question by increasing their offerings in fields that are further and further from biblical education. They are offering programs in education, aviation, nursing, business, and a variety of other disciplines. To the extent that Bible colleges have pursued this strategy, they have begun to metamorphose into liberal arts colleges. Their approach seems to entail the recognition that the true Bible college has outlived its usefulness.

I disagree. I believe that the Bible college can and should still occupy an important role as a service organization to local churches. In order to be genuinely useful, however, Bible colleges are going to have to clarify what sort of education they intend to offer. They are going to have to present a viable alternative, not only to Christian liberal arts colleges and universities, but also to secular institutions.

Most obviously, Bible colleges must play to their strength, and that strength is biblical instruction. It goes without saying that good biblical instruction is (almost?) completely absent from secular institutions. More relevantly, Christian universities and Christian liberal arts colleges generally do teach the Bible with less excellence than the better Bible colleges. Christian education has to involve more than tacking a few Bible survey courses onto a degree in broadcasting or physical therapy. It has to involve the intensive, concentrated study of the Bible itself.

The distinctive of a Bible college is that every student graduates with a Bible major. Every graduate will have studied biblical interpretation, surveyed the entire canon, gained familiarity with the most important introductory issues, focused specifically on the most important biblical books, and been introduced to the entire system of Christian doctrine. A graduate of a Bible college will also have been taught the dynamics of the life of faith and will (or, at least, should) have had his or her affections shaped by carefully chosen exposure to the best of Christian devotion. At the undergraduate level, no institution can do this work better than a Bible college.

Second, Bible colleges must realize their limitations. The day has passed when a four-year baccalaureate degree was adequate preparation for ministry. Ministry today is exponentially more complex than it was fifty years ago. Bible colleges must no longer envision their mission as one of producing pastors and missionaries, although they can certainly play a vital role in that process.

If Bible colleges do not exist to equip church leaders, then what is their mission? It is to prepare Christian workers. Bible college graduates should be ready to take up the needed roles of deacons and Bible teachers within local congregations. They should also enter their calling (whatever it may be) with the competence and conviction to carry their Christianity with them.

Christians do not need their own institutions to train doctors, lawyers, financiers, botanists, microbiologists, engineers, agribusiness persons, optometrists, disc jockeys, musicians, or educationists. What they need are institutions that will produce graduates who are competent in their faith and who can bring their Christian perspectives and values to bear upon whatever discipline or vocation they enter. If a Bible college can accomplish this task, then it will be well on the road to success.

Third, Bible colleges must offer genuine education, by which I mean liberal education, that is, education in the liberal arts. By this I do not mean simply general education. Christians have displayed an unfortunate tendency to misappropriate the term liberal arts to cover any category of education that is not explicitly biblical. Here, however, I am speaking of those arts properly designated as liberal. Music and drama are fine arts, not liberal arts. Business and finance are servile arts, not liberal arts. Physics and chemistry are sciences, not liberal arts.

To be sure, a genuinely educated person must be exposed to the sciences, the fine arts, and much more. By themselves, however, those disciplines will never constitute an education. The sine qua non of education is mastery of the liberal arts, and particularly of the Trivium.

The liberal arts (especially grammar, logic, and rhetoric) are the basic tools of thought. Any institution that neglects fostering of these disciplines will fail to educate its students. Mastery of the liberal arts is essential to any thoughtful life or ministry.

Liberal education has fallen out of favor these days. The liberal arts are not marketable. A graduate who masters the liberal arts does not acquire a saleable skill, and today’s higher education is all about preparing people to make money. As the old quip goes, however, liberal education teaches you how to live, not how to make a living.

Christians profess that a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. On that account, it is distressing to see Bible colleges turning more and more toward majors that amount to vocational training. We ought to be more concerned about the kind of people we graduate than we are about whether we have prepared them to make money.

The time has come for a renascence of the liberal arts within Bible colleges. Our graduates cannot think biblically if they cannot think, and thinking is exactly the application of the liberal arts. Students who graduate from Bible colleges should be masters of logic, grammar, and rhetoric. They should be highly literate and textually focused. They should understand the broad outlines of the development of Western thought. They should know the perennial questions and the principal answers to those questions. They should have mastered at least one language beyond their own.

In brief, a truly excellent Bible college will not be content to offer outstanding biblical education. It will also strive to offer the best possible liberal education. It will aim to graduate men and women who are both competent, committed Christians and thoughtful, well-rounded human beings. Incidentally, such an education would also be the ideal preparation for future ministers who will be going to seminary.

Would it be possible for such a college to flourish? The main challenge to its survival would be the spirit of materialism that pervades American Christianity today. Christian students, like their secular counterparts, are more interested in finding out how to make money than they are in learning mental disciplines. For a truly great Bible college to flourish, pastors and parents are going to have to inculcate certain habits of mind and heart in their children: a love of learning, a longing for the transcendent, and a realization that life is more than stuff.

For those who share these values, Bible colleges such as I have described will have a powerful appeal. The college will need to offer superior biblical education, exceptional liberal education, and the normal orbit of general education that one gets in any decent college. It would not need a multiplicity of majors or a smorgasbord of elective courses. It could operate with a relatively small faculty in relatively modest facilities.

Graduates of such Bible colleges will have no trouble going on to master whatever fields they intend to spend their lives in. There is a place for all the disciplines—all are honorable and every calling is of God. For Christians, however, any other calling always presupposes a prior call to serve the Lord. Before Christians prepare for a vocation in commerce, science, or the arts, they should prepare to live a life of service to their God. We need schools of higher education that will help them in that preparation. We need a few outstanding Bible colleges.

The Second Hymn; being a Dialogue between three Shepherds.

Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667)

1.
Where is this blessed Babe
That hath made
All the world so full of joy
And expectation;
That glorious boy
That crowns each Nation
With a triumphant wreath of blessedness?

2.
Where should he be but in the throng,
And among
His Angel Ministers, that sing
And take wing
Just as may Echo to his Voyce,
And rejoyce,
When wing and tongue and all
May so procure their happiness?

3.
But he hath other Waiters now,
A poor Cow,
An Ox and Mule stand and behold,
And wonder,
That a stable should enfold
Him that can thunder.


This essay is by Dr. Kevin T. Bauder, president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN). Not every professor, student, or alumnus of Central Seminary necessarily agrees with every opinion that it expresses.
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C. D. Cauthorne Jr.'s picture

I agree with Bauder's defense of the Bible College and think that he is right when he argues that Bible colleges should more strongly emphasize a "liberal education" (as he defines it).

However, he seems to "throw down the gauntlet" with this statement:

"Christians do not need their own institutions to train doctors, lawyers, financiers, botanists, microbiologists, engineers, agribusiness persons, optometrists, disc jockeys, musicians, or educationists."

Bauder must believe that with the background of a solid Bible degree, a Christian will be able to go to a secular institution and receive training in the basics of whatever field he wants to pursue. Yet, wouldn't a Christian institution have a different set of values when it comes such things as business ethics, bioethics, and education (all fields that he mentions in his quote)?

I say, "Hoorah!" for the Bible school education, but I am not willing to dismiss the Christian liberal arts institution when it comes to training young people to go into the professional world with a strong Christian philosophy.

Barry L.'s picture

I can not speak as to the requirements of the ministerial profession, I can only comment as to equipping laymen for Christian service. I graduated from a liberal arts fundamental university with a business related degree. Even though I feel adequately trained for my secular profession, I feel my father received more Bible instruction attending two years at his local Bible Institute in the 1950's than I received my 5 years at the university. As a student with a secular major, you get one Bible class a semester. I sometimes think it would be better for new High School grads, who want to pursue a secular profession, get grounded in the Word by attending a one to two year totally immersed in the Bible type program and then go to a secular institution for their vocational training. I believe this would help the local church as well in they don't lose their future to the "college towns" where alumni of these liberal arts schools seem to hang around. If my son or daughter wanted to go into ministry then I would recommend them attend a liberal arts Bible College.

My only comment as to the ministerial training is that we need to find away to make it more affordable for ministerial students. I know alot of potential future ministerial candidates who are derailed by tuition costs.

David King's picture

Imagine if this liberal arts education did not have to wait until college. Imagine if the training in the Trivium could begin when children are most pliable. Oh say perhaps in kindergarten. Imagine children being trained in the grammar of subject areas when they are most capable of memorizing, of learning logic when they are spilling over with questions about why the world works the way it does, of becoming rhetoricians when they yearn to express themselves. Oh wait, it's happening in classical Christian schools all over the country. Jump on in, the water's warm! (http://www.jecanashville.org/ for instance)

Joseph's picture

Bauder's position seems not entirely coherent:

Bauder wrote:

Some Bible colleges are responding to this question by increasing their offerings in fields that are further and further from biblical education. They are offering programs in education, aviation, nursing, business, and a variety of other disciplines. To the extent that Bible colleges have pursued this strategy, they have begun to metamorphose into liberal arts colleges.

Combined with:

Quote:
In brief, a truly excellent Bible college will not be content to offer outstanding biblical education. It will also strive to offer the best possible liberal education.

Either Bauder mis-spoke by saying "liberal arts colleges" in the first paragraph, or he thinks that a Bible College can offer "the best possible liberal education" without also being a liberal arts college. Now, unless one cannot be both a liberal arts college and a Bible college (why this would be I cannot see), yet still offer a liberal arts and Bible education, his position seems inconsistent.

Alternatively, it seems he could be saying this: a liberal arts education by itself is a good thing. The key role Bible colleges can still play is supplementing a liberal arts education with a Bible college education. On this reading, the first quote by Bauder would mean he is talking about Bible colleges ceasing to be Bible colleges in the process of becoming liberal arts colleges; whereas he wants them to remain Bible colleges but also be liberal arts colleges.

If that's what he's saying, it makes sense, but it would help if he clarified his position because, while this reading makes sense (i.e. is coherent), it also seems very improbable. It assumes colleges that are already struggling to do one thing (offer a Bible education) can maintain that task while adding another one, which I would not suggest Fundamentalists have mastered yet either (liberal arts education). If anything, Fundamentalist colleges, when compared with their secular counterparts are good at almost everything (sciences, business, fine arts) except the liberal arts.

Moreover, another difficulty is that Bauder is making a rather problematic assumption: namely, that whatever a liberal arts and Bible education are, they are in principle half as long as they are normally presented (4 years) and therefore can viably and regularly be combined (into a liberal and Bible education) without substantially extending the undergraduate program.

Now, if this is the case, the improbable claim that" liberal arts education should be much shorter than it currently is" would be true. More probable is that a four year Bible and liberal arts education would offer, unfortunately, a half-baked version of one or both.

Jim's picture

I appreciate Dr Bauder's article but would like to comment on this snippet:

Quote:
... today’s higher education is all about preparing people to make money

I've seen plenty of Bible college graduates that discover they have "no marketable skills" just about the same time their student loans come due.

At some point of time, one has to earn money! It's not sinful. It is good! And if funds churches, missions, etc.

Ephesians 4:29, "... let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need"

I've also known dozens if not scores of men who find after years of missions service or the pastorate that they too have limited marketable skills.

B Thomas's picture

Factor in this quote.

Quote:
Third, Bible colleges must offer genuine education, by which I mean liberal education, that is, education in the liberal arts. By this I do not mean simply general education. Christians have displayed an unfortunate tendency to misappropriate the term liberal arts to cover any category of education that is not explicitly biblical. Here, however, I am speaking of those arts properly designated as liberal. Music and drama are fine arts, not liberal arts. Business and finance are servile arts, not liberal arts. Physics and chemistry are sciences, not liberal arts.

To be sure, a genuinely educated person must be exposed to the sciences, the fine arts, and much more. By themselves, however, those disciplines will never constitute an education. The sine qua non of education is mastery of the liberal arts, and particularly of the Trivium.

The liberal arts (especially grammar, logic, and rhetoric) are the basic tools of thought. Any institution that neglects fostering of these disciplines will fail to educate its students. Mastery of the liberal arts is essential to any thoughtful life or ministry.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I appreciate the essay and don't really disagree with any of it I don't think... except maybe that it sounds to me like what we need is for our Christian liberal arts colleges to improve their Bible and liberal arts training. That is, I can't see any reason why liberal arts colleges can't move toward the "strong biblical education + trivium" scenario he describes just as well as Bible colleges can move toward it from a slightly different starting point.

What I appreciate most though is the talk here about values. He's absolutely right that we've been too influenced by the "school is for getting a job and making money" thinking that is around us (though I'm all for making money, but sorting that out would make for a too long post). And I think the "school is for getting a job so I can be a witness there" is off the mark a bit as well. That philosophy does favor the "get 'vocational training' w/some evangelism and Bible survey courses" model. But I think we ought to dust off the old notion of vocation. If God calls you to a particular area of work, that work is a vehicle for bringing glory to God all by itself... though I'm not suggesting being a witness doesn't matter. The difference is subtle but important, because if the vocation is a holy thing in itself, how we educate for it is far more serious and is driven by different values. Excellence is no longer about competing in the job market but about bringing glory to our Maker well and delighting in how He has made us.

Joseph wrote:
Now, if this is the case, the improbable claim that" liberal arts education should be much shorter than it currently is" would be true. More probable is that a four year Bible and liberal arts education would offer, unfortunately, a half-baked version of one or both.

I think there's a point worth considering here. But Kevin apparently believes the grammar, logic and rhetoric can be done more efficiently without being half baked. I wouldn't really know but I find that plausible. I felt strongly that my training in Greek, for example, could have been done in such a way as to produce the same result (in education-speak, achieve the same objectives) in half the time (in fact, a few more timely objectives could be thrown in as well... still in half the time).

Joseph's picture

Aaron,

No doubt you're right about Greek. I did a Latin intensive which was the equivalent of two years of undergrad., one year of grad. school (we went through Moreland and Fleischer in three weeks, took a cumulative exam, and then read selections from the Vulgate to Calvin, and I did two projects with Augustine and Duns Scotus, not counting translation exams) in six weeks - but it was incredibly intense and abnormal even for my program/school (the Classics department does roughly the same material in ten weeks).

Moreover, at particularly demanding programs, the material is learned more quickly -but as a consequences students are expected to know more, so it does not cut down the time. Rather, it increases the quality of the program (e.g. one year of Greek in an excellent classics department puts an undergrad. at or most likely a good deal higher than the proficiency of a student with two years of Greek in most seminaries). This is one reason I'm dubious about the ability to combine all of these things. Many European countries have much more selective secondary schooling and university training (e.g. Britain and France), and as a consequence one's university degree can take only three years, but it's three years of specialized, not general, study, so their undergrads. know a great deal more about one topic than normal American undergrads. My point is not to judge these differences but to highlight how implausible it would be on any current model to combine two full programs of study into the time sequence of current programs (3-4 years).

I'm not sure that simply having a core curriculum that includes a lot of Bible is so bad; it's not a "Bible" degree, but if well taught it does give a solid foundation (e.g. Liberty, like many Christians colleges, requires the standard OT/NT, Philosophy, Evangelism, Worldviews, Systematics I and II, etc.) and I think it's about all one can reasonably expect from students who are also supposed to complete majors in something other than Bible.

Paul J. Scharf's picture

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Dr. Bauder's latest essay and found much in it to commend it for further consideration. Here, in no particular order, are a few observations I have in response:

1) I thought it showed incredible courage for someone in Bauder's position (a president of a seminary) to write such an essay, potentially taking Bible colleges which may be part of that seminary's constituency to task. The closing line, "We need a few outstanding Bible colleges," struck me as being especially interesting.
2) I, too, found the essay somewhat confusing. Bauder seems to be distinguishing between a Bible college which is heading in the direction of a liberal arts college and a Bible college which intentionally remains a Bible college while also becoming strong in traditional liberal education. This seems to be a distinction without a difference -- unless he is saying that what we call a liberal arts college is really a misnomer for a vocational training college.
3) Could Bauder give an example of a school which models what he is calling for -- particularly one with a goal of "operat(ing) with a relatively small faculty in relatively modest facilities"? We can tell from his essay which models it wouldn't be...it also likely would not be a Bible institute or even most of the traditional Bible colleges. It almost sounds more like a program such as Summit Ministries.
4) Bauder's article intersects with many ideas which Fundamentalists presuppose and it begs lots of questions. Some of these issues have been raised in the comments above, and some have been dealt with in the comments flowing from other articles in this series.
5) I also agree that there is a place for a Bible college, and I really don't think that it should be too hard to see what it should focus on offering: a) a strenuous pre-seminary program for future ministers; b) Biblically-based programs for other types of Christian workers who will not be headed to seminary; c) an environment/programs through which anyone who qualifies can gain a college-level Bible education.

Church Ministries Representative for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry

Charlie's picture

I'm all for improving education, but I think there are 2 huge problems with the scenario Bauder offers.

First, any drastic improvement in education, especially involving students' abilities to think critically and to express themselves eloquently, is going to necessitate much more selectivity. Mediocre education can happen among students of widely disparate intellectual prowess, but good education requires refined classes where the students interact with, challenge, and motivate each other. Elite colleges are highly selective not simply because they can be, but because they must be. Average schools select individuals, but elite schools' admissions departments deliberately build classes. Also, a low student-to-teacher ratio must be maintained. Let's face it; as it stands, Bible colleges are purposely not selective. Furthermore, (and I'm basing this entirely off my experience at BJU and a few Bible colleges I've visited, and I acknowledge that my observations are parochial and subjective), but many of the people that are attracted to ministerial and vocational Christian service programs are purposely avoiding difficult education. They just want to go "serve the Lord," bless their hearts.

Second and along the same lines, you can only accomplish so much in a few years. I agree with David King that the best way to improve higher education is to improve the quality of its incoming classes. Renovations of education must start earlier than the college level. As a historical note, not so many centuries ago when education was more what Dr. Bauder described, most students entered university at age 12-16. Thus, whatever we wish to emulate about their example, we would be wise to consider emulating at the high school level. I've had some experience with attempting to introduce "trivium" late in the educational process. The seminary from which I graduated runs a 4-year M Div, because they include a "Foundations" year. The idea is to ground students in formal logic and rhetoric, and to introduce them to the history of philosophy and other such liberal arts things. Now, this is a wonderful idea, but the effect is not nearly as great as one might hope. Simply put, it's too little, too late. The 35 year old electricians taking these classes are learning some things, but they're a bit past their truly formative years, when such education would have left a dramatic mark. The same can be said for seminaries and the ancient languages. The great masses of pastors who graduate from M Div programs never to touch their GNT's and BHS's except through some kind of mediated aid is perhaps the single greatest embarrassment to seminary education today. But what can we expect from people who have never really had to learn and use foreign language before their 20's (or 30's or 40's)?

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Charlie wrote:
Let's face it; as it stands, Bible colleges are purposely not selective. Furthermore, (and I'm basing this entirely off my experience at BJU and a few Bible colleges I've visited, and I acknowledge that my observations are parochial and subjective), but many of the people that are attracted to ministerial and vocational Christian service programs are purposely avoiding difficult education. They just want to go "serve the Lord," bless their hearts.

You said it. Bless yer heart.

Quote:
Second and along the same lines, you can only accomplish so much in a few years. I agree with David King that the best way to improve higher education is to improve the quality of its incoming classes. Renovations of education must start earlier than the college level. As a historical note, not so many centuries ago when education was more what Dr. Bauder described, most students entered university at age 12-16. Thus, whatever we wish to emulate about their example, we would be wise to consider emulating at the high school level. I've had some experience with attempting to introduce "trivium" late in the educational process....
emphasis mine
Not all students interested in Bible college are going to be from Christian homes or have had parents who parented. I think there needs to be some provision, ie a separate and intensive program, for students whose high school education was sadly lacking. It would also weed out slackers.

Otherwise, an emphasis in churches on parental involvement in education would be prudent if one expects to have quality students to pick from. A liberal arts education needs to start in elementary and continue through high school, so that by the time a student enters college, they are already prepared for specialization.

As for making money... I agree with Bro. Peet, because what I've seen personally is a lack of realism when it comes to earning income. Young men training for ministry, in my experience, often graduate with the idea that they are going to go out and interview for a position in a church and make a living wage right off the bat, like the church is the Christian version of Corporate America. They have no skills, and end up as basketball coaches in Christian schools... but on the other end is the Christian vo-tech school Dr. Bauder describes, where spiritually shallow graduates can earn a good wage. I really don't know which is worse...

IMO where we are is in a shallow pool of lay people who've long ago gotten used to the idea of their children being raised for the most part by the Sunday School teacher, the pastor, and the public/private school. If the congregation can't handle strong meat, they will not be able to discern good and evil(Heb. 5:14). But if there isn't 'quality' in the pulpit, that's what is going to be in the pew. Talk about your vicious cycles...

Jay's picture

This thread reminded me of a [URL=http://20.sharperiron.org/showthread.php?t=7370&page=1&pp=10&highlight=c... ]thread [/URL ]at the old SI site that was pertinent, so I thought I'd link back to it for everyone here.

"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

EditorAdmin

Paul J. Scharf wrote:
-- unless he is saying that what we call a liberal arts college is really a misnomer for a vocational training college.

Paul, that's how I understood him on that point.
Also you mentioned examples. We're unlikely to get him to post here but if you email him, he'll probably help you out there if he has time. Otherwise, it'll probably show up in another essay. I think he'd say that there really isn't an example of exactly what he's talking about, hence the closing line. But there are probably some broadly Christian colleges (maybe Lutheran) that would be close, but still lacking the needed Bible emphasis. Which returns us to Joseph's issue. I'd much like to see Kevin's take on how "all that" could be fit into four years. I remain far more optimistic than Joseph that it can be done, though.

(Maybe by cutting out daily chapel and going to once or twice a week? Wait--before anyone throws stones, think about it. Were we really ever intended to digest and personally apply that much preaching? I wonder sometimes if daily chapel doesn't just train people to tune out and say "Hey, I've already got plenty to work on spiritually!" I read Roy Beacham make an observation along those lines once and thought, hey, I'm not alone!).

Paul J. Scharf's picture

"But there are probably some broadly Christian colleges (maybe Lutheran) that would be close, but still lacking the needed Bible emphasis."

Aaron,

I believe that you are hitting on something here. In the Lutheran denomination I grew up in, for instance, the ministerial training college -- which had strict entrance requirements and was intended only for those planning to go on to seminary (a four-year program in itself for the M.Div.) -- was, in essence, a liberal arts college. The emphasis was placed on Greek, Latin, history, etc. I believe this is still the basic model in college/seminary programs across conservative Lutheranism. I cannot speak for other branches of Protestantism and how they operate.

Obviously, fundamentalism got off on another track, beginning with the Bible institute movement of the late 1800s, as was covered in a previous thread.

Which model is better? Having lived in both worlds, I would say that they both have their advantages and disadvantages. If Dr. Bauder is calling for a system which offers the best of both worlds, I would also wonder how it could be done in four years.

(Of course, any individual could customize such a program simply by going to college for a liberal education while he prepares to go off to seminary. No one would have to sit and wait for the system to change in order for that to happen. I personally am not convinced that all Bible colleges are unnecessary, however.)

Another major difference between these systems is that such liberal-education ministerial training colleges are heavily subsidized by their parent denominations, and are generally not competing against other colleges for students in the traditional sense of the term. By contrast, Bible colleges are much more entrepreneurial. Thus, finances would be another major hindrance in making this kind of a shift.

As far as improving the quality of a Bible college -- Aaron, your comment about chapel is not at all out of line. I would second the motion and add more items which could be greatly scaled back, such as holding revival meetings to start the semester. The next place to cut to create more room for liberal education would be the "vocational" ministry classes, in which 18-year-olds who don't know who wrote Matthew sit in a class and learn about "The Pastor and His Computer" :>)

An addendum: An offshoot of fundamentalists reconstructing the ministerial training process through the Bible institute movement, etc. is that the average person in the pew in our churches has no foggy idea what the difference is between even a college and seminary graduate! Some wonder why a person who continues on to seminary is so dumb that he has to keep going back to "college." Then, when a pulpit committee looks at resumes of two prospective ministers, one with a B.A. and the other with an M.Div., many are unable to distinguish between these two degrees, much less offer them varying rates of compensation.

Or to paraphrase from the earlier posts, "I don't car if got a DD or a fiddle-DD! Bless yer heart, son, you just com'n preech!" :>(

Church Ministries Representative for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry

David King's picture

Several have wondered how Bauder's ideas could fit into a four year college program. I wonder if Bauder took an initial look at the colleges because he is the head of a seminary: anemic colleges are supplying him with anemic students. We can attempt to slap a band aid on a broken arm by stuffing the Trivium into a college course of study, or we can repair the ruins properly by beginning with young children and allowing college to fulfill its proper purpose of finishing the work of a classical education. This is not a quick fix.

Susan was certainly correct about the need for a "separate and intensive" program to assist those who are lacking. (I would fall into that category; I don't want my children to.) This program would need to be a long term plan for some, as well as a short term requirement for virtually all college students until we began to graduate classically educated students from high schools. Perhaps Christian colleges should look into a "Foundations" year such as Charlie described, before the bachelor's program even begins.

This wall does not need tuckpointing. It is a ruin that needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. We cannot think five, ten or even twenty years. We must begin thinking multi-generationally.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Paul J. Scharf wrote:
An addendum: An offshoot of fundamentalists reconstructing the ministerial training process through the Bible institute movement, etc. is that the average person in the pew in our churches has no foggy idea what the difference is between even a college and seminary graduate! Some wonder why a person who continues on to seminary is so dumb that he has to keep going back to "college." Then, when a pulpit committee looks at resumes of two prospective ministers, one with a B.A. and the other with an M.Div., many are unable to distinguish between these two degrees, much less offer them varying rates of compensation.
I think the main cure for that is for pastors to make sure church leaders are well informed about how to replace them. Makes for a weird conversation I suppose "I'm not planning on leaving but here's some really good stuff you should read about how to choose a pastor. ... and you must not have a clue about that since you picked me!" But seriously, pastors have to help equip churches to do a good job of choosing pastors. But I think I've taken us off topic a bit here.

To tie it in, I think I've got some work to do (and am probably not alone) to help folks think differently about education. The "how to pick a pastor" part is a small but important part of that.

Edit: David... I sort of hope you're wrong, but I'm afraid you might be right.

Jamie Hart's picture

David King wrote:
Several have wondered how Bauder's ideas could fit into a four year college program. I wonder if Bauder took an initial look at the colleges because he is the head of a seminary: anemic colleges are supplying him with anemic students. We can attempt to slap a band aid on a broken arm by stuffing the Trivium into a college course of study, or we can repair the ruins properly by beginning with young children and allowing college to fulfill its proper purpose of finishing the work of a classical education. This is not a quick fix.

Susan was certainly correct about the need for a "separate and intensive" program to assist those who are lacking. (I would fall into that category; I don't want my children to.) This program would need to be a long term plan for some, as well as a short term requirement for virtually all college students until we began to graduate classically educated students from high schools. Perhaps Christian colleges should look into a "Foundations" year such as Charlie described, before the bachelor's program even begins.

This wall does not need tuckpointing. It is a ruin that needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. We cannot think five, ten or even twenty years. We must begin thinking multi-generationally.


Although I certainly don't disagree with your idea in theory, isn't this sort of...pie in the sky thinking? Certainly we pastors should be encouraging our parents to be very engaged in their children's education and challenge them to deeper thinking. But the Dr. Bauder's of the world operate in reality...and should spend their time on more viable solutions. Effecting the change you suggest is no small task and even if this movement caught on like wildfire, it would still take years to come to fruition...and this fall new students are showing up.
Aaron Blumer wrote:
Paul J. Scharf wrote:
An addendum: An offshoot of fundamentalists reconstructing the ministerial training process through the Bible institute movement, etc. is that the average person in the pew in our churches has no foggy idea what the difference is between even a college and seminary graduate! Some wonder why a person who continues on to seminary is so dumb that he has to keep going back to "college." Then, when a pulpit committee looks at resumes of two prospective ministers, one with a B.A. and the other with an M.Div., many are unable to distinguish between these two degrees, much less offer them varying rates of compensation.
I think the main cure for that is for pastors to make sure church leaders are well informed about how to replace them. Makes for a weird conversation I suppose "I'm not planning on leaving but here's some really good stuff you should read about how to choose a pastor. ... and you must not have a clue about that since you picked me!" But seriously, pastors have to help equip churches to do a good job of choosing pastors. But I think I've taken us off topic a bit here.

To tie it in, I think I've got some work to do (and am probably not alone) to help folks think differently about education. The "how to pick a pastor" part is a small but important part of that.

Edit: David... I sort of hope you're wrong, but I'm afraid you might be right.


Perhaps I'm being too sensitive about this...but are you saying, "churches need to be educated so they don't make the mistake of hiring a man with only a B.A.?" I'm sure you would agree that there many other important considerations...and there are worse mistakes a church could make when hiring their new shepherd.

Joseph's picture

Charlie wrote:

Second and along the same lines, you can only accomplish so much in a few years. I agree with David King that the best way to improve higher education is to improve the quality of its incoming classes. Renovations of education must start earlier than the college level. As a historical note, not so many centuries ago when education was more what Dr. Bauder described, most students entered university at age 12-16. Thus, whatever we wish to emulate about their example, we would be wise to consider emulating at the high school level. I've had some experience with attempting to introduce "trivium" late in the educational process. The seminary from which I graduated runs a 4-year M Div, because they include a "Foundations" year. The idea is to ground students in formal logic and rhetoric, and to introduce them to the history of philosophy and other such liberal arts things. Now, this is a wonderful idea, but the effect is not nearly as great as one might hope. Simply put, it's too little, too late. The 35 year old electricians taking these classes are learning some things, but they're a bit past their truly formative years, when such education would have left a dramatic mark. The same can be said for seminaries and the ancient languages. The great masses of pastors who graduate from M Div programs never to touch their GNT's and BHS's except through some kind of mediated aid is perhaps the single greatest embarrassment to seminary education today. But what can we expect from people who have never really had to learn and use foreign language before their 20's (or 30's or 40's)?

I'm all for, and have mentioned on different occasion, the importance of selectivity. With respect to your second point, however, I think it, well, misses the point.

Strictly speaking, you do not "improve higher education" by improving the quality of the incoming classes. That's just improving the quality of the incoming classes, and therefore improving the likelihood that the class will gain more from their higher education than less well-prepared students. But, if one is actually involved in, and only has direct influence on, higher education, one has, properly speaking, nothing to do with preparing one's incoming class; one's task begins once the incoming class is gawking at you in your classroom. As a general point about education, I obviously agree with the need to reform secondary schooling (and it's hardly an original complaint - indeed it is the classic one university folk like to use to shunt aside criticism), but in this context it's simply changing the topic - which is fine, so long as we all recognize that that is what we're doing.

The fact is higher education either can, in itself, be improved or it cannot. If it cannot, then our discussion is moot. But that ("higher education cannot be improved") would be a highly implausible claim. If higher education can be reformed and improved, then one will need ideas and reforms targeting higher education, properly so-called. For example, I think higher education could be dramatically improved very simply if universities did two things: stopped inflating grades and started gradually, but tangibly (e.g. through the curricula and requirements) increasing the expectations they have of the "average" student. The result of this would be at least twofold: first, a dramatic and, from an external and administrate perspective, unprecedented and horrifically high, increase in failure rates and decrease in average GPAs. Second, a commensurately dramatic increase in the quality of the average college graduate.

Now these are merely two very simple ideas, out of many conceivable suggestions for reform. Both are extremely impractical, however, because universities operate as businesses on a service-industry model, and a dramatic, self-instigated decrease in their clientele would be financially suicidal. Therefore I don't see even these simple ideas ever becoming implemented on a large scale. Still, private Christians colleges could plausibly make such changes - and they are what we're discussing.

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Jamie Hart wrote:
Perhaps I'm being too sensitive about this...but are you saying, "churches need to be educated so they don't make the mistake of hiring a man with only a B.A.?" I'm sure you would agree that there many other important considerations...and there are worse mistakes a church could make when hiring their new shepherd.

Jamie,

Perhaps you are asking this of Aaron, but that was not my point. My point, in light of our discussion here about educational standards, was that in our churches we are often dealing with people who do not have even a basic grasp of the nature of theological education -- which is itself a multi-generational by-product of poor theological education! :>)

Furthermore, ministry (at least within fundamental or conservative circles) is one of the few places in American life where a person with a first professional degree (M.Div.) would have little expectation of beginning a position at a higher salary or even a higher level of respect than someone fresh out of college with a B.A. Of course, that is way over-generalizing, but on balance I believe it is true.

As to debating the necessity of seminary on its merits, I can personally show you some "superstars" in the ministry whose education concluded with a bachelor's degree or a three-year Bible inistitute diploma. For every one of them, I can show you at least 100 who could be really good if they went to seminary.

I have also met numerous non-seminarians who can explain in detail why it "wasn't for them" (one told me flat out, "That's too much work!!"), but have yet to meet my first seminary grad who wished he had not gone.

Church Ministries Representative for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

If true improvements are to be made, Bible colleges and seminaries need more than tucking in and patching up. IMO it absolutely would require a several pronged multi-generational approach. We can't just improve higher education without improving elementary and high school education. Academics do not belong to the state- if all wisdom and knowledge is from God, then parents and the church should be leaders and trend-setters in the teaching and training of children and young people. Character is just as much a part of education as academics, and parents themselves need more teaching and support in this area.

Which leads me to another thought- an aspect of seminary training that I seldom see discussed is the character requirements of a man headed for dedicated ministry. Many can make the grades, but don't fulfill the qualities listed in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. Surely a seminary can't in good conscience send men out with degrees who do not fit the Biblical job description. Mentoring should be part of any training program designed to prepare a man for ministry... and then maybe fewer wolves would be set loose on the sheep. That's the purpose of all this training- to be able to effectively feed and care for the flock.

Jamie Hart's picture

Paul...
Thanks for the response. Let me clarify my heart.
When advising young men who are contemplating ministry, I would tell them, "Go to a great Bible College (like FBBC!!) then continue on to seminary." In today's world, there is no question in my mind that a professional degree will be of great benefit to them. So I want to start by saying I see great value in a seminary education.
What I'm concerned about is the idea that a man NEEDS a seminary education to be qualified for, or effective in ministry. It helps, I'm sure. But as you pointed out, there are some that are quite effective without an MDiv...and some with an MDiv who are not.
Also, my point with Aaron's post is that a man's education is ONE of the factors a church should consider when hiring a new man...but, IMO, it's a ways down the list. If I'm going to have that awkward conversation with the church I'm leaving, I'm going to encourage them to consider these questions first;
-"Does he demonstrate a passion for God and His Word?"
-"Does he demonstrate a love for people?"
-"Does he bear fruit of a man who works diligently?"
-"Does he demonstrate a love for his wife that is self-sacrificing?"
...and there are others...but if that awkward conversation is going to happen, I'm not sure if "let me explain the difference between an B.A. and an MDiv." is even going to be on the radar.

IMO, the best way to prepare a man for ministry is in an effective local church where theology, philosophy, hermenutics, etc. are seriously taught AND where the young man is mentored while he serves in the ministry. It's true that these churches are few and far between and seminaries fill in the gaps where most pastors simply are not qualified. However, there is simply nothing in the classroom that will fully prepare you to handle the room of frustrated deacons...or the deathbed of a dearly loved saint...or the overwhelming feeling of your own inadequacies. A loving, wise mentor is invaluable in these cases.

Paul J. Scharf wrote:
Furthermore, ministry (at least within fundamental or conservative circles) is one of the few places in American life where a person with a first professional degree (M.Div.) would have little expectation of beginning a position at a higher salary or even a higher level of respect than someone fresh out of college with a B.A. Of course, that is way over-generalizing, but on balance I believe it is true.

IMO, respect from a church should not be based on the man's education, but on his proven character. In fact I would strongly suggest that a church NOT show a higher level of respect for man simply based on his education. That would be dangerous, IMO.

Jamie Hart's picture

Susan R wrote:
Many can make the grades, but don't fulfill the qualities listed in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.

Susan...what are you basing this statement on? With all due respect (and there is much due), I'm not sure this isn't overstated. FWIW, I would say SOME can make the grades, but don't fulfill the qualities..
I can't find the exact quote, but D.A. Carson has said, "One of the extraordinary truths about the qualifications for pastors is how ordinary they are"...or something close to that :). These qualifications are well within the grasp of a young man who passionately loves His God and God's people! Let's hope your statement is not true.

However, THIS statement I agree wholeheartedly with...

Susan R wrote:
Mentoring should be part of any training program designed to prepare a man for ministry... and then maybe fewer wolves would be set loose on the sheep. That's the purpose of all this training- to be able to effectively feed and care for the flock.

I believe that is the solution to the problem you address. Older, godly men putting their arm around a young man and asking tough questions...and lovingly guiding him to the right answers. Such men have been invaluable in my life.

Charlie's picture

Joseph, I don't disagree with your points, but I'm convinced you read me hastily. My first point was directed toward one improvement that can be instituted on the college level. I don't deny that there are others. My second was on the necessity of thinking about university as one phase in the longer educational process. I never said "higher education cannot be improved." I used relative language, such as, "The effect is not nearly as great as one might hope." I did say that I don't think college is the best place to introduce the trivium. Now, I could have phrased one thing more clearly. Instead of saying "improving higher education," perhaps I should have said, "improving the quality of the final educational product."

You are right that people in higher education can influence only higher education. That's obvious. But this whole thread is an exercise in people speculating outside their primary zone of influence. Note that Dr. Bauder, a seminary president, is talking about Bible colleges, with which he is not directly involved. Presumably, he's figured out that he can do only so much in an M. Div program, and he's writing this in part because he wants his starting classes better equipped. I was simply following that line of logic to the next level. In one way, my point is similar to your earlier one, that colleges that are already struggling to do one thing can't simply start doing two well. Significant improvement to the final educational product is going to come from accumulated improvements over the whole course of the educational process.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I had the verse in my mind that states "many are called, but few are chosen"- which is not applicable to this conversation contextually, but IMO the principle holds- statistically, more people attend Bible college who are not serious or qualified for the pursuit of what we call 'full-time' ministry than those who are. They make the grades and can sustain the facade. As we consider a means for improving academic quality, we need a methodology that adds character to the equation, and IMO mentoring would provide a significant filtering device.

For instance- what would you think about a young man who seemed in every way qualified for the ministry, but had significant credit card debt due to his Xbox habit? Would you consider him grave, sober, and without covetousness? I think we give too many behaviors a pass that are in reality the seeds of destruction. And only a mature Christian who had a personal relationship with this young man would be privy to this information, and in a position to help him. But I see these kinds of young men in every position of every IFB church I have ever attended. Anecdotal? Yes. Invalid? I don't think so. Overstated? Maybe.

Jamie Hart's picture

Susan R wrote:
For instance- what would you think about a young man who seemed in every way qualified for the ministry, but had significant credit card debt due to his Xbox habit? Would you consider him grave, sober, and without covetousness? I think we give too many behaviors a pass that are in reality the seeds of destruction. And only a mature Christian who had a personal relationship with this young man would be privy to this information, and in a position to help him. But I see these kinds of young men in every position of every IFB church I have ever attended. Anecdotal? Yes. Invalid? I don't think so. Overstated? Maybe.

My remedy for the young man...surrender your XBox and games to me as a evidence of your commitment to our ministry. Smile

I don't believe your scenario is invalid at all...and as I stated earlier, I'm in full agreement with your solution. I hope...I really hope...that it's not as wide-spread as you fear. But perhaps it is.

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Jamie Hart wrote:

Paul J. Scharf wrote:
Furthermore, ministry (at least within fundamental or conservative circles) is one of the few places in American life where a person with a first professional degree (M.Div.) would have little expectation of beginning a position at a higher salary or even a higher level of respect than someone fresh out of college with a B.A. Of course, that is way over-generalizing, but on balance I believe it is true.

IMO, respect from a church should not be based on the man's education, but on his proven character. In fact I would strongly suggest that a church NOT show a higher level of respect for man simply based on his education. That would be dangerous, IMO.

Jamie,
I am not talking about some sort of high church respect in an ecclesiastical power.
Rather, by contrast, I work in a secular environment where I interact constantly with engineers, accountants, attorneys, doctors, etc. There is a level of respect in society in general for these kinds of people, their knowledge and the services they offer because of the status they have achieved academically. To some extent, pastors in general also get this type of respect, but that is not strictly what I am talking about.
What I am saying is that when people in the church cannot distinguish between a B.A. and and M.Div., referring instead to seminary as cemetery, why would a young person consider spending thousands of dollars to go to seminary? Does this attitude not in itself evidence disrespect for the study of the Word of God? It is not the man or his degree that I am worried about.
As an example, whenever I am dealing with someone with a doctorate, I am careful to make appropriate use of the title. I would think that is part of giving honor to whom honor is due (Rom. 13:7).

Church Ministries Representative for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Paul J. Scharf wrote:
What I am saying is that when people in the church cannot distinguish between a B.A. and and M.Div., referring instead to seminary as cemetery, why would a young person consider spending thousands of dollars to go to seminary? Does this attitude not in itself evidence disrespect for the study of the Word of God? It is not the man or his degree that I am worried about.

Previously posted-

Quote:
"I don't car if got a DD or a fiddle-DD! Bless yer heart, son, you just com'n preech!"

I think I know what you are talking about- there has been in IFBism a segment that takes 1 Cor. 1:18-29 a bit far- to the point where they worship ignorance. Ifn' you got too much book learnin', then yer prolly too big fer yer britches.

I think the balance is found in James- verse 3:13 "Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom."

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Jamie Hart wrote:
Perhaps I'm being too sensitive about this...but are you saying, "churches need to be educated so they don't make the mistake of hiring a man with only a B.A.?" I'm sure you would agree that there many other important considerations...and there are worse mistakes a church could make when hiring their new shepherd.
No... was responding to Scharff's observations that people increasingly don't know one degree from another or understand the value of more training vs. less. I know a few MDivs and DMins who are not as good pastors as other guys who have BAs or less. (Including some guys who are leagues ahead of me because they've just got a much better overall mix of gifts and more maturity). But I will say that other things being equal the guys who are "less formally educated yet better pastors" would be even better better pastors with more formal education (assuming it's of good quality).
That's the nutshell of how I look at the whole education vs. qualification question

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

There is [URL=http://blog.coreknowledge.org/2010/01/11/literacy-creep/ a post at the Core Knowledge blog[/URL ] by Robert Pondiscio about practices that he believes are leading to perpetual remediation. He defines “literacy creep” as the tendency of elementary school-style instructional techniques to find their way deeper into K-12 education across all content areas. For instance,

Quote:
one middle school teacher who reads The Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar Fraction Book to her 7th and 8th grade math students. That particular book is one that Scholastic markets for children from PreK to 3rd grade. It’s hard to imagine such a basic picture book engaging middle schoolers. The clear implication is that the students’ reading and math ability is nowhere near where it ought to be, thus a read aloud is making a virtue of necessity.

It brought this thread to mind, especially this quote:

Quote:

The liberal arts (especially grammar, logic, and rhetoric) are the basic tools of thought. Any institution that neglects fostering of these disciplines will fail to educate its students. Mastery of the liberal arts is essential to any thoughtful life or ministry.

Obviously the underpinnings of education are weakening, so while we may continue pursue the idea of providing a superior Bible education at the college level, we need some serious focus on the foundation.

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