Seminaries Reluctantly Selling Their Souls

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TylerR's picture

Editor

I've been pretty outspoken before on how dangerous I think it is to equate the Seminary with the local church. The author of this piece did just that:

  • Notice how he compares the work in Seminary to the observance of the Lord's Supper. 
  • Notice how he equates Seminary with worship and prayer

I think this is quite dangerous and really unbalanced. There is a difference between the Seminary and the local church. The Seminary simply exists to train Pastors. The Seminary is a toolbox. I know that will offend many people, and I hope you don't assume that I don't care about Seminary. I do. But, I believe many people in academia have lost their sense of balance on this issue. If you're a Baptist who does it, this is particularly troubling. 

I think this reluctance to embrace virtual and online education is a generational issue. Older men remember their Seminary classrooms, their inspiring teachers, and the camaraderie of their studies. They think it's a betrayal to do things differently. I understand. But, they're wrong. I am disturbed at this bizarre fixation on blurring the lines between Seminary and the local church. 

Many students complain about online classes. They recognize that this is not the best preparation to serve. Students who attend classes in person find it hard not to resent those who receive the same degree without paying the same price. Students who wish they could meet with their professor and other students are denied the opportunity when the class they need is only offered online. The trend in theological education to require less of students will, in time, hurt the church. Is it really a seminary education if we are not worshiping together, praying with one another or talking about Jesus between classes? 

Allow me to answer a few of the author's concerns; I'll pass the Kleenex to him if the answers prove too much:

  • If you don't like online classes, then go find another Seminary
  • If you attend in person and resent online or virtual students, then go find another Seminary. I'm sure the Egyptian Christian who's studying Greek with me under Andy Hudson at Maranatha would really like to hear how much you resent him. Same for the Christian banker from Singapore. I'll provide you with their contact info so you can tell them how much you resent their virtual presence. 
  • If you want to meet your professor, then call him on this new, magical invention called a "telephone." Or, if you're really daring, you can use a new-fangled invention called "Skype." Better yet, if you really need some coddling, talk to . . . (gasp) your Pastor. You know, the guy who's actually supposed to be your spiritual shepherd. 
  • A good Seminary doesn't require less of online and virtual students. If you think so, prove it. Maranatha sure doesn't. 
  • The "church" won't be hurt by online and virtual education. See, I can make blanket statements without proving their merit, too! Yay!
  • The Seminary isn't a place to worship and pray. The local church is. May I recommend a basic book on Baptist polity? How about (gasp) you study online or virtually, and then talk about Jesus in the local church, not between classes? Oh, wait, forgive me . . . that would hurt the "church."

If anybody needs Kleenex to wipe away the tears from my blunt comments, I recommend this vendor.  

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Donn R Arms's picture

Tyler is generally correct. We have been doing online training and training "by extension" for 20 years. No, it is not better than attending classes live conducted by a prof who can be involved and interested in each student's life. But the choice is not between the author's ideal world or inferior online training. The choice is often between live seminary training or no training at all. In these situations online training is a great blessing. In our case the choice is either study under Dr. Jay Adams himself online, or not at all.

Donn R Arms

Bert Perry's picture

If we are to, per Matthew 28, make disciples in the church, I really don't see why we ought not be developing new pastors in the churches.  It seems that some specialized things--things like Hebrew and Greek--might do well with a more skilled teacher, but a lot of the pastorate is experiential.  Why not OJT?

And anticipating an objection, what if pastors don't feel competent to make such disciples....well, it strikes me in such a case that maybe their seminary education wasn't as good as they thought it was, was it?

(crazy homeschoolers make the same point about people pointing out that public education doesn't leave parents qualified to teach their own children....well, if my wife's BA and my MS are inadequate to teach our children how to read, write, do arithmetic and the like, exactly why would we want to send our children to the schools that failed us?)

I don't mean to bag on seminaries, as I benefited hugely from the presence of Central when I was a member at 4th, and I've been blessed by many Godly men who have attended seminary.  That said, I think we need to be open to a new paradigm that doesn't do one thing that many people have noted about seminaries; they can isolate the would-be pastor from making disciples for a number of years.  "Oops."

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dgszweda's picture

The author misses the point of lay people who may want to get a seminary degree.  I am 44 looking to get a MDiv.  If there is no online offering, my only choice is to quit my job, move my family to another location and attend a full time seminary.  I like the idea of having a choice of doing it all online or doing a hybrid approach of mostly online with some getting together once in a while.  Your interaction should be with your local pastor, elders and church members and finding ways to engage your own congregation with the training/learning that you are receiving. 

paynen's picture

Bert... Almost all pastors learn to be pastors in the church... That is what something called an internship is for. But the education that leads up to that? I would find it hard to find a pastor who can educate to the level of an entire staff of trained specialized and dedicated professors. Your understanding of theory vs. practice is non-existent. Your final paragraph is entirely wrong. No seminary "isolates a would-be pastor from making disciples for a number of years." going to school doesn't keep you from going to church or serving in a local church, it doesn't prevent you from being an assistant pastor or a pastor even. If you are not serving in a local church in seminary that is the fault of the individual not the seminary.

paynen's picture

I agree with Tyler. Though I do understand many professor's concerns with not being able to interact directly with students. I also understand many institutional concerns about giving individuals a degree without insuring as much as possible that they fit the doctrinal idea of what fits your institution. I think that professors and colleges should always require as much interaction as possible, whether that is some sort of module style course work, or at least some sort of live interaction if a week long class isn't possible.

Bert Perry's picture

paynen wrote:

Bert... Almost all pastors learn to be pastors in the church... That is what something called an internship is for. But the education that leads up to that? I would find it hard to find a pastor who can educate to the level of an entire staff of trained specialized and dedicated professors. Your understanding of theory vs. practice is non-existent. Your final paragraph is entirely wrong. No seminary "isolates a would-be pastor from making disciples for a number of years." going to school doesn't keep you from going to church or serving in a local church, it doesn't prevent you from being an assistant pastor or a pastor even. If you are not serving in a local church in seminary that is the fault of the individual not the seminary.

Paynen....my comments are predicated on what I've heard from pastors and others who have been through seminary, and I've even heard the same thought expressed by Christian colleges.  Yes, being isolated from making disciples is a common lament of the seminarian, and I am surprised to see you even think to contest this.

And yes, many seminary trained pastors today are unfortunately unable to pass on the basics of proper exegesis and hermeneutics, Old and New Testament theology, appreciation for the original languages, systematics, and the like....OK, so we infer that all of those experts in their seminaries have left them unable to pass these skills on to the deacons and elders at their church....this is an argument for continuing the present seminary system unchanged exactly how?  Keep in mind that you cannot depend on all of your deacons and elders to be Bible college (juco seminary) trained.  It's essential for pastors to be doing this!

 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

paynen's picture

The comments are still wrong. I don't care what they are predicated on. They are logically false, Seminary does not isolate anyone from making disciples. making disciples is something we are all called to do and unless we are isolated from people you can't be isolated from making disciples. That is a sorry excuse from a lazy man, or they are just trying to make an illogical point.

You are correct, Our churches are weak in the areas of education. This is not a problem caused by colleges and seminaries. It is a problem caused by overall laziness within the church. A Pastor can and should have the ability to pass on everything a believer needs to know about faith, practice, doctrine, etc. to his congregation especially with the help of others trained to teach. In order for that to be effective two things need to happen. The pastor needs to be able to teach and understand doctrine on an academic level and has to have the leadership ability to create an environment were he can pass on what he knows. A seminary education is paramount to the academic understanding needed to properly hand down information to others. Experts teach eventual pastors, pastors teach congregations. The pastor is never going to be an expert, but due to the efforts of experts he can pass down a good amount of everything to his congregation.

The problem you are stating is not caused by seminaries. It is caused by a lack of academic thought in churches, particularly baptist ones. individuals go to seminaries not because they want to know more about God, it is because they want a signed piece of paper. The primary issue though is feelings. It is rare to find a church, a pastor, or anyone that places doctrine and the written word of God above how they feel. Even in conservative church's good Christianity is effectively considered successful based on how people feel. 

 

Larry Nelson's picture

 

paynen wrote:

You are correct, Our churches are weak in the areas of education. This is not a problem caused by colleges and seminaries. It is a problem caused by overall laziness within the church. A Pastor can and should have the ability to pass on everything a believer needs to know about faith, practice, doctrine, etc. to his congregation especially with the help of others trained to teach. In order for that to be effective two things need to happen. The pastor needs to be able to teach and understand doctrine on an academic level and has to have the leadership ability to create an environment were he can pass on what he knows. A seminary education is paramount to the academic understanding needed to properly hand down information to others. Experts teach eventual pastors, pastors teach congregations. The pastor is never going to be an expert, but due to the efforts of experts he can pass down a good amount of everything to his congregation.

 

In most educational settings, the level of teaching is directed to a relatively intellectually-uniform cohort. 

In Pre-school and/or Kindergarten?  Everyone is learning their ABC's and learning how to read.  Elementary school?  Everyone is learning the same (similar)  introductory material.  Junior high & high school?  Algebra, Geometry, American Literature, etc., for all.....

Going to college, one is still (theoretically) surrounded by his/her intellectual peers (typically the upper-third to upper-half or so of high school graduates).  Graduate school or professional school?  Presumably the cream of college graduates.

Along the way, the coursework (again, theoretically) becomes more demanding, with a diminishing cohort of students able to keep up.

 

Now consider the crowd in a typical church auditorium.  You might find a highly-intellectual Ph.D or M.D. seated next to someone who was/is intellectually incapable of finishing high school.  Under such circumstances, teaching comes with a distinct challenge.  Teach to the level of the highly-intellectual, and you can lose the less-capable.  Teach to the level of the less-capable, and you may lose the attention of the more-intellectual.  It can be next to impossible to effectively speak to both at once.  

 

Bert Perry's picture

So taking a kid out of Chicago and sending him to a virtually all-Christian environment a few miles outside of Dunbar, Wisconsin, with limited gas money, doesn't hurt his chances at making disciples, then?

Really, the seminary doesn't even need to be as isolated as Northland was to cause this issue.  All you need is the combination of student dorms, all Christian (at least theoretically) enrollment, ready availability of needed services on campus, a fairly heavy course load, and limited funds--all of which characterizes most seminaries.  Becoming isolated from discipleship is really an occupational hazard in any Christian school.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

paynen's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

So taking a kid out of Chicago and sending him to a virtually all-Christian environment a few miles outside of Dunbar, Wisconsin, with limited gas money, doesn't hurt his chances at making disciples, then?

Really, the seminary doesn't even need to be as isolated as Northland was to cause this issue.  All you need is the combination of student dorms, all Christian (at least theoretically) enrollment, ready availability of needed services on campus, a fairly heavy course load, and limited funds--all of which characterizes most seminaries.  Becoming isolated from discipleship is really an occupational hazard in any Christian school.  

.... no... Not a single seminary I know of has students in dorms. Colleges yes, not grad students. None of what you said really applies to the seminary student except for the heavy course load and limited funds... but those don't really apply to isolation I mean not anymore than anything else. And even in colleges that are a little out of the way... you can still make disciples... you just have the discipline and the desire to do it. Being around college kids a lot... there a many dirt poor college kids and there are some with a bit of money... The dirt poor one's tend to complain about lack of money way less than the ones who just want to use funds as an excuse to not do anything.... (after they buy their new iphone and that latest video game of course) You are only ever as isolated as you want to be. There is always someone unsaved around there is always people who need discipleship. If you can't find them... you don't want to find them.

 

Bert Perry's picture

Moody, DallasNorthland, Summit, and SBTS don't (didn't for Northland I guess) have married student housing, then?  But that noted, let me correct something of a false impression I gave; you don't need all of these factors to isolate people.  Any one of them will make it less likely for people to get out and make disciples. Yes, some will make heroic efforts to "get out to Dunbar", so to speak, and sometimes that's a good thing (souls won), but sometimes it's a bad thing (family life trashed).  

Also, if we are to blame "churches" for an often poor level of thinking, where does that leave leadership? Either leadership is responsible, and again seminary heads and search committees need to figure out what's wrong, or leadership is not responsible, which begs the question of why church bother hiring seminary graduates.

Either way, some soul searching is necessary here, no?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

paynen's picture

great logic... you know what else makes it less likely to go out and make disciples? jobs, family, church even, Christian fellowship... literally anything that isn't going out and witnessing to people is isolating... so based on your logic it should be eliminated... Since when is the Seminary church leadership? The seminary is a toolbox to use Tyler's verbiage from before. Yes often many in a seminary will be in leadership positions at their local churches, but church leadership is church leadership. Its not their seminary education that has failed them if things go wrong... its their churches. Its their inability to connect academic theory with theological practice. Practical theology is our biggest weakness and that is often because Pastors tend to lock their theology tool kits up in their offices and never bring them out. This isn't the fault of the seminary, it is a cultural phenomenon that results when a church culture minimizes what is Christianity to its basics and its do this don't do that ideas. Deep theological truth is uninteresting to the masses, so it often isn't used. Our churches seem to stick to the absolute basics... the love of God, be nice, gay marriage and gun hating liberals are evil.

Like I said the seminary gives you the tools. Its the internships and relationships with current pastors that teach up and coming pastors how to use them. That can't and shouldn't be done in a classroom. It would take a group of brilliant pastors with no fear to ever change church culture. People want what they want... and its they who have the power in a church.

Greg Long's picture

Bert, while I was in seminary I worked full-time teaching computer software applications in the business world (giving me opportunities to witness to my coworkers), and was a part-time youth pastor in a local church. Pretty much all of my fellow seminarians were involved in local church ministry, so I'm not sure why you think going to seminary means you aren't making disciples.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Bert Perry's picture

....is because I've heard it from a lot of people; that seminary can be spiritually deadly in its isolation.  Now if that's incorrect for many, that's wonderful--I must note that Central, for example, doesn't have student housing and most students are quite involved--but there are some cases where the structure of the school inhibits (does not prevent altogether; inhibits) discipleship.  

And in that case, we've got to ask some questions on whether those things inhibiting us are necessary (e.g. jobs, family life) or externally imposed.  

Another reason I note this is because I've known a few pastors for whom discipleship was an afterthought--they would do what they did in seminary, preparing for sermons for dozens of hours each week and administer the church, but you never heard from them unless they needed you to do something.  That's not entirely the fault of any one factor, let alone seminary, but sometimes these habits can be hard to unlearn.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

paynen's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

....is because I've heard it from a lot of people; that seminary can be spiritually deadly in its isolation.  Now if that's incorrect for many, that's wonderful--I must note that Central, for example, doesn't have student housing and most students are quite involved--but there are some cases where the structure of the school inhibits (does not prevent altogether; inhibits) discipleship.  

And in that case, we've got to ask some questions on whether those things inhibiting us are necessary (e.g. jobs, family life) or externally imposed.  

Another reason I note this is because I've known a few pastors for whom discipleship was an afterthought--they would do what they did in seminary, preparing for sermons for dozens of hours each week and administer the church, but you never heard from them unless they needed you to do something.  That's not entirely the fault of any one factor, let alone seminary, but sometimes these habits can be hard to unlearn.  

I still think that those are all problems with the individual on a personal level. Not the seminary they attended. I most familiar with Faith and to a small amount Central.. Neither of these institutions have this problem you speak of.

Bert Perry's picture

...can be true, or it can be a warning sign that you're blaming people for things someone else taught them.  To draw a picture, it's an adage (courtesy WE Deming) in quality engineering that 85% of business problems are really the consequence of the decisions and mindset of the executives.  Deming himself is said to have confronted Ford executives by telling them that 85% of Ford's quality problems were in the room with him.  

Application here; yes, it's the person's responsibility to faithfully take on the tasks of the pastor.  On the flip side, those training pastors need to carefully look at the incentives they are intentionally or unintentionally placing in front of people.  Great example of this is Jim Peet's comment (or someone's) about being able to tell when the senior pastor came to a church--subtly but surely, that's the decade of the attire worn by a lot of congregants.  In churches that are like this, you can also tell that conformity is superior to thinking.

And yes, I've heard accusations and seen evidence that a fair number of schools out there are doing this.  I hope that this is not the case for Faith, Central, and the like, but it's definitely something to look out for.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

paynen's picture

You are still blaming those training pastors in doctrine and theory for how they are handling practice, which is primarily learned in one's life, ministry, and internship from the church.

Bert Perry's picture

Paynen;that's exactly correct.  How are we to come to any other conclusion in light of James 3:1?  God keeps those who shepherd and teach his flock more accountable, and how much more for those who train our shepherds?  

Really, there are two comments of yours that trouble me.  First of all is the assumption that one learns theory in seminary and practice outside--that's totally compatible with my contention that one can be somewhat separated from discipleship while in training.  Second, your contention that weaknesses are primarily the fault of the individual pastor.

I would expect, given such attitudes, a situation similar to that of the Detroit 3 blaming the UAW and suppliers for all their problems, when the big issue was really their own executives.  If we value fundamentalism, we're really got to start realizing that each level of our organizations--small groups, churches, seminaries, Bible colleges, etc..--has a culture that impacts other groups.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

paynen's picture

That is the problem with what you are saying. You seem like your understanding of colleges and seminaries is completely foreign and second hand. Every college and seminary I am familiar with have very strict requirements of service in the local church while attending the institution. Faith and Maranatha I know both have evangelitic requirements. They also have internship requirements. The require depth to your service. The only way you can be isolated is if you intentionally try to bypass the system. I can't speak for the non-Baptist institutions that many attend. But I am very familiar with Faith and and central and I visited Maranatha
when I was looking for a college. I know their requirements.

 

Bert Perry's picture

Sorry, paynen, but it's eyewitness accounts.  You can say "second hand" all you want, but for my nickel, the testimony of multiple people who have been through seminary outweighs any testimony I could accumulate myself by a long shot, even if I spent my whole life there.  Honest, reliable, fundamental Baptist men, as a whole. 

Besides, you more or less concede what I'm claiming by pointing out that the mode you learned at Faith was that it was (primarily) about theory, and then you went out to learn practice.  Yes, you're required to attend church, do some evangelistic activities, take part in ministry, go on internships, but you yourself admitted that seminary was primarily about theory.

There is a tradeoff there; you get to learn Greek and Hebrew--languages that the Apostles didn't need to learn--but there is, by your own testimony, an isolation from some of the work of discipleship.

And really, the Disciples had more of an apprenticeship than an academic education, don't you think?  Theory and practice were mixed every day.  Listen to Him preach, collect the loaves and fishes, take care of ministry needs, pray, eat, etc., with the Master, no?  Go out on the "journey" of a journeyman with the sending of the 12 and the 72, right?

Now the original writer (way up there) was commenting that in his opinion, seminary achieved some of this, but those who have been through both an apprenticeship and academic training would tell you they are very, very different.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

paynen's picture

from what you've said you've never been to seminary. Thus your evidences are second hand accounts from others. These evidences contradict everything anyone who has first hand experience with a seminary who has posted in this conversation has stated... Now you are trying to appeal to Scripture in a prescriptive manner, when the passages are descriptive. Pastors are not Christ and we don't live during the early ages of a fledgling church when sign gifts were prevalent.

you are also making things up and saying I said them. You persume that is impossible to go to seminary and learn while being active in ministry in the church. I did not by my own words say going to seminary isolates anyone from part of anything. You can go to seminary and get an academic education, as well as get discipled by experienced men who have been in the pastorate. At the same time you can, and are required to be, active in ministry and disciple making, while learning from your pastor. This is the experience that myself and others here are telling you we have experienced, and you are ignoring. The people you have spoken to are either unmotivated in seminary or they are going to the wrong place, because we have proven it is possible.
 

paynen's picture

Come visit Faith. Meet our students. See how they are involved. Ask them. We don't need some dramatic change to or elimination of bible colleges and seminaries. Your basis has been proven wrong. If what you said was true, then it would be the norm coming out of seminaries and none of us here have seen that.

 

TylerR's picture

Editor

The point at issue in this article (linked above) is that the author claims that non-traditional delivery methods for seminary education are harmful to "the church," stunts theological maturity and is "unfair" (how post-modern of him!) to the folks who attend physically. I made it clear in my initial post that I think this position is, to be blunt, foolish and insulting. It sounded like a desperate cry from a desperate company man. It reminded me of something a Blockbuster Video store owner might have said 10 years ago. 

I think that the traditional model of Seminary education cuts people off from the biblical model of discipleship. It can work, as paynen has so passionate argued, but I don't think it's a Biblical model. It really comes down to this question - how can your local church evaluate your fitness and call for ministry if they don't ever see you? Seeing you a few short times per year is not enough. The local church is effectively outsourcing all responsibilities for training, mentoring and discipleship to "XYZ Baptist Seminary" and the incredibly lucky local churches who are in the area, who benefit from all the free labor via internships. 

Virtual and online education provide a way for (1) quality theological training, (2) without forcing the student to leave his local church, (3) and while allowing the student to put his gifts and training into actual practice in and among the saints who are supposed to evaluate his call to Pastoral ministry, (4) and allowing him to stay under the direct training and mentorship of his own Pastor(s) in his own local church! 

This is the way of the future, and this is a more Biblical model. That's bad news for the status quo. The author of this article represents the status quo, and like the panicked Blockbuster Video store owner, he sees the cliff coming and hopes that shutting his eyes and whining will stop the "new-fangled" ways from destroying his business. It won't. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bert Perry's picture

Paynen, if indeed one cannot use secondhand evidence, exactly how does anyone teach the Bible?   It is by definition second hand.   There is, logically speaking, no inherent superiority of one's own perceptions versus those noted by others.  In fact, checking your own perceptions for bias with secondhand evidence (or even thirdhand) is a primary part of good exegesis. A commentary--you probably own a few, as do I--is also second/third hand evidence, no?

And really, it's troubling me how you've insisted that the problems of the church have little or nothing to do with the training of church leadership....seriously?  By the same logic, we can start telling corporate hiring managers that it makes no difference whether the applicant graduated from Harvard or East Tennessee State.  This will, of course, come as something of a surprise to the admissions officers at Harvard.  

Your line of argument is, to put it mildly, not persuading me that I'm wrong in arguing that seminarians need to get out more.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Greg Long's picture

I think, Bert, that you are arguing under the assumption that the majority (? vast majority?) of pastors are NOT making disciples, and so then it MUST be the fault of the organizations producing those pastors, similar to your example about 85% of the problems being the fault of executives. But you have not necessarily established your premise that the vast majority (or whatever percentage) of pastors are not disciplemakers. You have also not proven that pastors who have been trained in the local church are better disciplemakers than pastors who have been trained in seminaries.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Bert Perry's picture

Greg, I'm not arguing that pastors aren't making disciples at all.  What I'm arguing is that typically the process of discipleship ends while believers are still pretty immature because the "heavy duty" education is left to Bible colleges and seminaries.

Contrast that with the apprenticeship model used by Christ and by most tradesmen today, where each "master" goes out fully capable of training other masters.  Now harnessing that model is difficult, to put it mildly; as you note, a lot of guys trained in the church find they're in beyond their ability.  But if you doubt that it can be done, ask a master plumber, carpenter, or electrician.  For that matter, most of your great composers (Beethoven, Mozart, etc.) were trained predominantly as apprentices (if not by that name, definitely with that system).  Another famous apprentice was Stradivari, whose feats still haven't been duplicated by Ph.D. engineers.

Another example of a local congregation doing pastoral level training is your local synagogue, which will generally teach a good level of Hebrew to anyone who desires, not to mention quite a bit of Torah and Talmud in your more conservative branches.  That's why it's called the "Shul" or "school".  

I'd argue that a good pastor will see if he can do something similar--teach the principles of exegesis, hermeneutics, and even a touch of Hebrew or Greek to those in the "Shul" who want to learn. 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Greg Long's picture

And yet if you want to be a rabbi, I'm pretty sure you have to go to seminary.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

paynen's picture

Bert, there is nothing particularly wrong with second hand evidence, except when it is completely torn to shreds by first hand experience. That is generally why one should not base one's argument entirely on experiential evidence. You completely lose credit if someone does not share your experience. That being said as Greg has said the rest of your argument is based entirely off of assumptions based on second hand experiential evidence.

Tyler, I think what you say has infinite value generally for older students. Those who have already been placed in their called area of ministry and their local church. I don't think it is relevant for the college student or the seminary student who is just out of college, which still is at least from what I see is mostly where your seminary students come from at least on the MA and Mdiv level. Generally a college student interested in the ministry isnt ever going to return to the church they grew up in for ministry. They are not being separated from anything. They are in essence moving. My church that I began attending at Faith, quickly became my "home" church. It is where I've been discipled by pastors, friends, and older men. It is also where I have to opportunity to minister to unchurched children. I'm not being cut off from any biblical model of discipleship, as the biblical model of discipleship does not dictate where or how discipleship takes place. Online education is a needed tool specifically for those men who want training that have already planted ministry "roots" and fully plan to return to those root, or stay in those roots while they pursue their education. It is especially necessary if you wish to train individuals on a foreign field. I particularly like the development of Faith's online program as it is becoming a hybrid of their excellent module program that they've had in place for years. Eventually it will become something that will have entirely online options, but now someone can get a full degree without actually taking any traditional semester long in class classes.

 

Bert Perry's picture

to wit: Maimonides, Baal Shem Tov, and many others through history were trained through apprenticeship.  Schneerson of the Chabad Lubavitch was also trained predominantly in that manner.

Now you go to Reform and many/most Conservative congregations, you'll probably get a bigger insistence on a college degree in rabbinic studies.  Not so much for the Orthodox, who are probably the closest analog in Judiasm to fundamentalism within Christianity.  

And really, let's take one class that most take only in seminary as an example; exegesis methods.  Now, we are somehow to argue that our pastor is qualified to preach a sermon using what we derive from exegetical methods, but not the methods themselves?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

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