Category Archives: seminary education

On Inmate Students, the Capetian Dynasty, and “Weak” French

Last week, I walked into the Darrington Unit to give my last lectures before the final exam. As I was putting my shoes back on after going through security, I found out that the unit was on lock-down. All the offenders in the prison were “racked up,” that is, they were all confined to their cells while the officers were searching for contraband.

End of year lock-down is a normal and routine procedure. At the end of the year, the officers at the prison clear out whatever contraband materials have made their way into the population. It usually lasts a couple of weeks. This year is different, because lock-down started a lot earlier than normal.

That meant that I had to record my final lectures. The students at Darrington will be watching my recordings as soon as their lock-down is over and they can return to the education wing where we have our “campus.”

This experience helped me to reflect a bit on what on earth I’m doing at the Darrington Unit. My students can’t get out of their cells because they’re on lock-down, for pete’s sake. I can come and go freely. I will be enjoying my Christmas holiday over the next few weeks. Surrounded by my family and my friends, I will be enjoying food, fellowship, and relaxation. I will also be at ease in my study, working on my book project.

My students will not be enjoying any of those things. Are they getting what they deserve? It’s certainly easy to say “yes” and move on. But teaching in the prison certainly gives me perspective on who I am before God, and my own need for reconciliation with Him through Jesus Christ. I can’t be flippant about the question of “deserve.”

On another note, I thought I’d post a sample lecture for you. If you are into the beginning of the French monarchy in the tenth century, enjoy! As you watch, lift up a prayer for those men who are confined to an 8′ x 12′ cell for the next seven days, (and a maximum security prison, many of them for life) and be thankful for your freedom.

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President Carter is Right–And We’re On It!

     At EthicsDaily.com this past Tuesday, Robert Parham posted an interview he conducted with former President Jimmy Carter. The issue–what are Christians doing to fulfill Christ’s command to care for the prisoners who are in our midst? Carter’s conclusion was, not much.
“I don’t think there is any doubt but that Luke 4:18-19 describes Jesus’ moral agenda,” said Carter. “That part of Luke best encapsulates in a very brief way the entire thrust of Jesus’ ministry.”
Carter continued, 
“Unfortunately, led by some Christian leaders, our country has gone from a basic philosophy of rehabilitation of a prisoner to a punishment only – and the more severe and extended the punishment,” the better it is, he said.
     According to Parham, Carter wants the New Baptist Covenant (NBC) to seriously take up this issue. EthicsDaily.com proposed the production of a documentary at the NBC planning meeting for their 2014 conference. The documentary would focus on “what goodwill Baptists were doing on the prison ministry and prison reform fronts.”
     Former President Carter is right to point out that Christians have much work to do in terms of reaching prisoners. I wonder if he is aware of the efforts Southern Baptists are making at the Angola prison in Louisiana and at the Darrington Unit at Rosharon, Texas.
     New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary has been offering a SACS accredited Bachelor of Science degree in Biblical Studies to prisoners at Angola since 1994. Hundreds of prisoners have graduated from the program since then, and have formed numerous churches there. The culture has been transformed from one of the most brutal prisons in the nation to one largely at peace with itself. Warden Burl Cain gives the credit for that change to the prison seminary.
     Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary started its SACS accredited B.S. program in Biblical Studies at the Darrington Unit in the fall of 2011. Over 600 prisoners across the state of Texas applied for admission to the class of 2015, and 40 were accepted. Hundreds more applied for admission to the class of 2016, and another 40 were accepted. The program will continue to accept applicants from the prison system each year, expanding the program and widening its influence.
     At Darrington, all of the prisoners are serving long term sentences. To be considered for admission, a prisoner must have at least 10 years before being eligible for parole. The goal is not to graduate prisoners who will be released from prison, but to graduate prisoners who will go back to other units across Texas and serve their fellow prisoners as pastors and chaplains. They will be seminary trained, and will have the “street cred” that no “free world” chaplain or pastor would ever have with the prisoners in the system.
 
     Classes for the 2012-2013 year at Darrington start in a few weeks. I am teaching Western Civ I to the incoming class of 2016, and Principles and Structure of American Politics to the class of 2015. There are a total of 78 students in our program this year, and next year, we will accept another 40 into the class of 2017. 
 
     Governor Rick Perry visited our “campus” at Darrington in early July. He was deeply impressed and pledged to do all he could to support the school. Mr. Carter, in the off chance you might be reading this, we would love to have you come and visit Darrington and see what God is doing in the lives of those men. It is truly a sight to see!

A Face for Radio

My posts on seminary education got some attention. I appeared today on the Janet Mefferd Show to discuss the necessity of seminary education. Listen to it here.

Is Seminary Education Necessary? Part IV

In this final post on whether a seminary education is necessary to the pastoral ministry or not, I will argue the following. Seminary education is not legally, logically, or even practically necessary for the work of the pastor. But seminary education does provide skills and content that are indispensable to the work of a pastor. Pastors who forgo seminary education place themselves at an acute disadvantage if they try to preach, teach, and apply Christ’s gospel to this complex, multi-dimensional, religiously pluralistic, immoral and self-seeking culture.

What are these indispensable skills and content that can only be learned within a formal seminary education?

1. Accountability and scrutiny. The ability to submit to accountability and scrutiny of one’s work under the eye of an expert as well as one’s peers is not possible outside of a formal education. The acquiring of this skill is not easy, and attaining it does not come naturally. Nobody enjoys being told that their work, which is produced with care, diligence, and emotional investment, needs improvement in some way. The possibility of failure can be frightening. The effort it takes to correct mistakes, logical failings, gaps in knowledge, one-dimensional thinking, bad written and oral communication, etc. can be very difficult.

But gaining the skill of enduring scrutiny and accountability are essential in the gospel ministry. Ultimately, we are accountable to God and our ways are scrutinized by Him personally and under His perfect standards. If we are unwilling to submit to the accountability and scrutiny of professors and fellow students, how are we going to endure God’s?

One also has the opportunity in seminary to hold others accountable and scrutinize their work. There is tremendous benefit in doing this.The accountability and scrutiny that is inherent in seminary education is simply not possible in self-education. True, one can self-educate and then wait until one is regularly preaching from a pulpit to submit to scrutiny. But why do that? The only reason one would elect to follow that path is that it is the one of least resistance.

2. Expert guidance into reliable theology, hermeneutics, philosophy, history, and method. Anyone can pick up the Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin and start reading. In fact, I think every Christian ought to do just that. But if given the choice of reading that classic work of theology alone, or reading it alongside a group of students just like you guided by a scholar who has studied it for most of his adult life–which would any rational person choose?

When reading a work like this, it is not enough just to read it. One must understand the theological, cultural, and historical background to the work in order to appreciate its meaning to the extent it was meant to be appreciated by Calvin himself. Who was John Calvin? Where was he from and where did he live? What was France experiencing in the sixteenth century? What was the relationship between the French kingdom and the Catholic church, from the sixth century to the sixteenth? Who was Augustine? What bearing did Augustine’s work have on Calvin? Why did Calvin quote Augustine as much as he did? What of Augustine’s writings did Calvin not cite as prolifically? What is the difference between Calvin’s theology and Luther’s? Why is this important? What bearing would Calvin’s work have on the religious wars of the seventeenth century? Etc. It is not possible to understand the ramifications and significance and meaning of Calvin just by reading it at Starbuck’s.

3. Sitting under the preaching of a variety of seasoned and knowledgeable preachers. Seminary chapel is a completely unique experience. Nowhere else do you get to hear sermons from such a wide range of preachers. In church, we listen to our preacher week in and week out. Occasionally we will hear a guest preacher, a revivalist, or a missionary. In seminary chapel, students hear from scores of preachers from all over the world. When I was in seminary, I had the opportunity to listen to Adrian Rogers, Jerry Vines, Bailey Smith, Dallas Willard, Fred Luter, and many, many others I never would have had the chance to hear in person. Many of them I actually got to meet personally. This is not possible for self-educators.

Even Matt Chandler is a frequent chapel speaker at seminaries, Southern and Southeastern to name two.

4. Camaraderie of like-minded students like you. The encouragement of plodding the pathway with your fellow students is inimitable, and those who would argue against the necessity of seminary would thus deny young ministers this opportunity. The experiences of witnessing together, studying together, struggling through difficult concepts together, being poor together, failing together, succeeding together, pulling all nighters together, collaborating on projects together, graduating together, and ultimately ministering together cannot be had outside of seminary. The fellowship of seminarians who face similar struggles together is formative in the individual student’s ministry and life, both for the present and for the future.

5. Focused preparation for a lifetime of ministry. An M.Div. most places is a three year program. Many people balk, saying, “who has time to commit to that”? This is not an unreasonable question. Three years, or more, are going to pass by anyway. Would you rather have spent those three years in focused and structured training for ministry, or spent them in unfocused, random, undisciplined, and unguided efforts? I realize this may be regarded as a false dilemma. I think not, because of what I said in #1 and 2.

Your three years spent in seminary will not prepare you for any one church or place of ministry. It will prepare you for a life spent in ministry. True, not everyone who completes seminary spends their whole lives in ministry. And it is also true that not every aspect of seminary curriculum is relevant and practical to everyone. But these facts do not necessitate that the notion that seminary does not prepare one for a lifetime of ministry.

So, these are five indispensable aspects of seminary education. There are more than five, but these will suffice to make the argument. They cannot be had through self-education. Is seminary education necessary? Strictly speaking, I suppose not. But seminary education is so important that to turn away from it would be to deny oneself tools and knowledge without which true Christian ministry is impossible.

And that’s this former seminary student and current seminary professor’s two cents worth.

Is Seminary Education Necessary? Part III, A Critique of Matt Chandler

Pastor Matt Chandler of The Village Church is my brother in Christ. I respect him and his work for the gospel of Jesus Christ. I thank the Lord for him, his family, and his ministry. He is a much more gifted pastor and preacher than I. I want to be careful to lead my comments below with these sincere statements of my regard for him as a fellow laborer in service to Christ.

It is also important that I be fair to Pastor Chandler–he does not say that seminary is worthless and that nobody should go to seminary. He is careful to note that he values seminary education under a certain set of circumstances and for a certain kind of person. He writes, “The truth is I think most men need to go to seminary and scholarship is extremely important.”

In this post he wrote in 2009, Pastor Chandler offers his own philosophy of seminary education. In the paragraphs that follow, I will try and answer some of his points.

“There is a recent trend of really sharp, entrepreneurial, driven men skipping seminary all together [sic] and planting churches.

Titus 1.7-9 states, “For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.”

This passage provides the qualifications for one holding the pastoral office. There is nothing here requiring a pastor to be “sharp,” “entrepreneurial,” or “driven.” The closest things I can see to what Chandler values in a pastor is “sensible” and “devout.”

These attributes do not all come from seminary education. I only bring up this statement of Chandler’s because it shows what he values in the character of a pastor. Those that are sharp, entrepreneurial, and driven are for Chandler, in a favored position in terms of church planting. If this is the standard by which we should evaluate pastors, then seminary education certainly is not at all necessary.

But seminary education does require some sense. It requires devotion. Self control is essential. It also provides a structure for one to remain intellectually faithful to the Bible through scrutiny and accountability. The scrutiny and accountability that comes with seminary education also aids the student in the discernment of what is sound doctrine and what contradicts sound doctrine.

“I don’t have a problem with this at all if those men have picked up the tools they need in other places and are continuing to grow theologically and philosophically.”

Where are these men supposed to “pick up” the intellectual tools that will prepare them for ministry? How do they know what tools to “pick up”? What standards will they use to evaluate the veracity and strength of those tools? How will they know how to properly use those tools if they just pick them up along the way? How will they know what tools they really need and what tools are just neat to have?

What does Chandler mean by theological and philosophical growth? How is that growth, which is intellectual by nature, to be measured apart from scrutiny and accountability? Chandler does not address any of these questions.

“If a guy can handle the Greek and Hebrew, knows at least at the cursory level Christian history and can wrestle through and find answers for deep, difficult theological questions then he might not need a degree from a seminary.”

What does it mean to “handle” the Greek and Hebrew? How does one sufficiently “handle” the original languages of the Scriptures? How does one avoid the exegetical fallacies that usually attend knowing only enough Greek and Hebrew to be dangerous? How does one even know if he has committed those fallacies in his preaching without the accountability and scrutiny of experts and one’s peers?

What is the “cursory level” of Christian history? Who determines what that level is? Is it enough to know a few important facts of Christian history without knowing how Christian history impacted, and was impacted by, other historical and cultural forces over the twenty centuries it has existed?

How is one to “wrestle” through “deep, difficult theological” questions without strict, standard, and systematic accountability and scrutiny given by experts and peers? Again, Chandler holds to an enormous set of assumptions about the possibility of the person he is describing being able to do all these things–much less even exist somewhere besides in his own mind. And with his closing statement about such a person “might” not having need of seminary education: he is setting a standard that is unattainably high. It seems as though Chandler is making his argument in such a way as to have his cake and eat it, too. He doesn’t want to come across as denying the value of seminary, yet that’s exactly what he does.

“I said might because seminary then becomes an obedience issue between him and the Lord and may still be a very good idea.”

An obedience issue? I didn’t think God commanded anyone to go to seminary. Isn’t that one of the points against seminary education, that Jesus had never been a seminary student, nor had the apostles?

How can God command a person in 2012 to go to seminary when Jesus Himself did not go? When Jesus commanded His followers to do something, He usually did it Himself. (e.g. being baptized, forgiving others, etc.). And if God did, on the off chance, command someone to go to seminary, then yes, I would say it would be “a very good idea” to do it.

Here is another standard Chandler casts in impossible, yet pious, terms. Only in the case of God actually commanding seminary education (which Chandler knows doesn’t happen) is it a “good idea.” But for everyone else, seminary education is not a “good idea.”

“On the other hand, if you don’t have the tools, have a tendency to be lazy in study, can’t handle the languages, know nothing of how to find answers to deep, difficult theological questions except to quote John Piper and know nothing of our rich history then you need to go get some tools. If you are lazy in study and continue to get in front of people and teach, you have much more courage than I do. I would strongly recommend seminary for its accountability and plan to educate you in doctrine, language and history.”

Chandler makes some amazing statements here. What he is saying is, in effect, that people who are driven, entrepreneurial, and sharp do not need the accountability that seminary education provides. They have the tools and the studious habits to sit and read the Scriptures all day long. A seminary education, and the accountability that attends it, is really only for the lazy and the ignorant among us. Wow.

This flies in the face of Chandler’s Reformed theological doctrine. Doesn’t Chandler believe that all human beings are fallen and sinful? In that regard, does not everyone need accountability? Or does Chandler now believe that sharp, entrepreneurial, and driven people are without sin, and therefore, have no need for accountability? Is it possible that sharp, entrepreneurial, and driven people are not what Paul had in mind when he wrote to Titus? And a related question would be, in what category does Chandler think he fits? Has Chandler considered this fatal inconsistency in his thinking?

“We have found that there are those who have been to seminary who are about as ignorant concerning the things of God as a pagan and then there are guys like Josh Patterson who received his THM from Dallas Theological Seminary and is a better, more brilliant man for it. The same can be said for those who haven’t done seminary.”

Chandler is allowing for subjective standards to drive his argument here. What normative conclusions can possibly be drawn from such an incoherent statement as this?

“I started seminary twice and dropped out both times. Seminary felt to me like I was laying a foundation in a house I was already living in. I was working as an associate pastor, traveling and speaking as well as teaching at a large, ecumenical Bible study every week. On average I was preparing anywhere from 3-5 sermons weekly and was living in study. I had an undergrad in Bible that had prepared me to handle the Greek (thanks Dr. Knight) and taught me where to look to find answers to questions that would arise in study. After a great deal of prayer and seeking wise counsel, Lauren and I decided that I would continue to study and learn but not to seek a degree.”

Apparently, not going to seminary has worked out fine for Chandler and his family. I sincerely say, good for him. But his experience is not normative. Just because he perceives that not going to seminary worked out well for him does not mean 1) he knows that his ministry could not have been even better than it already is, and 2) forgoing a seminary education would be a good thing for any other person wanting to be a pastor. How, after all, could Chandler know with certainty that his ministry might not have been more fruitful had he finished seminary? He dropped out. Twice.

Chandler’s advocacy for the non-necessity of seminary education is reckless. I think his argument can be summed up like this: 1) sharp, driven, self-motivators study the Bible on their own and have no need of the accountability of seminary education, 2) lazy, ignorant people need the accountability of seminary, so only they require it, 3) seminary education was not for me. The argument is reckless because it is driven by subjective standards, it is naive and simplistic, and it contradicts his own theological system. It is based on his own particular experience and it has himself as its frame of reference.

Pastor Chandler is a brother in Christ and a co-laborer in the ministry. As his co-laborer, I would urge him to at least re-think and re-tool his own argument, and at best, to re-consider it altogether.

Next–the last installment, and what indispensable tools and content are provided by seminary education.

Is Seminary Education Necessary? Part II

In Part I, I listed nine critiques that I have seen of seminary education in contemporary times. Despite the validity of each of those critiques, I am going to argue that seminary education provides tools and content that are indispensable to Christian ministry. While a someone endeavoring to be a pastor does not necessarily need a seminary education to be effective, there are aspects of ministry that require that which only seminary education can give.

First, let me answer each of the nine critiques I offered in Part I.

1. Seminary education is expensive. While the federal government does not offer assistance for seminary education, churches often do. Churches provide huge financial support for all Southern Baptist seminaries through the Cooperative Program. At the seminary where I teach, the Cooperative Program covers half the tuition cost for students who are members of a Southern Baptist church (see here). Half’s a lot! Furthermore, many scholarships are available for students going to Baptist seminaries. These are offered through churches, associations, state conventions, and other sources. Here is one example for residents of Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

Seminary education is expensive, but it is possible to cover many–perhaps even all–tuition costs.

2. Seminary professors are often cold and out-of-touch. We live in a fallen world, and people are included in that category. No professor acts in a Christlike way all the time. Even the best professors are sinners. The experience of having a haughty professor shouldn’t exclude seminary education any more than meeting a hypocritical Christian should exclude one from following Christ.

3. Seminary curriculum has too much irrelevant material and requirements. This is a matter of opinion and it often depends on what a student wants to do in ministry. What is irrelevant to me may be where the rubber hits the road for someone else. I heard one person say that “98 percent of what they teach in seminaries” is immaterial to ministry. This is simply ridiculous hyperbole, and has no place in any intelligent discussion. This critique is just far too subjective to be applicable to seminary education in general.

4. Lack of seminary education did not hinder Jesus, the apostles, or Matt Chandler. There are many fine people in the history of the church that were not educated in a seminary. Jesus fits into a whole separate category. After all, He never sinned either. Does that mean that every follower of Christ is exactly as Jesus in this regard? Clearly not. Peter won 3000 people to the Lord in his first sermon. He was uneducated (Acts 4.13) as were many of the other disciples. And Matt Chandler–his story is very compelling, and I admit that my own ministry in church was not nearly as populous as his.

But does a lack of seminary education guarantee success in ministry? Is anti-intellectualism somehow a virtue in Christianity? I can think of some gifted Christian leaders who did not have a seminary education. I can think of still more who had no seminary education and the thought of a train wreck is a more pleasant one.

The question that comes to mind at this particular critique is, so what? What bearing does a lack of seminary education have on success in ministry? How does one define success in ministry? Now that’s a question! Was Jesus as successful as Matt Chandler, or John Piper, or Rick Warren in terms of numbers? Was Jeremiah, who preached for forty years and never had a single convert?

This critique suffers fatally from the non sequitir fallacy. Oh, sorry. It means that the conclusion does not follow from the premise. (Those haughty seminary professors! Relax, only kidding.)

5. Many seminarians have terrible experiences in seminary. Is experience by itself a test for what is true? Certainly not. Many people have bad experiences doing many worthy things. But my bad experience doing something that is good is no reason for anyone not to do that thing, even me. The bad experiences of some are not necessarily inherent in the doing of any one thing.

Furthermore, where did these bad experiences originate? Were the bad experiences necessary to seminary education? In other words, is seminary education inherently evil? Is seminary education like going to a strip joint, for example–a thing that is inherently bad, and the frequenting of which necessarily yields bad experiences? I know of no sane person who would affirm that seminary education is inherently evil or bad.

Suffering a bad experience, or a series of bad experiences, is part of the territory of living in a fallen world. How do you respond when you have a bad experience? I have found that my worst enemy in this life is not Satan, not my circumstances, not Obama, not the deacons, not my students, not my wife or my kids. My worst enemy is the guy writing this post. Nobody is a worse threat to my Christian testimony than him.

6. Self education is better because it is accessible and very cheap.Yep. You get what you pay for in this life. And there are a lot of resources out there for you to bone up on your Calvin, your Augustine, your Chyrsostom, etc. And of course, there is your Bible sitting there in front of you. And then, there’s Logos Bible Software and you can build a library of thousands of books right there on your laptop for a fraction of the cost of purchasing print books.

But even if you actually sit down and read every one of those books, and understand them (and understand the historical and cultural context in which they are placed) absorb them, interact with them, and apply them all on your own–which is highly doubtful–one thing you will always lack with self-education: accountability. Seminary education has a lot of flaws, but seminary education holds the student accountable.

Accountability and scrutiny may be the linchpin in terms of the argument against going to seminary. Who wants to be held accountable? Who wants their work to be criticized? Who wants to be told they’re not perfect? Nobody, that’s who.

iTunes doesn’t hold you accountable. Neither does Logos Bible Software. No wonder it’s so attractive.

7. It is not legally necessary to enter the pastoral ministry with a seminary degree. If the pastorate really does not require any formal education for competence and effectiveness as a general rule, then what does that say about the pastorate? We all have tremendous respect for the medical profession. Most of us respect the legal profession, too, although we might not admit it. When we need legal counsel, we certainly do. How do most people view professions that require little or no formal training?

Pastors of churches already suffer from a public appearance of ignorance and sloth. Seminary education isn’t everything, but at least it offers a measure of credibility to a watching world. Are we really ready to add fuel to the fire of the notion that evangelical pastors are ignorant and anti-intellectual? Must we do more to undermine the intellectual credibility of the evangelical pastorate?

8. The old models are obsolete. That’s true. The old model is dying out, but that does not mean that creative minds cannot think of a new model. The old model was very effective at providing churches with educated pastors. It’s on the way out, but that just means we need to consider new models of partnership between churches and seminaries.

9. Many graduates of seminaries are incompetent; many non seminary graduates are eminently competent. Again, this is too subjective a standard by which to evaluate seminary education as a whole.

Subjectivity is at the heart of the critique of seminaries. Subjective concerns simply do not sustain any argument for or against anything.

Next post–a critique of Matt Chandler’s argument that seminary education is not necessary.

Is Seminary Education Necessary? Part I

I am biased. I spent eleven years at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary studying for an M.Div. and a Ph.D. I had a wonderful experience there in both degree programs. I met some lifelong friends. I learned many practical skills in preaching, exegesis, church administration, and leadership. I expanded my base of knowledge in the Bible, church history, theology, and philosophy from very little to a lot. I carry no debts from student loans. Overall, I’d say that my seminary experiences helped me immensely in many years of church work and teaching. And, lest I neglect to be entirely frank–a seminary presents me with a regular paycheck.

But seminary education is falling on hard times these days. There are some who say that seminary education is not necessary for the pastorate (e.g. Pastor Matt Chandler–see here). Others suggest that seminary education is superfluous, expensive, and outdated–and therefore, not necessary (see Jerry Bowers’ pieces in Forbes here and here).

First, let’s look at some of the critiques of seminary education, and I will go on record as agreeing with them in principle.

1. Seminary education is expensive and many students take on huge amounts of debt going to school for a minimum of three years in M.Div. studies, and do not get paid much when they get into church work.  (Amen!)

2. Seminaries are often professored by haughty, out-of-touch, cold, and unapproachable academics who couldn’t minister their way out of a wet paper bag.

3. The curriculum in seminaries is often too focused on irrelevant and obsolete issues, while skills and content that really need to be taught are neglected or de-emphasized.

4. One does not need a seminary education to be an effective pastor–note that Jesus, the apostles, and Matt Chandler (avg. weekly attendance at 8000 in 2010, according to Thom Rainer) do not have seminary degrees.

5. Many seminary students have terrible experiences–they get lost spiritually, their families break up, they go broke, they don’t have the innate skills to do ministry, and many either drop out of school or they work in secular fields.

6. In the information age, someone who is motivated can self-educate in theology, history, the languages, and philosophy. There is no need for formal education when so many resources are available for free.

7. It is not legally necessary to have a seminary education to go into the pastorate, as it is to practice medicine or law.

8. The old model for seminary education, whereby churches support seminaries financially and send them students, is becoming obsolete with the de-centralization of financial and human resources for ministry.

9. Many who have earned seminary degrees have no business working in churches. Many who do not have seminary degrees seem to be born for the pastorate.

There are probably other valid critiques of seminary education, but these will do for now. Let me say again that I agree, at least in part, with all nine critiques.

1. Church work isn’t like medical school or law school. Lawyers and doctors make a great deal more once they get employment than pastors and missionaries do. That’s a fact! Seminary education is not as expensive as law and medical school on average, but it still involves the expense of many thousands of dollars over at least three years. That is significant for most people who are going into the ministry.

2. It seems that there are few professions that can have more arrogant people per square inch than in academia. Sadly, that is also often the case in Christian academia. I have had my share of seminary professors who were not at all Christian in the way they dealt with people. This can be exceedingly dismaying and discouraging for students studying to be ministers.

3. Irrelevant coursework is the bane of the seminary student. And it is true that a lot of required courses in seminary suffer violently from the “so what” syndrome. Irrelevant coursework is indeed the serial killer of morale in seminary.

4. Jesus did not have a seminary degree, it’s true. Neither does Matt Chandler. For many, these facts alone settle the argument.

5. Anybody who has been to seminary has the images of those students’ faces etched in their memories. And those memories are the ones we try to forget, and literally pray they aren’t repeated in our own experience.

6. iTunes U is a truly amazing resource. How can all this really be free??

7. Here’s another reason why we must contend for religious freedom and the First Amendment.

8. Can’t deny this, as much as I would very much like to–to paraphrase George C. Scott as Patton, “How I hate the twenty-first century!”

9. How many churches have had to suffer under a seminary graduate’s leadership that had no clue how to love people and be Jesus to the community? More than can be counted, no doubt.

Next post: answering these nine arguments against seminary education.