As I’m in seminary now, this question has always been on my mind. It is of course normal that most people who attend seminary are keen to go into full time ministry, but should we encourage Christians in the marketplace to further their understanding of the bible and their critical thinking abilities within seminary?
After replying to a forum relating to Christian education, I started thinking about what it actually means to have a Christian education. There seems the be a lack of it in schools and even in many churches today, yet I’ve also come acrossed many seminaries that do not allow the average Christian to enter seminary if they are not called to full time ministry.
Personally, I think that all Christians, no matter where they are called to, should be equipped to think critically and have a deep understanding of the bible — With seminary being a good option to grow in these areas. Therefore, by limiting who should be allowed into seminary based on whether they have a calling for a full time ministry, it might not be the right path to take in the light of supplying adequate Christian education .
I am not implying that all Christians should go to seminary, there are also many amazing courses availble to deepen one’s understanding of the bible. On top of this, money could also be an issue. However, while conversing with many others, it sometimes seem like seminary has become a place for a ‘special’ and ‘distinguished’ group of Christians.
On top of this, I’ve made some observations that people who attend seminary seem to garner certain benefits or favourtism within the church at times.
(Of course not always and not all churches — These are just general observations.)
Therefore, as someone whose life’s passions and goals are outside of traditional ministry, it can get pretty lonely and difficult at times along this journey. (Not Christian enough to be Christian but not secular enough to be secular? )
What does a Christian education mean to you and how does that affect you in the light of your ministerial calling? (Does it only have to be preaching?)
Is there a difference in how we treat certain types of people in church?
If God gives people different talents and interests to minister to others for his glory, why is there such is difference within who should be allowed to enter seminary? What should the purpose of seminary be in light of our united goal as Christian?
Should seminaries be more open to welcoming different kinds of Christians?
Thank you for posting this question! I’m so interested in your thoughts regarding Christian education and training.
I have no experience of seminaries or theological training, other than a few online courses I’ve taken in the last few years. However, I’m so hungry to learn and understand more about God and the Bible, and find that my ordinary day to day experiences haven’t provided enough food for study, which is why I chose to sign up to online courses. Aside from the cost of seminary that you mentioned, I also don’t have the time for such rigorous learning right now.
I absolutely agree with you. I took a module on the Bible in my online course which looked at the historicity and archaeology of the Old and New testaments, and worked through issues of Ancient Near Eastern mythology that overlapped with OT stories. Thinking critically, especially regarding faith and the Bible, is a skill I have only learned as an adult. My desire is to teach my children these things so that they grow up more equipped to defend their beliefs and critically consider worldly messages that are thrown out daily.
I have certainly seen individuals who’ve had similar training be trusted more with leadership roles. I struggled with this at times, not because I was seeking a leadership role, but because it’s easy to feel discounted without the training. However, looking back, I recognise the value in entrusting such roles to those who have been to seminary or similar. I have realised over the last few years just how essential a good understanding of the Bible and theology is for those in church. There are far too many compromises taking place in parts of the church, where ideas creep in that dampen the message of the Gospel, or the identity of Christ. For example, some progressive or New Age ideas can subltly enter worship songs, sermons, online memes etc. Without being Biblically literate or taught to evaluate everything, these ideas can get swept up into Christian culture.
Years ago, I felt that since we were all part of God’s priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), we were all able to take leadership roles in the church. However, I have revised my thinking on this and feel that church leaders should have a sound level of theological training to guard the doctrines of the church. This doesn’t mean I agree with some church practices of climbing the career ladder and having special titles.
I think that you are incredibly blessed to be in seminary even though your life’s goals might be to do something other than enter traditional ministry. I would do the same if I had the opportunity! Just think how equipped you will be to serve the local church and speak into the lives of those around you having had that training and experience. I have already seen how thoughtful your responses to people’s questions are and value the wisdom that you’re growing in as you study. Please keep sharing it with us here .
I’ve just come across the article about women going to seminary even if they’re not pursuing traditional roles in ministry, which I thought you might find interesting.
It looks at motivations for attending seminary, saying,
there was one motivation I didn’t expect. One of the main reasons women go to seminary is the education itself. Christian women want to study the Bible, learn the languages, and better understand theology.
And here’s an interesting point that I can relate to about typical women’s Bible study. I’m in fact glad to experience deeper theological study as it greatly impacts my spiritual growth. Is this something you have experienced?
Yet, rigorous study of the Bible is not something we always associate with evangelical women. I know many women who confess to being intimidated by theology. Their feelings are often fueled by the type of resources aimed at Christian women, which can lean more toward self-help than deep scriptural study. There is a trend in women’s ministry to be light on theology and biblical exegesis.
As a result, there is a common assumption about what Christian women want. That assumption is precisely why evangelical women are going to seminary. Many of the women I interviewed saw a need. They craved deeper teachings for themselves, and they also wanted to help provide it for others.
Hi Alison, thank you very much for sharing! The cost and commitment is definitely an issue, and online courses are definitely a life saver🙌 . Despite that I’m glad God is using you strongly and growing your knowledge in him. I do believe that God has provided you with the gift to think critically as well as to convey your knowledge to others in a loving manner. Your maturity in the Lord is something that I definitely strive to develop and I’m extremely encouraged to be able to learn aside you in this journey.
I’ve definitely seen a rise in this as well. With so many mega churches and celebrity pastors coming up, I think it is important for the general public to be able to disern biblical teachings for themselves.
Even among leaders and those that have been to seminary, there are many disagreements regarding certain teachings and the way the church should be run. Many seminary students struggle to maintain their personal relationship with God outside school. Thus, having educated and matured Christians like you to work towards a common goal of creating a well informed faith is key to accomplishing the goal of the Christian faith.
Thank you very much Alison!
Thank you very much for this resource! It’s so true, I guess it’s partially also due to women being sterotyped as being feelers. Perhaps the idea that women should support men in their teachings leave no need for them to exploee biblic exegesis and theology, but leave that to the men. Even in seminary, there is the sterotype of women going into counselling and worship rather than theology itself. It is as if a women’s strength should be to address subjects related to the emotion aspect of the Christian faith.
As of late, I’m however, encouraged to see more women step up in the field of theology. I’m sure that there is still a long way for us to go, but it is interesting to see this step in the new direction