In Michael’s recent posts on what does it take to be in ministry, I noticed that one area that tends to get push back is the issue of seminary and why it would be necessary for ministry leaders, especially pastors and teachers.   After all, the pastor/teacher is called by God and charged with ‘preaching the word’, as Paul tells Timothy.  In fact, I think it’s safe to say that some opinions actually oppose higher learning on the basis that it might actually detract from some way, on a pure and spiritual learning of Scripture.

I think you would be hard pressed to find any pastor that says they do not teach the Bible.  Just about every Christian church I have run across has touted one thing, that they teach the Bible.  Or rather their platform is founded on Biblical truth.  What is suggested, I think, with this statement is that because a pastor or teacher uses the Bible then truth is presented and thus the commission to ‘preach the word’ is fulfilled to lead the congregants into truth.

For this reason, it is cited that education is not necessary only the call and the ability to teach.  But I think a closer look at Paul’s instruction to Titus bear a closer scrutiny.  Concerning the overseer/elder he says,

“He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it”. (Titus 1:9 NIV)

Whoa!  Notice that the instruction is not just to teach Scripture.  But the teacher/elder must faithfully transmit a message.   What is the message that has been taught?  Is it just as simple as picking up our Bibles?  I believe this verse speaks to 3 important criteria that necessitate the need for higher education.  Also, while this instruction is directed towards the overseer/elder, I think it is generally applicable to anyone who dares to teach others in the Christian faith.

1) Teaching the message: I think it is significant to note that the church we read about in the NT in Acts and as the recipients of the apostle’s letters had only the Old Testament Scripture and the circulation of some of the inspired writings that would eventually be recognized as Scripture.  The apostolic witness was key in this new faith because this was indeed the trustworthy message.  One of the criticism’s of higher education is that the apostles never went to seminary.  But they did not need to go.   They received the trustworthy message firsthand.  Additionally, the writers of the New Testament were those whom God breathed out His word.  They were part of the company of holy men that Peter speaks about in 2 Peter 1:20-21 and recognized that they were indeed writing the very word of God (1 Thessalonians 4:15).

2) Exhorting in sound doctrine: I find it interesting when I hear the argument that doctrine can be placed above Scripture.  All doctrine is is a truth statement about faith that is derived from Scripture.  But the apostolic message originated over 2,000 years ago.  It has gone through 2,000 years of changes and challenges.  It’s not that the message has changed but the interpretation and practice has and most certainly influenced by socio-political culture and shifts in eccesiological paradigms.  What we know today did not just occur in a vacuum and has been shaped significantly by these varying influences.  This has not all been a bad thing.  For as Christian doctrine has been challenged, the church has responded through ecumenical councils and confessions to refine what Scripture is indeed saying.

So the charge to the teacher is to exhort (encourage, edify) in doctrine that is formulated from the trustworthy message.  But they must know what the essentials of the message are, that which is at the core of the Christian faith providing the root of discipleship so that believers are growing unto maturity.

3) Refute those who contradict: I find it interesting that even at the time of NT writings, we see many opponents to the sound teaching of Christ.  Jude was so concerned that he needed to write to the church, “appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3).  I also find it interesting when some ‘new’ ideas about Christianity emerge, usually from fringe movements that actually are not new at all but recycled old ideas that the church, through the work of ecumenical councils had to rigorously defend.  The pastor/teacher is responsible for knowing what that is in order to properly refute it.

The challenges to the ‘faith that was once for all handed down to the saints’ have also impacted the ability to interpret Scripture from the perspective of its original intention.  The Bible unveils God’s self-disclosure demonstrated progressively and culminating in Christ (Hebrews 1:1-3).  It must be understood as a whole unit.  But the many challenges to the foundation and interpretation of Scripture, its source and dual authorship have threatened the core understanding of what the Bible even is, let alone how to read and understand it.    So the teacher of the Bible can certainly learn the Bible and what it says but not necessarily correlate it to the unified themes it is intended to produce.   Moreover, it is possible to apply 21st century thinking into a first century context, so that the original meaning becomes lost in a sea of popularized, contemporary interpretations.

The bottom line is that the teacher is more than just a Bible learner but a transmitter of truth.  The truth has been handed down challenged, distorted and even ignored through the annals of history.  Those in charge of God’s flock have a responsibility to lead other into a growing relationship with Christ, to train them concerning God’s revelation so that they are stabilized and maturing as believers of Christ (Ephesians 4:12-14).

James White agrees with this.  In a recent interview, here is what he said concerning the need to defend the faith

We cannot divide the revelation of God up into parts, some of which are “more important” than others. The apologist must have a full knowledge of the Bible, including its over-arching themes and threads that tie the entire revelation together. I have often been asked what classes I took in college and seminary were the most useful to my work as an apologist, and I always respond, “Greek and Church History.” The believer who knows the Bible as a whole, in a balanced way, has access to the original languages, and knows the outlines of church history, will be ready for 90% of what unbelievers will throw out as objections to Christianity.

What is interesting about this statement, is that he is not talking about pastors and teachers, he is talking about believers.  But obviously, someone has to teach them.  And should that not be the pastor or teacher who themselves have been adequately trained?

So we get to what makes for legitimate education.  It is not a matter of just going to seminary or obtaining a higher education degree.  It is about obtaining education that will equip the minister of God’s word to carry out the task representing truth as honestly and as accurately as possible.  There are many programs out there that offer degrees but may only reproduce prejudices or even worse, ignorance, concerning the trustworthy message.

Moreover, I have discovered in my short time in seminary that not only do you learn the original languages, doctrinal development, church history and ministry related best practices but the learning also exposes the student to their own presuppositions.  And we all have presuppositions.  But legitimate formalized instruction should challenge one concerning those presuppositions and influence a greater objectivity in the examination of Scripture.   For I do see the danger in not engaging in a formalized educational process, the likelihood of carrying out ill conceived, misrepresented and miscommunicated interpretations.  A position might be affirmed by church affiliations but that does not necessarily mean that it is the position that is most faithful to the intentions of the Biblical text.

I would also note that a legitimate learning process would involve the centrality of Christ and uphold orthodoxy of the Christian faith.  That means instructors and teachers in that institution are committed to the upholding ‘that which was once for all handed down to the saints’ and providing instruction in context of the complete revelation of God outlined in Scripture.

So this leads to what I believe should be the greatest impetus for legitimate higher learning – humility.  A teacher is accountable to God for the instruction conveyed to others concerning the Christian faith.  It is why James says that not many should be teachers since they bear the stricter judgment (James 3:1).  The likelihood of transmitting error and imposing personal agendas or presuppositions should give one pause lest they shipwreck the faith of another.  And it should also give the teacher of God’s word motivation to accurately handle the word of truth.  I believe that investing in a formalized, objective learning process is a truly humble response in teaching others what it means to follow Christ and provides a strong case for legitimate higher learning.

    41 replies to "O Teacher Where Art Thou?: A Case for Legitimate Higher Learning"

    • cheryl u


      What you say makes sense. However, I don’t know how anyone can guarantee that any seminary doesn’t have it’s own set of presuppositions and bents. As a matter of fact, isn’t it true that any denomimational seminary is bound to have the bents of that churches particular understanding of doctrine ?

      So I am not sure that what you are saying solves the problem. Thoughts?

    • Jim W.

      I don’t think seminary is irrelevant or unnecessary, just somewhat inadequate. You said:

      “So we get to what makes for legitimate education. It is not a matter of just going to seminary or obtaining a higher education degree. It is about obtaining education that will equip the minister of God’s word to carry out the task representing truth as honestly and as accurately as possible.”

      I think the last sentence is where the inadequacy of seminary comes out. It seems to leave the minister’s education at the point of expressing God’s truth accurately without emphasizing why this is important.

      What is the goal of teaching for those that minister God’s word? Is it only to present the truth accurately, or is there more?

      Paul says that teachers are given to the body to equip the saints for service and maturity (Eph. 4:11-13), the goal of instruction is faith working through love (1 Tim 1:5), and that right doctrine should produce transformation (Rom 12:2). Other apostles reinforce this idea as well.

      The mark of every believer should be conformation to the image of Christ, therefore the goal of teaching is not primarily measured in terms of “Did I convey information?”, but “Did it bring about transformation?”.

      This is where seminaries tend not to do a good job. They produce ministers who are satisfied with getting the doctrine right but don’t follow up or engage their flock in applying it. I think the objective gets lost as to why truth is so important. I think most seminaries are unconciously guilty of this.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Cheryl, I think the key is that the institution creates an objective learning environment and not just teach a particular doctrinal bent. It should train the student in how to even determine why they believe what they believe and the student can weigh the evidence.

    • Lisa Robinson

      “The mark of every believer should be conformation to the image of Christ, therefore the goal of teaching is not primarily measured in terms of “Did I convey information?”, but “Did it bring about transformation?”.

      Jim, yes I agree that is the ultimate goal. But the question is how do we get there. Right thinking will lead to right practice. In the case of seminary training, it will educate the pastor/teacher in how to lead others into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ through a thorough examination of our faith. Otherwise, what are we building on to produce the maturity of believers?

    • Daniel Goepfrich

      For all of the Bible knowledge and training that we get in seminary, I think Jim’s word “inadequate” is good.

      Because as much as Lisa is right – teaching the Scriptures is certainly the top priority and command – it’s not the only thing.

      Craig Groeschel did a series of posts this week on the pros and cons of seminary. In his final post today, he wrote:

      “When a couple is about to divorce, a person is about to die, or you visit the parents of a child who just took his life, I promise you no one will be asking about your education. At those moments, the only thing that matters is that you are submitted to the Spirit of God.” (

      This is one reason the church is supposed to be led by a group of elders with various gifts, rather than just one guy who does it all. There will hopefully be a strong teacher, a strong pastor, a strong administrator, etc. to lead together well.

    • EricW

      3. Lisa Robinson on 21 Aug 2009 at 10:05 am

      Cheryl, I think the key is that the institution creates an objective learning environment and not just teach a particular doctrinal bent. It should train the student in how to even determine why they believe what they believe and the student can weigh the evidence.

      How can this be the case when the faculty and board of an institution are required annually to affirm their agreement with the full doctrinal statement of the seminary:

      How can such a faculty truly create “an objective learning environment and not just teach a particular doctrinal bent” when the teachers are required to hold to and affirm a particular doctrinal bent?

    • cheryl u

      Hi again Lisa,

      What you have said may be true for a seminary that isn’t attached to any particular denomination. However, a denominational seminary is going to want to be producing pastors, etc. that are true to their particular doctrinal beliefs, correct? So how are they going to be unbiased and let the students make up their own minds on issues as you say above?

    • Jugulum


      Without intending to dismiss your question entirely…

      Suppose everyone on the faculty agreed with the doctrinal statement without it having been a condition of being hired. Suppose it just happened that way.

      Do you assume they would be unable to “create an objective learning environment and not just teach a particular doctrinal bent”?

      Isn’t it about philosophy of teaching, more than about the professors’ beliefs?

    • […] and Pen: “O Teacher Where Art Thou?  A Case for Legitimate Higher Learning” by Lisa […]

    • EricW

      Do you assume they would be unable to “create an objective learning environment and not just teach a particular doctrinal bent”?

      Assume? No.

      Suspect? Probably, or at least possibly.

    • Jugulum


      I agree, that’s a real danger. I like what CMP says about his purpose in the Theology Program–that it aims not at teaching the right theology, but at teaching how to do theology well.

      If a denominational seminary is fixated on producing denominational pastors, then it’ll be harder for them to teach objectively. Even if they agree with CMP’s approach.

      But don’t assume they can’t do it. A mature seminary can want to do both, and with God’s grace, they could manage. If I ran a denominational seminary, I would want to teach a foundation of how to figure out theology, and then try to move toward my denomination’s conclusions. But the only way that would be meaningful (instead of just propaganda) would be to present the ideas, make the case, and let the students work through it.

      I guess that’s part of what you have to consider about any seminary. Are they more aimed at teaching people what to think, or at how to think?

    • Jugulum


      Sure. People are weak. Even with the best of intentions.

      But that’s true about every individual professor, regardless of how theologically diverse the faculty is. Individual profs can be very narrow and dogmatic.

      I’d much rather learn from a group of professors who know how to explore controversies well (even though they all agree) than a group of narrow, dogmatic professors who come from all the different sides.

      There might still be value in more theological diversity than DTS has, but remember that it’s not the cure-all. I don’t think it’s even the most important part of the cure. Approach to teaching is.

    • Joshua Allen

      Excellent post, and ties well with Michael’s recent posts about “apostolic succession”. There may be no foolproof human system that can guarantee infallible teaching, but teaching is still of paramount importance.

    • cheryl u


      You say seminarians need to be taught how to think, not just what to think. Doesn’t that go contrary to Lisa’s basic idea that we need to train up leaders that pass along the truth as Scripture intended it? How is training people how to think going to guarantee that? Thinking people can come to many different conclusions on the same subject, as we all know!

      Which is precisely why I am questioning this whole thing and bringing up the idea of denominational seminaries. Thinking people have come up with all of the different denominational nuances and some pretty big differences too for that matter. So how does going to seminary guarantee that people are going to be teaching the truth as God intended it in the first place?

    • Jim W.

      “Right thinking will lead to right practice.”

      I disagree with this statement and the idea behind it. Right thinking is essential but not sufficient. Right practice is caught as well as taught. It is modeled, made the subject of accountability, integrated into the activities of everyday life.

      Right practice is fostered by correct behavior, appropriate habits, repetition. For example, we believe we are saved by grace, so we intentionally engage in daily times of thanksgiving, we extend grace to others when they offend us, we meditate on the various ways we enjoy God’s grace, we inject God’s grace into the subject of our daily conversation, etc. I have not really “learned” grace until it has impacted the way I live, the decisions I make.

      Right thinking will not by itself produce right practice.

      This is why I see most seminaries as inadequate. The emphasis is placed on the information needed but not the application to the believer(s). I don’t believe you “lead others into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ through a thorough examination of our faith”. I believe you lead them “through a thorough application of our faith”. Examination is good and essential, just not sufficient.

    • Ryan


      Sure you are correct that right thinking might not in itself produce right practice, but it must necessarily precede it. It is right thinking that gives us the right reasons for right practice.

    • Jugulum


      There is absolutely positively no action we can ever take that will guarantee that people will believe and teach the truth.


      The Spirit of God could guarantee it. We can’t.

      It’s not quite about teaching people how to “think”, though that’s how I put it. That’s too narrow. I should have said, it’s about teaching people how to study. How to study God’s word and to think about it and to understand it.

    • EricW

      Why do Evangelicals, who reject the concept of a governing magisterium or a Scripture-interpreting Tradition, express surprise and dismay and frustration that there is no one that can make Evangelicals believe properly or be trained/educated properly and that consequently the Evangelical in the pew can be all over the map (or even off the map) theologically and the Evangelical in the pulpit can be ill-prepared or unqualified to preach and teach and/or can even preach and teach heresy?

      🙂 (Hey, it’s Friday afternoon)

    • Michael

      It wasn’t like Luther and the Reformers didn’t know this would happen. They did. They just considered it preferable to the heresies of Rome.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Eric, are you working through Paul’s letters? Just curious 😉

    • Lisa Robinson

      Cheryl, I agree with Jugulum that there is no guarantee. But the method of thinking through theology is important. Even a denominational school can teach that and explain how they arrived at their conclusions. I think to the extent that a program’s curriculum and professors are willing to engage honestly with other positions, is the extent that they are giving a fair treatment of doctrinal and theological considerations.

      But I think this stands in stark contrast to the pastor/teacher who says that no training is needed, only the call and knowing your Bible, without any objective standard to measure the understanding of what that means.

    • EricW

      Actually, Lisa, I’ve been helping proofread and offer comments on a NT translation that will be out sometime in late 2010, I think, so I’ve been reading ALL the NT letters, not just Paul’s. 🙂

    • cheryl u

      Thanks Lisa and Jugulum. I think I am seeing what you are saying better now!

    • Curt Parton

      Lisa, I can agree wholeheartedly with most of your main points in this article. I need to reread the comments to Michael’s post, but I don’t recall a lot of ‘pastors don’t need training just the anointing’ kind of responses. What I do recall is people pointing out that there are other sources for this education other than a residence-based seminary program, and that these other training options may be just as good, and some would argue even better in some ways, than a seminary program. Obviously, one would need to wisely choose such an alternative method of education—just as one would need to wisely choose between seminaries. But IMO many forms of training other than traditional seminary can address your concerns very well.

      Maybe I missed some comments showing otherwise, but I don’t think you’ll get much of an argument regarding the vital importance of solid, sound, and substantive [how’s that for alliteration? 🙂 ] pastoral training. What many of us will debate is whether a classic seminary education is the only source for solid, sound, and substantive theological education.

    • Curt Parton

      BTW, doesn’t James White teach for an unaccredited, distance education seminary? That’s against the rules, isn’t it? 😉

      (I’m not knocking him for that. I’m just sayin’ . . .)

    • Lisa Robinson

      Curt, I would not disagree with regarding alternate programs. In fact, it is what prompted me to identify the educational process as ‘higher learning’ as opposed to seminary. I even think churches can provide a rigorous training institute but that still requires the ability to even know how to implement an objective learning environment and not just reinforce prejudices.

      I also think there are rare individuals who have the tenacity and objectivity to engage themselves in a self-taught process. But these are rare.

    • Curt Parton

      Thanks for clarifying that, Lisa. Great article. You bring out the need for this kind of higher learning very well.

    • Dave Z

      It’s not uncommon for schools to require prospective students to affirm a doctrinal statement to even enroll. That doesn’t bode well for an objective learning environment, considering the staff probably have to affirm it as well. As if they say, “How about all of us who already agree get together and discuss it?” Different conclusions would be unlikely.

    • cheryl u

      While I understand what both Lisa and Jugulum were saying, I agree with Dave Z’s point.

      And in the case of denominational seminaries that are producing the next generation of pastor’s for that particular denomination’s churches, doesn’t it seem likely that they are going to emphasize their denominational distinctives? After all, that is what they are going to want their upcoming pastor’s to be teaching, is it not? It just doesn’t seem too likely to me that there will be real objectivity there in their teaching. And if they are convinced that they are upholding Biblical truth in their beliefs and contending for “the faith once given to the saints”, how can one really expect them to do otherwise?

    • Lisa Robinson


      I think we shouldn’t confuse an objective learning process with doctrinal persuasion. I personally don’t think that any school is completely devoid a doctrinal bent. But the distinction would be in the teaching method. I think Jugulum makes some good comments about this in comments #8, 11 and 12.

      An objective learning environment fosters how to think through theology rather than just telling people what to think.

      For example, it is no secret that DTS is founded on dispensationalism. Now this topic is naturally weaved into the curriculum. But the emphasis of instruction is not teaching dispensationalism but rather the methods on how dispensationalism is arrived at. The student is given the tools on how to think through the issues for themselves.

      Now I will admit that this will vary among profs as some will lean towards more dogmatism. But the overall philosophy of instruction is on the methods.

    • davidbmc

      In my mind the value of seminary is this-it is the fastest way to get ramped up on the pertinent issues. What you do with them is up to you.

      If you dont go to seminary you are left to learning all of it on your own which can certainly be donebut can take much more time.

      Neither seminary nor learning n your own (or with non-seminarian cohorts) guarantees accuracy or legitmacy. But seminary is the speediest way of getting a handle on the issues.


    • Denise Hughes

      Thank you for your article on the value of higher education for prospective teachers of the Bible. There has been some discussion as to the value of learning vs. doing – as if they are diametrically opposed. I believe that one is the natural outflow of the other. There is a strong movement within the church to mobilize people into action for the cause of many social justice issues, which is a wonderful thing. We know that faith without deeds is dead. However, I also feel called to pursue a doctorate in theology at a seminary, and some may view this as a waste of time when I could be out there serving – doing something good for others. Thus, your advocacy for higher learning is much appreciated.

      Naturally, no educational institution is completely devoid of presuppositions; therefore, while it is preferable that professors provide an objective learning environment, it is a student’s responsibility to decipher and discover what he or she believes. I just finished an M.A. in English (rhetoric and composition) at a public California University where all of my professors were atheists and of a very liberal mindset. Listening to their thoughts, or even their propaganda, on post-modern theories that compromise or eradicate authorial intent did not sway my beliefs, but I can dialogue better as to why I don’t necessarily ascribe to some ways of thinking. All this to say: I am not interested in passively receiving potentially biased knowledge as served by seminary professors, but rather, I am interested in actively learning what the theological issues are and then inviting the Holy Spirit 1) to help me grapple with those ideas, 2) to come to a better understanding of God’s Word, and 3) to apply God’s Truth to my life.

      While the discussion here focused mostly on pastors/teachers, I would also posit that many women’s Bible studies offered during the week at churches are taught by well-meaning, even well-read, women. At best, only a few of them have studied at a seminary. I don’t offer this as criticism – only a fact. I feel called to study the Bible intently because I feel called to teach. While I am an avid reader, much of what I read comes from the shelves of Christian bookstores. I believe in the value of higher education because when I teach, I don’t want to teach “pop-theology.”

    • Steve

      I think one of my concerns is that leaders will be robbed of their most valuable asset: a complete sense of inadequicey. I’m not endorsing ignorance to safegaurd humility. That’s not what I mean. I just think that, while knowledge can be good, it’s just not enough.

      I think a more feeble instrument that knows its frailty is always of more use to God than a feeble instrument that has lost touch with its own inadequicey and need.

      “Before seminary I had 5 stones and a sling shot. Now? Broad Sword, Bronze Shield, Tactical Training–a superior arsenal of arguments and head knowledge.”

      I think it’s very important to come to terms with the frequent superficiality and limitations of intellectual knowledge, and the narrowness of the pride that sometimes drives people to exclusively inhabit this arena.

      The appearence of mere competency is simply not enough. I guess everyone was better equipped than David but the approach was all wrong. “We have armour, experience, training, but none of it is sufficient to this giant…”

      1 Samuel 17:45 (New International Version)

      45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.

      Incidentally, God still made excellent use of his sling and stones, and could (I’m sure) have made just as good use of a sword and shield. Sword’s are fine–big ones, iron ones, sharp and heavy but you can’t beat giants with them. You can’t move mountains. Think of the description of Goliath. All out of porportion with anything practical that you could throw at the problem. Only faith could conquer that. Only reliance on God and only God Himself. And if we are very fortunate, God will see that we are sufficiently weak to really trust in Him.

    • Steve

      PS. Please ignore my inadequAte spelling!

    • Lisa Robinson

      Denise, I believe you have gotten to the heart of the issue. Seminary is not about being indoctrinated with teaching but learning how to investigate the issues for yourself so you don’t end up teaching “pop-theology”.

      I also share your concern about women instructors and instruction provided to women. Sadly, I find that in general, women shy away from meatier theological topics and gravitate towards the fluffy stuff, as I call it. It’s teaching that appeals to the emotion and makes us feel better about ourselves but may be loosely grounded in sound exegesis and doctrine. Even in seminary, most steer clear of languages and more academic subjects. In my first year greek, I was one of 3 ladies in the fall and one of 2 in the spring. And that’s out of a class of about 25. I would love to see women more engaged in theological discourse and learning.

      It’s interesting, I have recently been alerted to a couple of women’s blogs that were touted by very well recognized evangelical sources as a place for serious thinkers. Needless to say, I was quite disappointed to find it was more of the same ‘women’ kind of fluffy theology. However, one exception I have discovered is the Confident Christianity blog by Mary Jo Sharpe who is one of the few recognized woman apologists in the country.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Steve, I can only imagine that you received your information from someone who has not gone through the seminary process or these are conclusions that maybe you arrived at on your own. If anything, seminary let’s you know how much you don’t know and fosters, or should foster an increased dependence on the Lord. I hear statistics all the time of the longevity of the average seminary grad in ministry. I do believe that for that percentage that quit within 5 years (sorry don’t know the number off hand but will look it up), are the ones as you describe that put total confidence in their knowledge and intellectual abilities. I would challenge you to listen to well known preachers that graduated from the same seminary I attend – Chuck Swindoll, David Jeremiah and Chip Ingram to name a few. You will find in their teaching a solid foundation that seminary provided for which they express gratitude but a complete and humble dependence upon the Lord. There is a reason these seminary grads have survived and thrived in ministry and its not because of their intellectual knowledge.

    • Denise Hughes

      I agree that there can be a tendency to rely on intellectual abilities; however, few of us can walk with God for very long before we learn from experience that his ways are higher than our ways. There are times when all we can do is humbly trust in God’s sovereignty. It’s why the following verses are generally at the core of my prayer life – to keep me focused on the truth of John 15:5 – that apart from Him, I can do nothing.

      Rather than nestle in the comfort zone of intellectualism, I keep Isaiah 29:14b close in mind: “…the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.”

      Paul’s prayer in I Thess. 3:12 says, “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other…” It doesn’t ask that wisdom and knowledge will increase and overflow.

      Again, Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:17-19 says, “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love [not rooted and established in wisdom or knowledge] may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.” It doesn’t say that knowledge surpasses love.

      Colossians 3:14 says, “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” It’s neither wisdom nor knowledge that binds them all together in perfect unity. It’s love.

      Even if we can “fathom all mysteries and all knowledge,” without love, we are nothing (I Cor. 13:2).

      I love to learn, but I want to love God and love others more.

      Thanks, Lisa, for the recommendation of Mary Jo Sharpe’s blog. I’ll be sure to check it out.

    • Steve

      @ Lisa,

      I think my comments were too broad. My wife and I live in Ontario, Canada, and some of these comments are related to our own limited experiences with persons from specific seminaries in Canda (though not in Ontario). I can hear Chuck Swindoll and David Jerimiah from a station that broadcasts in Buffalo. Of course, I love them both.

      Additionally, the Pastor who mentored me at my last church was very well educated and I never felt this emphasis or dependence on the intellect was an issue at all. I thought he was great. Further, I came very near to applying to seminary myself and don’t have a generalized grudge against all institutions under this banner (my wife went to a Christian school that she found hateful, but that’s not to say that all Christian schools are ‘bad’). It sounds like your seminary experience was very good ad that you attended an excellent school. Are they in the majority? I don’t know.

      To be more straightforward, in recent experience, we’ve had a whole run of people saying things to us (who have some kind of seminary training) that is very simply contradictory to scripture. That is, people have seemed to go off to school, and come back with higher opinions of themselves, very condescending opinions about lay persons and views that are very cleverly articulated in a new vocabularly, scholarly and obviously unscriptural. Then they cap off the conversation by recommending that I go for a few courses!

      At least here in Ontario, we are hearing the same things from the pulpet sometimes. People are straying into the heretical but they’re always wandering over there with their thinking caps on (so to speak) and some people are following.

      I understand that my comments were too broad and it is very helpful to read your response. I need to be broader in my thinking. The US, North America, and the world are all big places. Maybe I need to find a seminary in the states to attend at some point.

      At the same time, please believe that real problems with real seminaries do exist. My experience is not imaginary and my comments are not (imv) ill concieved. I would be very surprised if it’s just happening to me and it may account, in large part, for some of the resistence to higher christian education. This resistence, at least for me, where I am, is based on a devotion to God.

      For example, the “preach the word” verse has been a real thing for me too. We do hear people with a great deal of education tell us things sometimes that are just not in line with what the bible teaches and this verse comes in response to that I think.

      Know what I mean?

      PS. I really appreciate you taking the time to respond to my comments and I think your article is very good and well written!

    • Steve

      PPS. My wife says that she did find her experience ‘hateful’ but didn’t always enjoy her experience. Oops.

    • mbaker

      As a former journalist, I’ve learned that no one can be totally objective. Nor can imperfect human beings teach, preach or write perfectly. It is because we all have personal strong opinions about how things should be, that we go into certain professions in the first place, which give us a venue to express them. Certainly one can see that on this blog, which generally has wide and varied, indeed often passionately expressed opinions, from many different sources.

      However, I have found the best learning/teaching comes when there is a free flow of ideas allowed from both sides, which are presented in good context and built upon a foundation of known facts. Otherwise, we confuse more folks than we teach by speculating on what should be, or could be true, rather than exploring or building on what actually is.

      While there are any number of ways to interpret the facts, which those here who are lawyers can also tell you, it is always incumbent upon the individual Christian, in the final analysis, to come to a conclusion which takes the whole counsel of God into account.

      This is true whether we are seminarians or lay people, because God is going to hold us personally responsible for what we believe and do, not someone else. However, from observing what I have in my own years of ministry, there seems to me to be much more emphasis placed today on individual denominational practices in the church in general, rather than teaching biblically applied theology. Consequently, I see a much greater tendency among Christians to evolve into separate theological camps, based upon the opinions of favorite teachers, pastors, or early church leaders.

    • david gibbs

      I agree with Lisa’s approach to this matter: the usefulness of higher learning. Let me make two points: 1. concerning the claim that some seminaries require their facullty to adhere to denominational beliefs, the solution is simply to carefully and prayfully select the seminary one attends.

      21. Some churches/denominations have a tradtion of academic teaching and scholarship (especiAlly those founded in Europe such as the methodist, Catholic, Anglican, Pysbeterian, Lutheran etc) others have a tradition of being anti-intellectual. pseudo-intellectual ( especially thsoe founded in USA such as Pentcostal, Adventist, Jehovah Witness,). Remember Mark Noll’s fine book “Scandal of the Evengelical Mind”. Church memebrs can often imbible and inherit the historic legacy and tradition of their church denomination based on the views of its early founders and unwittingly consider it to be “normal christianity”

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