Do Men in Seminary Ever Doubt Their Faith or Lack Assurance?

Discussion in 'Seminaries, Colleges & Education' started by De Jager, Jan 23, 2019.

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  1. De Jager

    De Jager Puritan Board Freshman


    First off, let me just say that I probably won't be going to seminary, but I cannot rule it out entirely. I find the Bible so fascinating and I love to teach and study the doctrines of the Christian faith. I enjoy watching people grow in knowledge of the Lord. Because of these things, I have in the past contemplated going to seminary.

    However, sometimes I have experience anxiety about my faith - for a long time I lacked assurance, and sometimes still do, although that doesn't seem to be as much of a problem anymore...but recently I have experienced frequent temptations to doubt my faith, to doubt God's word, to doubt the inspiration of scripture, to doubt the reality of it all.

    My question is this: do men in seminary ever experience these things? Or are these indicators that a person should come to a more settled assurance and faith before thinking about enrolling in seminary??

    Best Regards,
  2. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    You can easily complicate the question. What manifold causes could there be for a man to experience doubts, sighs, bouts of depression, anger, etc.? Who knows how one will feel in two days, two weeks, two months, or two years into a seminary course of instruction?

    One reason for seeking the advice and promotion of one's session (consistory) and one's presbytery (classis) is so that the observations of men who are around an individual can help encourage him in his interest, or else counsel him to wait. It may be that certain doubts you have come from immaturity--either in general, or in a specific area; and it would be wise and well for a man to wait a bit longer, to see if those unsettled matters will calm. Then, he is much more the ready for the stage of education and testing.

    Your pastor should know you well enough to offer you some pointers, and your session should be in a position to help you test your gifts in a congregational setting. Not only does the exercise of your faith (in the realm of serving or teaching, as much as other things) strengthen it; you are more encouraged to pursue and persevere (when the going it tough during training) when the pastor, elders, deacons, and members of your last congregation are showing confidence in your effort.

    Self-doubt is an effect of finitude. Doubts concerning the faith may be due to ignorance, weakness, immaturity, a weak constitution, mental problems, sin and sins, and other things. Depending on the degree of them, the power of some doubts might be overcome with the knowledge gained in seminary, and associated growth in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Some sins should really be put (mostly) to death, before one tries to become a shepherd and guide for even weaker sheep and lambs.

    Bottom line: you should take the spiritual counsels of those over you in the Lord (and beside you) who know you best, in addition to first praying to God for strength and guidance to determine your steps. :2cents:
  3. DTK

    DTK Puritan Board Junior

    Even men in the ministry experience such doubts and bouts with depression and temptation. The godly man Samuel Rutherford once remarked concerning this condition, "expertus loquor," (I speak as an expert); he experienced the assaults of this condition. You see, the most advanced saint among us has not advanced beyond the weakness of being subjected to such foul, sinful and diabolical thoughts, hence the need for the careful and meticulous keeping of the heart, Proverbs 4:23. As the great puritan John Flavel reminds us: "The greatest difficulty in conversion is to win the heart to God; and the greatest difficulty after conversion, is to keep the heart with God."

    Rutherford,"Expertus+Loquor"&source=bl&ots=wbpyvnorBL&sig=ACfU3U0_rWnAk8o8UvO1LF8ETtkV2ujRcQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiczvqCkYXgAhVK2qwKHaKmBa0Q6AEwB3oECAcQAQ#v=onepage&q=Rutherford "Expertus Loquor"&f=false
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2019
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  4. TheInquirer

    TheInquirer Puritan Board Freshman

    Bruce has provided excellent counsel.

    Even while you wrestle with these things, there are so many resources online, as well as a multitude of books, you can engage in to further your understanding without making the commitment to go to seminary.

    One thing I would say is try not to separate what you are learning from how it should be ministering to your soul. There is a danger of Christianity becoming a mere academic interest without it growing your love for the Lord and worship of Him.

    I don't know much about doubt in that I haven't struggled with it in the sense of questioning the existence of God, the realness of Christianity, etc. Never in my life have I done that. Mine has been more of "If I believe this, why am not obeying to the degree of my belief?" At any rate, I am always an advocate of confessing sin to the Lord. He is worthy of our faith and trust as well as love and obedience.

    Another thought - have you ever tried to get to the root of your struggles? What thoughts, beliefs, desires, etc. are competing for your faith?
  5. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I have been told many times that a true Christian never doubts his salvation. But I think there is a differences between assurance and presumption. The Apostle Paul tells us to examine ourselves to see wherther we be in the faith, and so seminary is the first time many people actually do that. I have known men who have been saved in seminary (while preparing for the ministry).

    ...And I have also known men who have fallen from the faith in seminary. And it is little wonder since many divinity schools teach that the Bible is not trustworthy and sprang from the Ancient Near East cultural milieu and not from heaven.

    And even if one possesses a degree of confidence in one's salvation, I often wonder why my feelings and emotions do not follow the duties that I know to be true from the Bible. We know how we should feel about something, but sometimes cannot muster up those feelings. Compassion or mercy or gratitude or joy or forgiveness....sometimes these things do not come as readily as they should. And then there is the issue of depression, which many pastors experience, which puts a dark cloud over everything and makes one certain of nothing.
  6. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    In addition to what Bruce said, I think whenever you are pushed to think harder about the faith, or about your calling, it has the potential to cause doubts. But that is actually a good thing because it causes you to dig deeper and seek the Lord.

    For example, when I first began learning about the complexities of textual criticism which the average Christian really can't deal with until they learn Greek or Hebrew, it causes a realization that this issue was not as simple as you first thought. The same when learning apologetics. In seminary you learn more about sophisticated attacks on Christianity and if you've never heard them before they can shake you. But again, it should drive you to dig deeper to see how the Church has dealt with those attacks many times before. In the end, those kind of doubts drive you to know the faith better, and enable you to be less intimidated when you hear them again, and to help others work through them.

    Other times, you can encounter doubt when you compare yourself to other men who are far more gifted or mature than you are, or you begin hearing the horror stories of pastoral ministry, and it can cause you to ask, "Am I really cut out for this?" That is actually a good thing to work through before the Lord as you test your gifts in the Church, and in the end it can give you more assurance and relief later knowing that you are in fact called (or not!).
  7. Lucaso

    Lucaso Puritan Board Freshman

    My friend goes to DTS and said that Charles Swindoll gave an introductory lecture to his class. He said that many men 'lose their faith' in seminary as they are not founded to begin with. They are forced to wrestle with very difficult doctrines, controversies they didn't realize even existed, and eventually become overwhelmed because they throw up their hands and say, "well if all these learned people can't figure it out, then how can I?" It's a time of vulnerability and that's perhaps where the enemy strikes fast and hard.

    Crises of faith are common when we learn how little we actually know about what we believe. On the other hand, I've met plenty of seminary grads who don't seem to know all that much about scripture. They read a lot of books by other people and left more confused than when they entered.

    I'm planning on attending seminary but still looking for a good school that is affordable and online. I'm looking mainly at Reformed seminaries because so many other ones are going very liberal.
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