Do You Need Seminary To Teach Theology?

Discussion in 'Seminaries, Colleges & Education' started by Mikey, Jul 19, 2019.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Mikey

    Mikey Puritan Board Freshman

    At first glance, this question may come across as a no brainier, but I think its still worth asking. Do you need to have undertaken 5 to 7+ years of theological higher education to begin a career as a lecturer at seminary/university? With the rising costs of theological education, and with there being few jobs out there for theological graduates, it can often feel like the costs of such education far out-weigh the benefits (especially with the use of online resources and online bookstores, where one can effectively self-teach himself much of what is taught at seminary). I know many men who would testify that very little of that which they were taught at seminary couldn't be self-taught and learned within the context of the local church. As far as my own education goes, much of what I learned at university could've been self-taught at a much more effective speed at home; in fact, most of what I know about my own personal study areas came outside the university campus (besides Classical Greek). I have a passion to teach Theology at a high level, but must I incur so much debt (or give up so much of my income/savings) to even just have a small chance of landing a lecturing/teaching role?

    Long question put short: are there other routes to becoming a Theology lecturer apart from the financially burdensome route of half a decade's worth of seminary? Do you know anyone who has taken an alternative route?

    Thanks in advance for your replies!

    Additional Information: I have recently enrolled in two courses at seminary, to begin next week. I recently graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Economics, Philosophy). I have little to no interest in unaccredited education (I think it has a place, but I struggle to think it does so in academia). Also, I do not struggle with self-discipline (if such struggle did exist, the benefit of seminary would be greater).
  2. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    "According to The Center for the Study of Global Christianity, there are “5 million pastors/priests in all Christian traditions worldwide (Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, and Independents, including bi-vocational).” They further estimate that “5% (250,000) are likely to have formal theological training (undergraduate Bible degrees or Master's degrees)”. This means that of the estimated 2.2 million evangelical, pastoral leaders globally (some estimates put this figure as high as 3.4 million), only 5% have received formal training (i.e., a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree).”

    A Masters degree or lengthy experience in the ministry is fine for teaching overseas in many locations. Most church workers around the world are not formally trained. And those that train them don't need to have doctorates. If you want to get into the bubble of academia, you might need a higher degree, but for on-the-ground training of pastors, there are hundreds of pastors in many locales overseas who are begging for men to teach them, but few teachers will come long-term to these locations to put in the necessary work.
  3. alexandermsmith

    alexandermsmith Puritan Board Sophomore

    If we're talking specifically about teaching in a seminary, at least in Western countries, you probably would need qualifications from accredited institutions. Academia tends to only recognise academia. In terms of training to be a minister I don't think there's any necessity for seminary education, but good quality education is required but this can done in-house through an apprenticeship approach.

    And I could imagine a situation where a minister, through his experience and exemplary pastoral and theological work over the years, could teach at a seminary even if he himself had not achieved degrees from such institutions himself all the way back during his original training. But I think the normal situation would be that certain qualifications would be looked for.
  4. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Personally I would rather have an MD who had a degree along with a Pastor who also had one. Interesting it is required to have a degree to practice medicine but not Pastoring. :)
  5. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    There was one called the Great Physician who had no degree.

    I've heard the analogy of a pastor being a doctor (or a surgeon by R Scott Clark), but I really think it is sort of a stupid analogy. A pastor is not a brain surgeon.

    It is more like a musician having a music degree or not. Many times a music degree helps, but the proof is in the music and not in the degree.
  6. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Junior

    I understand men who argue that they shouldn't have to go to seminary to be pastors. I think that they are wrong (what is needed is most commonly garnered there), but I understand the reasons that they argue such, including the economic ones.

    But your arguments are new for me, Mikey. You want to "teach theology at a high level," presumably in seminary, while at the same time arguing against the need for such sort of education. So you want to teach subject matter in a place that you think people shouldn't need to go to study the subject matter you want to teach?

    Am I missing something here or is your question/argument as bizarre as it sounds?

    • Like Like x 11
    • Funny Funny x 1
    • List
  7. alexandermsmith

    alexandermsmith Puritan Board Sophomore

    It is necessary for ministers to have a solid, thorough theological training. I don't know that it's necessary it is acquired at a particular institution called a seminary.
  8. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    The lady with the issue of blood first went to a Dr. :) Also I strongly suspect Jesus was educated beyond the regular lay person of today, and back then.
  9. arapahoepark

    arapahoepark Puritan Board Graduate

    Of course, I would think. If I want to get my masters I am eligible to teach at a community college level and even be an adjunct at some universities. How much more is it necessary for graduate level education?
  10. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    P.s. I know 2 bible schools in New Guinea and Papua, Indonesia who desire bible teachers asap to train pastors. Masters degree is desired.
  11. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    The problem with pointing to Jesus, and suggesting that: since he didn't have a credential from men (ala Jn.2:25), none other needs it--is that it really is a claim that there aren't any extraordinary people. And, of course Jesus was even more than just one of those. The end of Jn.2:25 witnesses the extraordinary gift (by whatever interpretation placed on the words) of the Lord's knowledge.

    For every Spurgeon, there are dozens (maybe hundreds) who ran ahead of all preparation that might have made them genuinely effective. Spurgeon created a preacher's college. Read his Lectures to My Students, in which he frankly discusses the cases of would-be preachers who were manifestly unqualified.

    Jesus, as we know, set up his own school of sorts, a "three-year seminary course" if you will, completed by many of his disciples (more than the Twelve alone, including Matthias and Justus, Act.1:23; also Paul as I argue from Gal.1:17-18 cf. 2Cor.12:2-4). Paul set up a pastoral school in Ephesus, Act.19:9-10, resulting in a tremendous evangelistic output. We should also mention the school (sons) of the prophets, first mentioned 1Ki.20:35, of which there are early signs even in Samuel's day, 1Sam.10:5.

    Regardless of whether one thinks of such training ground in the way of a college or a mentorship, the Bible certainly offers much more by way of example regarding training of pastors and teachers for the church than it supposes either "everyone's a teacher," or sudden involuntary Spirit-endowment is a mature norm for the church.
  12. Chad Hutson

    Chad Hutson Puritan Board Freshman

    I would think that in order to teach at seminary level one would need some credentials.
    But let me speak to a greater issue that has been alluded to in at least a couple of recent threads: the need to train ministers of the gospel for pastoral ministry.
    While many churches have uncredentialled preachers, I think it would serve them to receive formal education/training to cut back on much of the heresy or near-heresy that is prevalent in many American churches. While these men have a zeal for God, many do not have a firm foundation in sound doctrine that keeps them from straying from orthodoxy. I pray that someday soon in my area of the country there would be available a minister's academy/training program that would be affordable for these bi-vocational ministers as well as accommodating for work schedules. I am kicking around the idea with our elders now, however, it would require great effort, resources, and cooperation among churches.
    Brothers and sisters, if you could only hear what passes for gospel preaching in North Central WV you would be shocked and grieved in your spirit! For example, I recently had a conversation with an area minister who told me he doesn't like to cling to the plain meaning of Scripture because the meaning changes according to how he feels and what is happening in his life at the time, thus influencing his messages. I informed him that the plain meaning of Scripture is the message! Probably won't be getting a Christmas card from him this year.
    Pray for us, for we are so small and weak.
  13. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    It is always a mistake to over-emphasize or under-emphasize the place of seminary in the preparation of a man of God.
  14. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Junior

    I agree entirely! We (in the seminary) don't give a man a single gift (only God does). Nor do we qualify and call a man (God does internally and the church does externally, working in submission to her Lord).

    Well put, Trevor!

    • Like Like x 1
    • Amen Amen x 1
    • List
  15. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Thanks. I was afraid I under-emphasized the place of training in my previous post.
  16. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Doctor

    What I really want to know, Mikey (Mike) - is that really you in your avatar photo?
  17. Mikey

    Mikey Puritan Board Freshman

    You are right, it is bizarre. I thought about what you're saying before I started the discussion. I feel like I have two seemingly desires within me: 1) For me to teach the next generation of Christian thinkers at (the financial burdensome) seminary and 2) For such theological education to not be so burdensome upon those who have been called by God to be educated. I feel like we need men to go through the system one last time, and then change the system for the next generation, where theological education does not have to be such a big financial question. I certainly see your point though, Dr Strange.
  18. Mikey

    Mikey Puritan Board Freshman

    Haha, no its not, the picture is a bit outdated... I've recently grown a beard.
  19. John Yap

    John Yap Puritan Board Freshman

    I am thankful my seminary has men with both credentials and pastoral experience.
  20. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    Outdated? Let me help. I think the avatar would look pretty cool with an All Blacks jersey. Agreed? :) :)
  21. ArminianOnceWas

    ArminianOnceWas Puritan Board Freshman

    One idea I have for you is this. Earn your legit Ph.D. and then offer to teach at a seminary for 1/2 salary of other professors, or perhaps even volunteer to teach a full-time course load. If you can set an example for others to follow perhaps tuition costs may decrease.:D

    In all seriousness brother, I believe I can sense your sincerity in this thread and I do wish seminary education was more affordable.

    However, there is a fine line of discernment here. Do I want my seminary professor full time, actively engaged in continuing education such as attending academic conferences and presenting papers? Well yes, because hopefully, he is maintaining a high level of interest in his profession and not growing lazy. Alternatively, do I want my seminary professor to work 40 hours a week selling used cars then coming in to teach a class he has hardly prepared for in order to save me tuition cost? Well, no to that extreme.

    I think you see my point. To earn the credentials to be able to teach at seminary often means you will be in debt and required to earn a living for your family which implies the seminary must pay a competitive salary which comes from tuition. It is a vicious cycle, isn't it? However, I do want my professors to be able to give themselves wholly to the profession in the same way I wish to give myself wholly to my pastoral vocation.

    One answer could be the accreditation issue. Do our seminaries need ATS or other accreditation? Well yes and no I suppose. First to receive funds for student loans and to be competitive, then yes.

    I'm strongly supportive of endeavors such as LAMP Seminary among PCA churches that utilize local church facilities and pastors usually with D.Min degrees to offer a high level of education. However, my local LAMP site is talking about closing because of funding. Tuition is about $50 per credit and I'm not sure they are paying the guest lecturers much at all. I don't know why they can't survive except that 10 students paying $150 per class for 8 weeks does not cut it.

    I don't know what the answer is or how to fix it because I don't want my pastor going to a diploma mill either to "earn" an education.
  22. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Junior

    Not wanting to appear unduly partisan or parochial, but students at our seminary, typically, between support of their own churches (at local and other levels), scholarships, and student aid leave here with no additional debt. We tend to be quiet about that, but in a discussion like this I think it warrants saying.

    Perhaps other institutions are the same, but if you are sent here by your church, which is required for M.Div. study, and admitted to our program, we are committed to not adding to your burden(s) in this way.

    If one is fit for seminary study, which is an ecclesiastical judgment as well as an institutional one, it ought to be affordable.

    • Like Like x 4
    • Informative Informative x 2
    • List
  23. AlexanderPetzinger

    AlexanderPetzinger Puritan Board Freshman

    Totally agree! I am also piggy-backing on the comments of Professor Strange regarding one's calling to a church office and was thinking, "for what specific purpose will the seminary training be?" in other words, will it be for equipping a pastor for guiding a flock, or for an evangelist who is called to evangelize the lost (and exhorting other believers to evangelize)? I wonder if the Church has too often conflated the two offices.

    "Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus." (Acts 4:13)
  24. RJ Spencer

    RJ Spencer Puritan Board Freshman

    I've always held that Seminary is unnecessary to be a minister. Often times I feel ostracized because of my lack of formal education, even though I've studied theology on my own for about 15 years. I understand where the OP is coming from and I encourage him to follow the call of God regardless of whether he has the approval of men or not.
  25. ArminianOnceWas

    ArminianOnceWas Puritan Board Freshman

    Do you believe a minister has any kind of accountability to the fellow church and leaders?
  26. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    Perhaps not a formal education at an institution called a "seminary," but a solid theological, biblical, and historical training is most certainly necessary. Of course, the easiest place to get such a thorough education, at least here in the US, is your local seminary.
  27. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Junior

    As to the first point, RJ, the church of which you are a part, the PCA (together with other Presbyterian and Reformed churches), requires a seminary education ordinarily of its Teaching Elders. This then seems a bit of an odd conviction on your part. Are you not thankful for the theological training that your pastor has? You don't resent or regret him having such, do you?

    As to the second point, I regret that you've ever felt ostracized for lacking a formal education. I know that people, even in the church, can act wrongly in this regard. Such might be akin to the favoritism that we too easily show to the rich, the powerful, etc. James 2 condemns such class-bias and would condemn ostracizing for these sorts of reasons. Paul said in I Cor 1 (26-31), in fact, that not many who are worldly-wise, mighty, or noble are called, but those that this world despises as weak and foolish.

    Many jobs don't require college or graduate education. They require other sorts of technical skills that on the job or other vocational training furnishes. Paul commends working with one's hands (I Cor. 4:12; cf. II Thes. 3: 6-12) and, in all cases, doing what one does to serve the Lord (Eph. 6:5-9).

    No one should ostracize anyone for being formally educated or not, rich or poor, etc. We should treat one another as we would be treated and receive each other as Christ receives us--just as we are (though thankfully making us anew at the same time).

    • Like Like x 5
    • Amen Amen x 1
    • List
  28. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Doctor

  29. Jo_Was

    Jo_Was Puritan Board Freshman

    One of the qualifications of all elders is their ability to teach. I think becoming an elder in a local church is one of the best places to exercise those gifts of teaching if you are a layman. It is not just teaching elders who teach, but ruling elders also must be ready to fulfill certain duties of Christian education and service in the church. From what I understand, it even seemed a historic practice to first become an elder, and then the congregation would support an elder for the ministry more formally. I think that can be a good model for someone who sees that they have gifts in teaching and Christian education, but perhaps does not foresee being a full-on pastor (that obviously entails more gifts and duties outside of just being able to teach).

    But also, how about being an actual teacher? :) It may still require some formal training, but may take less time and rigor. There are many private schools and educational contexts in which to teach Bible and theology topics. It can be just as rewarding. Don't underestimate the high level conversations that can be had at the secondary level!
  30. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Providentially, I preached this morning as our Pastor is out for a few weeks. I am licensed to preach in our Presbytery.

    Today, I preached Matt 13:44-52. Matthew 13:52 concludes this pericope from our Lord:

    52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

    I have been a student of the Word and of theology for many years now. By the time I started attending Seminary in 2009 (sort of a log cabin extension), I had been studying for well over 13 years. In part, my knowledge was intimidating to some of my instructors but I also learned so much from them.

    Self-study can tend to be a bit lopsided at times and you may never study some topics at depth and really appreciate them. It took many years of sacrifice and money to complete a Masters of Christian Ministry but every second and dollar spent was worth it.

    Given the gifting, calling, and proper motivation, a good seminary education is a great blessing to the Church at large.

    Christ calls teachers "scribes of the Kingdom" for a reason. They are not like the scribes of His day who could only tell you what great Rabbis thought but are those who are able to accurately understand an apply that which has been handed down and is in the Word which is timeless to new situations.

    The Puritans called their ministers Physicians of the Soul because, as a physician understands the anatomy of the body, the minister understands the human predicament and is able to administer true and wise words in the appropriate context.

    Sadly, I see many ministers today who have received good training and are like physicians who have not kept up with their craft and so they don't one and continually develop their skills. They are examined once and are offended at the notion that they have to continually prove their worth and whether their preaching is truly healing or heals the sins of God's people lightly.

    So, I don't want to be arrogant and claim that no man can be an approved worker of God without formal training. We have an embarrassment of riches that we not only hoard but neglect.

    But, if a man aspires to ministry, then it means he pursues all that will make him useful. He is willing to sacrifice time and riches for that which is more worthy of both. He should be careful from whom he learns but no sacrifice is too great for the Bride of Christ. Given the judgment that awaits any who claim to be teachers and who harm little ones, we should be sober about what kind of preparation we take and be surrounded by wise men who have been in the fight for years to have them evaluate whether we are approved.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page