How rigorous should the academics be at seminary?

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Blue Tick

Puritan Board Graduate
How rigorous should academic programs be for pastoral training? For instance, are modern day reformed seminaries putting to much emphasis on head knowledge and not enough pastoral application and training? Can a seminary become too "heady" and lose its focus and vision to train men?

Where's the balance?
 

SemperEruditio

Puritan Board Junior
If the majority of professors have never been pastors then you will get a lot of academic instruction and little praxis. in my opinion the better seminaries are those where the professors (Ph.D.) are also pastors. If you are restricted as to where you can go then chose those professors at the seminary you are studying at who are pastors.

In my case I am trudging along with my first class at Whitefield. My M.Div. studies are at a uber liberal seminary and I start the languages at RTS-Washington next week. With all that everything is tempered with my weekly discussions with my pastors. One is a RTS grad and the other a Covenant grad. So if you are able to be mentored while attending seminary by a pastor a lot of the "head knowledge" with be distilled with a lot of heart, hands, and feet.
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
Good question.

Machen was very good on this (as on most things). Following the Old Princeton tradition, which, in turn, inherited the academic tradition from the Reformed scholastics, he established Westminster Seminary to uphold the highest and most rigorous academic standards not because he was an elitist but because he understood how important the ministry is.

There is a strong pressure in our culture to depress academic standards in favor of easy credentials and the "busyness" of ministry. That temptation and pressure should be resisted. I say this as one who has been in pastoral ministry full-time since 1987 and who began as a seminary student in 1984. I'm thankful every day that my profs pushed me and demanded that I give my best. Indeed, some of them could have pushed me a little harder.

I think boot camp or basic training (assuming they're identical) is a fair analogy. You only go through boot once, as far as I know. There one learns habits and skills that he will carry with him into battle. Sem is more advanced. We do more than offer basic training since we require advanced training too, but you get the point. The habits, attitudes, and skills you learn in seminary will carry you through into ministry (combat). If your drill instructor taught you to keep your head (and other parts of your anatomy down) and when to charge, and how to clean and handle your weapon, those skills will be most valuable in battle. If you're in shape and ready for combat that will be valuable. If you've suffered a little and understand a bit how to persevere, that will be useful. So it is in ministry.

How rigorous should the academics be? Well, how important is the office of minister of the gospel? How valuable is the gospel? How much did Christ give for his church? How valuable are the lives and souls of the sheep to entrusted to pastors and Christ's servants?

To answer these questions is to begin to answer the question: how rigorous should seminary be.
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
In Reformed theology, piety, and practice there is no dichotomy between "head" and "heart" knowledge. The God to whom we are devoted, is the same God who has revealed himself to us both in propositional revelation, which must be analyzed, and in a person who must be known personally.

There are distinct facets of knowing the same truth embodied in the person of Christ and in the truth of the Word, but they are facets of the same truth.

I tell my students: pray while you study and study while you pray.

As to pastoral experience, our faculty are pastors. We serve on sessions/consistories or have done. We preach regularly. We visit folk in the hospital. We do counseling. We teach catechism. Our newest faculty member, John Fesko, comes to us straight from 10 years in the pastorate in Atlanta. Joel Kim came to us directly from the pastorate. We consistently apply the theory of ministry to pastoral practice.

One must have an understanding of the truth in order to apply that truth. To know the truth without application leaves the pastoral calling unfinished but one cannot begin to fulfill the pastoral vocation without knowing the truth he is to apply to Christ's people.

How can you have application without head knowledge?

I believe the issue is:

Blue Tick said:
"to much emphasis on head knowledge and not enough pastoral application and training?"
 

kceaster

Puritan Board Junior
In Reformed theology, piety, and practice there is no dichotomy between "head" and "heart" knowledge. The God to whom we are devoted, is the same God who has revealed himself to us both in propositional revelation, which must be analyzed, and in a person who must be known personally.

There are distinct facets of knowing the same truth embodied in the person of Christ and in the truth of the Word, but they are facets of the same truth.

I tell my students: pray while you study and study while you pray.

And yet, can we not see from church history that many men have lived the dichotomy? Didn't Dr. Chalmers begin active ministry without having even been converted? Could not the same thing be said of Augustine? If one is truly pious in the best sense, then I would agree there is no dichotomy. But I would imagine that there is more than one student in seminary right now whose head knowledge far outstrips his heart.

However, just because there are those whose heads outstrip their hearts does not necessarily mean that seminary should focus more or less on academics. But what it does mean is that there must be proper oversight of the man's soul to encourage him in complete piety. For a man to keep his priorities straight (to learn with the heart and with the head) with the current lack of discipline cultivated in our society, may mean that we must adjust the seminary experience so that the furrows of both the mind and the soul are plowed. And unfortunately, since success is measured mostly in the head and not in the heart in the current educational paradigm, we have our work cut out for us.

In Christ,

KC
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
In Reformed theology, piety, and practice there is no dichotomy between "head" and "heart" knowledge. The God to whom we are devoted, is the same God who has revealed himself to us both in propositional revelation, which must be analyzed, and in a person who must be known personally.

There are distinct facets of knowing the same truth embodied in the person of Christ and in the truth of the Word, but they are facets of the same truth.

I tell my students: pray while you study and study while you pray.

And yet, can we not see from church history that many men have lived the dichotomy? Didn't Dr. Chalmers begin active ministry without having even been converted? Could not the same thing be said of Augustine? If one is truly pious in the best sense, then I would agree there is no dichotomy. But I would imagine that there is more than one student in seminary right now whose head knowledge far outstrips his heart.

However, just because there are those whose heads outstrip their hearts does not necessarily mean that seminary should focus more or less on academics. But what it does mean is that there must be proper oversight of the man's soul to encourage him in complete piety. For a man to keep his priorities straight (to learn with the heart and with the head) with the current lack of discipline cultivated in our society, may mean that we must adjust the seminary experience so that the furrows of both the mind and the soul are plowed. And unfortunately, since success is measured mostly in the head and not in the heart in the current educational paradigm, we have our work cut out for us.

In Christ,

KC

Kevin,

In my experience as an administrator and as a teacher I've found from our transfer students that it is more likely that a school (a seminary) will be less academic and more "pastoral." This is especially true with the MDiv. Tragically, in many places the the MDiv has become a "hand-holding" degree where students sit about singing Cumbayah (sp?) rather than memorizing Greek and Hebrew. Few seminaries actually require students to develop a working knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, just to pick one field.

As to whether students and ministers are regenerate, that, of course, is a matter for our sovereign Spirit. Sessions must judge profession of faith and exercise discipline/oversight. I agree that many sessions do not exercise sufficient oversight over their seminary students, i.e. those they send to seminary.

I'm thankful that there are a number of good consistories and sessions in our area who shepherd the souls of our students. We (the faculty) cooperate with them and attempt to help shepherd them as best we can. We recognize, however, that a school is not the church and so we do not attempt to do with the work of the church (hence we don't administer the sacraments during chapel etc) but we do exercise our ecclesiastical vocations as teachers and pastors here.

I do sincerely wish that consistories and sessions would contact us about graduates as they are considering them. This is an area where I think many sessions fail. I can count on two hands the times I've been asked about a candidate for ministry. It's even worse with search committees staffed with laity who know less about ministry than the session -- which is the divinely instituted "search committee" as far as I can tell.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
KC,
It seems to me that all we can do is acknowledge that there is no perfect system that will produce men of equal caliber: heart & head.

If our Reformed churches have found more unfit-men in the pulpit, mentally prepared but not spiritually adequate, can we really say that this is anything more than a factor of our preference? A man who is not spiritually adequate can actually (all detriments acknowledged!) preach Christ and the gospel.

This was Paul's own testimony. It may (and almost certainly will) lack the fullness of power, and over time it will degrade the quality of the church and the ministry over all. But there are some things that the Spirit will nonetheless overcome, as the Word itself does its work.

Likewise, men who have "heart," but lack mental preparation or discipline have as much--or MORE--potential to bring a church and the ministry down. At least, this is how the Reformed church has understood the facts on the ground. If we say simply that a man who has sufficient devotion can make up for the rest of his deficiency by "dependence on the Spirit," then we are bound to see utter failure in the broader context.

Why? Isn't this counter-intuitive? Perhaps it is on the surface, however...

1) the flock will not be kept from error.
2) doctrine will suffer deprecation, even unintentionally.
3) wolves will creep in even easier than otherwise, since there will be less objective gate-keeping.

Like it or not, demanding that would-be ministers learn the original languages, insisting that they show familiarity and facility with a fixed body of doctrine, asking them to be conversant with key aspects of church history--all this presents a barrier to the lazy "politician," who'd like to feed off the sheep he'd suppose to be pastoring.

But..., but this obstacle doesn't present an insurmountable barrier to the gifted charlatan!
True. And nothing we can do will prevent that. Certainly lowering the standards will not prevent it! It might make fewer of them feel like competing with the slick politicians for the people's hearts, but that only leaves the crowd to the mercy of another class of parasite.

At least, with the cerebral, the people may continue to be fed real food for a while. Of course, if this situation is prolonged, if the seminaries are compromised, etc., the end result will be the steady decline--sometimes long, occasionally precipitous--of churches and denominations.

Anyway, this is what RSC is speaking to when he says that we can't separate head and heart--not now or ever. Or else, sooner or later, the church will decline. It has happened countless times since the beginning, and will continue to happen at various pace until Christ returns. Happily, there will be reversals, and there will continue to be a remnant of faith that perseveres, that restarts, that rebuilds--a constant work and warfare that will only see the full reward in glory.

But, if I may say so, those plodding, unthanked soldiers need leadership. No revival or "continuing church" I'm aware of has gone forward vigorously without men of head & heart.
 

kceaster

Puritan Board Junior
Dr. Clark...

I do sincerely wish that consistories and sessions would contact us about graduates as they are considering them. This is an area where I think many sessions fail. I can count on two hands the times I've been asked about a candidate for ministry. It's even worse with search committees staffed with laity who know less about ministry than the session -- which is the divinely instituted "search committee" as far as I can tell.

I'm glad that the sessions and consistories surrounding you take up that important mantle.

But why do you think that you are not consulted by them when it comes time for ordination and a call? Do you get a sense that they believe they don't need to, or perhaps that they're not interested in your opinion? Or, could it even be that they are fully satisfied that the student has completed a quality education and no further discussion is necessary? Do any of the faculty receive these type of calls and would it depend on the subject matter they teach?

Just curious...

In Christ,

KC
 

kceaster

Puritan Board Junior
Pastor Bruce...

KC,
It seems to me that all we can do is acknowledge that there is no perfect system that will produce men of equal caliber: heart & head.

Although I wish it were not so, as you do, I must agree.

If our Reformed churches have found more unfit-men in the pulpit, mentally prepared but not spiritually adequate, can we really say that this is anything more than a factor of our preference? A man who is not spiritually adequate can actually (all detriments acknowledged!) preach Christ and the gospel.

This was Paul's own testimony. It may (and almost certainly will) lack the fullness of power, and over time it will degrade the quality of the church and the ministry over all. But there are some things that the Spirit will nonetheless overcome, as the Word itself does its work.

I see your point and I would agree that preaching and teaching can take place. But I would think we wouldn't want to make it an either/or, but a both/and. That is what ordination is supposed to accomplish, isn't it? I think that is what Dr. Clark was getting at when speaking about piety. Piety is not either/or, it is both/and. And while there is no way to ensure this, we shouldn't simply pass a candidate because he gave a good technical sermon, but because his preaching was with unction (as Drs Pipa and Carrick like to press) and was theologically sound.

Likewise, men who have "heart," but lack mental preparation or discipline have as much--or MORE--potential to bring a church and the ministry down. At least, this is how the Reformed church has understood the facts on the ground. If we say simply that a man who has sufficient devotion can make up for the rest of his deficiency by "dependence on the Spirit," then we are bound to see utter failure in the broader context.

I agree. I have heard a sermon given in which the prayer of illumination boiled down to, "I didn't really study this like I should have, so will you please give me 'special annointing' so I don't mess up too bad." It was in other words, but that was the basis of the prayer. And in this case, I did not doubt his heart was sincere (except for the fact that he didn't study), but it was clear that he was not academically prepared.

Why? Isn't this counter-intuitive? Perhaps it is on the surface, however...

1) the flock will not be kept from error.
2) doctrine will suffer deprecation, even unintentionally.
3) wolves will creep in even easier than otherwise, since there will be less objective gate-keeping.

Like it or not, demanding that would-be ministers learn the original languages, insisting that they show familiarity and facility with a fixed body of doctrine, asking them to be conversant with key aspects of church history--all this presents a barrier to the lazy "politician," who'd like to feed off the sheep he'd suppose to be pastoring.

I agree with the BCO; that the pulpit should not be given to ignorant and weak men. But doesn't that cut both ways? We shouldn't allow a spiritually weak man to be ordained even though he is excellent with the languages and an accomplished exegete. That is the tougher to ascertain, but that's why the church hopefully has a good number of men with the ability to discern those types of things.

In Christ,

KC
 

JWJ

Puritan Board Freshman
How rigorous should academic programs be for pastoral training? For instance, are modern day reformed seminaries putting to much emphasis on head knowledge and not enough pastoral application and training? Can a seminary become too "heady" and lose its focus and vision to train men?

Where's the balance?

In a sense modern day reformed seminaries / denominations stress too much head knowledge or better, academic achievement, at the expense of a holistic approach. Seminaries can be great and very useful for the training / education of “Timothy’s” for the ministry and certainly can foster an environment of discipline and hard work. However, seminaries should never be viewed as the “end” let alone the only means—something that is common place today among the reformed faith.

Certainly knowledge is important and seminary is one good resource / means to provide this knowledge; however this formal education should never be a prerequisite or even a priority to qualify one to the ministry—again something that is unfortunately common place today. The biblical pattern and norm for qualifying candidates for the appointed office of elder and the recognition of the role of a minister is first and foremost based on both giftedness and character.

The current structure or pattern of today’s seminaries (as a been the case since their inception, some more than others) is to “professionalize” the ministry through the inculcation of knowledge. Again, there is nothing wrong with inculcating and fast tracking knowledge. However the problem is that most of today’s seminaries (as was the case with many in the past) fragment ministry training by following a curriculum pattern founded on Schleiermacher’s fourfold division—rigidly dividing and professionalizing theological education into separate disciplines (e.g. biblical theology, systematic theology, historical theology, and pastoral theology). Therefore, this infusion of knowledge many times is not truly sapiential or holistic not to mention lacking an environment for mentoring so to coalesce knowledge with character / gift development.

A balance or holistic approach can only be achieved if and when local churches take more ownership of passing on the deposit and training their own “Timothy’s.” In my opinion the reformed faith today needs to move more away form formal seminary training towards a semi-formal local church-based leadership training where its leaders (both elders and ministers) take an active role in training / educating / mentoring future leaders. The emphasis will be on inculcating knowledge and mentoring via a portfolio assessment. This should take priority over University and or Seminary training and degrees—though certainly local seminaries or universities may be an element in this holistic local church based approach.

In the end local churches will have achieved the balance of leadership training lacking and possess a continuous stream of future leaders in their midst— learning, serving, and mentoring directly under the leadership. This means that the local church and its current leadership will be the holistic mold for ministry (again something formal seminary training cannot provide). In addition, when current minister(s) / pastor(s) move on there will be no need for a local church to always seek “candidates” outside as they will have some in their midst (no doubt already actively involved in some form of ministry—e.g. preaching and teaching).
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
Kevin,

The brutally honest answer is that most congregations only call a pastor every 7 years. There are probably not many people who've called a pastor more than once or twice in their lifetimes. They don't know what they're doing. They don't think to call us. When I've mentioned, elders have said, "Oh that's a good idea..." Yes, it is. They would do it if they were hiring anyone else, but they don't think about it in ecclesiastical work.

All we do with a diploma is to certify that a man, in the case of an MDiv, has passed his exam and term papers etc. We're a school, not the church. It's the presbytery's duty and the session's duty to perform due diligence when examining a man for candidacy or licensure. I worry that, in too many cases, this isn't really done thoroughly. I realize people are busy but this is the church of Christ and the principal manifestation (at least) of the Kingdom of Christ on the earth. It's worth a little extra effort.

I do sincerely wish that consistories and sessions would contact us about graduates as they are considering them. This is an area where I think many sessions fail. I can count on two hands the times I've been asked about a candidate for ministry. It's even worse with search committees staffed with laity who know less about ministry than the session -- which is the divinely instituted "search committee" as far as I can tell.

I'm glad that the sessions and consistories surrounding you take up that important mantle.

But why do you think that you are not consulted by them when it comes time for ordination and a call? Do you get a sense that they believe they don't need to, or perhaps that they're not interested in your opinion? Or, could it even be that they are fully satisfied that the student has completed a quality education and no further discussion is necessary? Do any of the faculty receive these type of calls and would it depend on the subject matter they teach?

Just curious...

In Christ,

KC

-----Added 8/26/2009 at 06:04:03 EST-----

Jim,

May I ask on what basis you make the judgments and claims you do?
 

JWJ

Puritan Board Freshman
Dr. R. Scott Clark,

My judgment and assessment is based on many factors including years of experience in establishing churches, corresponding with, reading the works of, and working with professionals in academia, like yourself, and most importantly studying and applying the Word— both its descriptive and prescriptive patterns of doing “missions”, raising up leaders and establishing churches (I use the word “establish” in both the common western English parlance of church planting as well as the Greek, episterizo, idea (Acts 14:22) of strengthening).

There are many even with in both the pastorate and academia who share my same judgment that theology and leadership training has become too institutionalized and must be returned to the activity and sphere of local churches. (Again I must insert the caveat that this judgment in no way should be misconstrued as advocating an anti-academia spirit or a move to get rid of seminaries—far from the truth. Professionals in academia and seminary training must play a role but not the main role.) Many pastors and elders I have worked with over the years, especially in the reformed faith, share these same convictions but are afraid to speak out let alone work against denominational standards and tradition.

In academia I can list many but since I am not at my office and my memory is not what it use to be, I will list two: The late Harvie M. Conn and Walter Kaiser Jr., who is currently involved in developing and implementing local church based curriculums You may also want to read a ground breaking work written back in the 80’s from a more liberal scholar, Edward Farley, Theologia, that in my opinion cogently argues that today’s theological education needs to be redeemed from both the professionalization and the “sciences” and return to a holistic and sapiential based process.

In addition I have served in local churches that have implemented this process and thus witnessed first hand a rapid expansion of the gospel and a more holistic and stronger / mature local church leadership. In addition, one of my direct coworkers in the ministry and his international team is using this biblical model of missions and training of leaders in his work in Cambodia (from what I am told they comprise the largest presence in doing “missions” in this area) As a result we are witnessing an expediential progress of the gospel in Cambodia, local churches being planted at a phenomenal rate, and strong mature leadership.
 

kceaster

Puritan Board Junior
Pastor Jim...

In a sense modern day reformed seminaries / denominations stress too much head knowledge or better, academic achievement, at the expense of a holistic approach. Seminaries can be great and very useful for the training / education of “Timothy’s” for the ministry and certainly can foster an environment of discipline and hard work. However, seminaries should never be viewed as the “end” let alone the only means—something that is common place today among the reformed faith.

Certainly knowledge is important and seminary is one good resource / means to provide this knowledge; however this formal education should never be a prerequisite or even a priority to qualify one to the ministry—again something that is unfortunately common place today. The biblical pattern and norm for qualifying candidates for the appointed office of elder and the recognition of the role of a minister is first and foremost based on both giftedness and character.

The current structure or pattern of today’s seminaries (as a been the case since their inception, some more than others) is to “professionalize” the ministry through the inculcation of knowledge. Again, there is nothing wrong with inculcating and fast tracking knowledge. However the problem is that most of today’s seminaries (as was the case with many in the past) fragment ministry training by following a curriculum pattern founded on Schleiermacher’s fourfold division—rigidly dividing and professionalizing theological education into separate disciplines (e.g. biblical theology, systematic theology, historical theology, and pastoral theology). Therefore, this infusion of knowledge many times is not truly sapiential or holistic not to mention lacking an environment for mentoring so to coalesce knowledge with character / gift development.

A balance or holistic approach can only be achieved if and when local churches take more ownership of passing on the deposit and training their own “Timothy’s.” In my opinion the reformed faith today needs to move more away form formal seminary training towards a semi-formal local church-based leadership training where its leaders (both elders and ministers) take an active role in training / educating / mentoring future leaders. The emphasis will be on inculcating knowledge and mentoring via a portfolio assessment. This should take priority over University and or Seminary training and degrees—though certainly local seminaries or universities may be an element in this holistic local church based approach.

In the end local churches will have achieved the balance of leadership training lacking and possess a continuous stream of future leaders in their midst— learning, serving, and mentoring directly under the leadership. This means that the local church and its current leadership will be the holistic mold for ministry (again something formal seminary training cannot provide). In addition, when current minister(s) / pastor(s) move on there will be no need for a local church to always seek “candidates” outside as they will have some in their midst (no doubt already actively involved in some form of ministry—e.g. preaching and teaching).

What do you think is the biggest obstacle to this holistic approach? I would think that resources would be the first out of the gate. We always want to believe we don't have the resources. I would also think that churches have come to believe they're not qualified to do this type of thing.

And perhaps the biggest obstacle for some would be the accredidation. The OP BCO states, "It is highly reproachful to religion and dangerous to the church to entrust the preaching of the gospel to weak and ignorant men. The presbytery shall therefore license a candidate only if he has received a bachelor of arts degree, or its academic equivalent, from a college or university of reputable academic standing, and has completed an adequate course of study lasting at least one year and a half in a theological seminary." (FOG 21.3)

Of course that is up to interpretation. Which colleges or universities are of reputable academic standing, and which theological seminaries? Obviously, there is wide opinion about those two entities.

In Christ,

KC
 

dannyhyde

Puritan Board Sophomore
My judgment and assessment is based on many factors including years of experience in establishing churches, corresponding with, reading the works of, and working with professionals in academia, like yourself, and most importantly studying and applying the Word...

Jim,

I noticed that you didn't mention that you came to this conclusion from your experience in Seminary. Did you go? Where? I'm interested to know and how that experience has led to your conclusion.
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
I'm familiar with these models and I'm also familiar with their history in earlier periods of church history. They were sometimes necessary as, e.g. in the new world the colonial Presbyterians made do with home made seminaries until they could establish schools. Prior to that, however, the pattern was to train ministers in theology faculties in universities. Indeed, one of the great problems faced by Reformed folk in the new world was not only the crying need for trained ministers but also the crying need for teachers to train them.

As to the practicality of home made seminaries, I should like to know whether we're willing to have physicians so trained? Would you go to a surgeon who was trained by a couple GPs (a good analogue to the local pastor) part time?

I wouldn't. Any GP worth their salt knows what they don't know. They know their limits. Pastors who think they can replace a trained seminary faculty clearly don't know their limits.

An age such as ours when our high schools and universities are increasingly failing us is not an age when we can move to a model which will guarantee that ministers will be even less well trained. They will be even more likely to fall for cults, the latest wacky trends and other diversions from their vocation to study and preach God's Word.
 

Wayne

Tempus faciendi, Domine.
An age such as ours when our high schools and universities are increasingly failing us is not an age when we can move to a model which will guarantee that ministers will be even less well trained.

If anything, the prevailing trend of our times signals an era in which eminently well-trained pastors may once again rise to an appropriate place of leadership in our culture, . . .if we hold to our standards.
 

kceaster

Puritan Board Junior
Dr. Clark...

I'm familiar with these models and I'm also familiar with their history in earlier periods of church history. They were sometimes necessary as, e.g. in the new world the colonial Presbyterians made do with home made seminaries until they could establish schools. Prior to that, however, the pattern was to train ministers in theology faculties in universities. Indeed, one of the great problems faced by Reformed folk in the new world was not only the crying need for trained ministers but also the crying need for teachers to train them.

As to the practicality of home made seminaries, I should like to know whether we're willing to have physicians so trained? Would you go to a surgeon who was trained by a couple GPs (a good analogue to the local pastor) part time?

I wouldn't. Any GP worth their salt knows what they don't know. They know their limits. Pastors who think they can replace a trained seminary faculty clearly don't know their limits.

An age such as ours when our high schools and universities are increasingly failing us is not an age when we can move to a model which will guarantee that ministers will be even less well trained. They will be even more likely to fall for cults, the latest wacky trends and other diversions from their vocation to study and preach God's Word.

You probably get this alot, but your analogy between physicians and pastors is woefully wrong, In my humble opinion. Although the amount of knowledge needed in both "professions" may quantitatively share a frontier, there is nothing like the Holy Spirit on the physician's side.

A physician is made by men. There is no doubt about it. And there is nothing stating that a physician has an entity who works through him both to will and to do. The physician has no spiritual calling. The physician is reliant upon only his own skill. If he is an exceptional physician and is a Christian, it is not the physician part of him that is exceptional and anything he gains in his profession by being a Christian is completely of the providence of God and nothing to his account.

An undershepherd of the Lord Jesus Christ has nothing in his account that he has not been given by the Holy Spirit. This does not mean that he is simply a mouthpiece with no ability for rational thought or logic. But anything that he does say that is true and right and good, is not from his own head and heart, but straight from the Lord. A person cannot be taught that. No amount of training in the world can teach a man how to speak the truth. It can point him in that direction, but it will never be the fountainhead from which the waters of truth proceed. That teaching comes from the Holy Spirit who leads us into truth. We don't get there because we went to seminary, or because we have the equivalent degree of our physician friend.

I find this analogy to be part of the problem and not part of the solution. The problem is that we do not have the spiritual discipline to carry out the office as it needs to be carried out. We have great mental prowess. We have 5 centuries of brilliant minds to help us on our way. But we have only a tiny bit of their piety and spirit. I'm not just romanticizing here. These men were giants not because of their minds, but because of their hearts. The gospel didn't come to the noble, remember? It wasn't addressed to the wise of this world.

I know that you think there is a dichotomy here, and that I am being anti-intellectual. But I'm so far from it. I'm not suggesting we unleash theological idiots on the church; men who do not know the confession and believe and teach the tenets of the faith. But we're producing far too many men who are ready and capable theologians, but who have not the spirit or the earnestness with which to carry on the great warmth of our faith.

If we want to produce theologians first and foremost, by all means, equate that training to physicians. But if we want Timothy's, its going to take alot more than just classes.

If I were a minister of the gospel, I would find the analogy offensive. The two disciplines only share the knowledge of the head, not the heart.

In Christ,

KC
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
Kevin,

In the history of the Reformed Churches the ministers were expected to be as highly trained as physicians. I'm not saying (and surely you don't understand me to say) that so long as a fellow as the right technical training nothing else is needed. It's an ANALOGY. The ministry is is LIKE the work of a GP. The minister has to know a little about a lot of things and a lot about a few things, but he cannot know everything about everything and he shouldn't try. That's why there are specialists, people who can come alongside him and help.

It's that way in the pastorate. Men graduate with an MDiv degree (formerly a BD) and they've been initiated into a variety of fields (ancient history, text criticism, biblical theology, church history, pastoral theory and practice) but they aren't meant to be expert in any of them except in the sense in which Machen said that Westminster grads ought to be "expert in the bible."

Thus trained, MDiv grads aren't prepared to be seminary profs AND pastors. It's not really possible today to do both well.

I don't understand your reluctance to endorse a highly trained ministry. What part of the training of pastors do you think we should omit? Greek? Hebrew? History? Theology? Biblical theology? Homiletics?

What is there about the state of the church that makes you think that we need pastors who are less well trained?

PLEASE don't hear me to say that I think spiritual qualification is not important but we shouldn't romanticize about the spiritual qualities of those who went before us. They were men. They sinned. We're they pious? Some of them. Are some pious today? Yes. Is the same sovereign God who called them also calling, justifying, and sanctifying us? Yes. It's a pious sort of impiety that sets up golden ages in the past and then uses them as stick with which to beat the present.

We need spiritually qualified ministers-- and the function of the churches in making that determination is essential to the preparation and qualification of pastors-- but we're not Donatists. The efficacy of the Word and sacraments do not depend upon the intrinsic quality of the ministers but upon the sovereign good pleasure of God. I'm sure we agree about that.

What exactly are we disagreeing about here? It seems to me that you are downplaying the importance of a proper education for pastors. Am I misunderstanding you?
 

kceaster

Puritan Board Junior
Kevin,

In the history of the Reformed Churches the ministers were expected to be as highly trained as physicians. I'm not saying (and surely you don't understand me to say) that so long as a fellow as the right technical training nothing else is needed. It's an ANALOGY. The ministry is is LIKE the work of a GP. The minister has to know a little about a lot of things and a lot about a few things, but he cannot know everything about everything and he shouldn't try. That's why there are specialists, people who can come alongside him and help.

A minister of the gospel is not an occupation (I'm sure you agree with that). It is a life. It is a higher calling than anything any man can do. As such, the education of a minister of the gospel should be "other-worldly". The only frontier a secular doctor and a theological doctor share is probably the amount of words read, written, remembered, etc. But other than that, the kind of knowledge they need, and the amount of earnestness and zeal they need, are completely different. Maybe you have in mind some physicians that you look up to. In my life, there have been few if not only one. I guess what I'm saying is if you're going to make an analogy, it needs to carry the weight of the things you're comparing. And for me, there is no weight like being a herald of the great king. So every analogy at that point would break down.

Now, I know that you want ministers to be well trained. But using a highly skilled and educated secular example does not ensure success. It seems akin to an evidentialist argument in apologetics. It is seeking to find a common ground, but there is no common ground with the minister of the gospel.

I'm not trying to make him be more than what he is, or give some sort of superman example. But what really compares to an undershepherd of Jesus Christ? I'm not trying to elevate him. He is the first among the servants of the church, meaning that he has the place of last before everyone in his flock. Physicians (and believe me because I come into contact with them almost every day at work) are to be first. They are some of the most arrogant, self-centered people you will meet. I have a Dr. who wants to install video conferencing equipment in the OR and in the patient rooms, so that he doesn't actually have to go to the patient room to talk with them after the operation. Dr's normally aren't there to serve, they're there to be served. I guess what I'm saying is that I have an overdeveloped disrepect for doctors and likewise in the other direction for ministers.

It's that way in the pastorate. Men graduate with an MDiv degree (formerly a BD) and they've been initiated into a variety of fields (ancient history, text criticism, biblical theology, church history, pastoral theory and practice) but they aren't meant to be expert in any of them except in the sense in which Machen said that Westminster grads ought to be "expert in the bible."

But I know you believe that most of what the minister does doesn't require a good working knowledge of the hypostatic union. If he is to minister to a hurting flock, they want to know that he cares, not that he can write a paper on how to minister to those in need. That doesn't exclude theological training, that puts the training on a whole new level; a level above the simply academic.

I'm trying to raise the bar of theological training, not lower it. But how I would raise it is not necessarily the way it is being touted today.

Thus trained, MDiv grads aren't prepared to be seminary profs AND pastors. It's not really possible today to do both well.

It is not possible for those who are newly out of seminary and have a wife and small children at home. But there are golden ministers out there who have much to teach the younger generation. I think that's what Paul had in mind. Take a man who has been in the ministry for many years, what a treasure trove of ministry training he would be; much like Paul to Timothy. That's what I think is missing.

I don't understand your reluctance to endorse a highly trained ministry. What part of the training of pastors do you think we should omit? Greek? Hebrew? History? Theology? Biblical theology? Homiletics?

As I said, I'm raising the bar. But I think the only way the bar can be raised is to make training for the ministry much longer than it is and more diverse with the professors. This training needs to be in the local church and with as many teachers as may be grasped.

What is there about the state of the church that makes you think that we need pastors who are less well trained?

I don't think we need less training. I think we need to double it. And I think we need to stop making the priority of getting a man in the ministry so that we can fill our empty pulpits and rather start being slow and deliberate; so that we may know that a man who gets a call to a church has been thoroughly known by the church first.

PLEASE don't hear me to say that I think spiritual qualification is not important but we shouldn't romanticize about the spiritual qualities of those who went before us. They were men. They sinned. We're they pious? Some of them. Are some pious today? Yes. Is the same sovereign God who called them also calling, justifying, and sanctifying us? Yes. It's a pious sort of impiety that sets up golden ages in the past and then uses them as stick with which to beat the present.

Yes, but you must admit our society before you pass a man for the gospel ministry. Even though these men of old were not perfect, they had a discipline which is unheard of today. That discipline is what made seminary what it is; rigorous. However, if we have lost the ability to learn, and even perhaps forgotten the best way to teach and measure and challenge, then the best seminary in the world will be equal to the best discipline a man has to offer. And I don't know about you, but I watch way too much tv, I am barraged by way too much unhealthy and unhelpful things, and I have as much discipline, if not more, than many of your students. I can sit and read and study and write and memorize. Yet much of my discipline has come, not because of education, but because of experience. "When I was a child, I spake as a child... but when I became a man..." There is a huge difference in manhood between our generation and those of the past. And it will be the battle of the church for years to come to regain that.

We need spiritually qualified ministers-- and the function of the churches in making that determination is essential to the preparation and qualification of pastors-- but we're not Donatists. The efficacy of the Word and sacraments do not depend upon the intrinsic quality of the ministers but upon the sovereign good pleasure of God. I'm sure we agree about that.

Absolutely. But we mustn't go ahead of God. Just because men are ordained every day does not mean that God doesn't want us to be prudent, careful, deliberate, and patient.

What exactly are we disagreeing about here? It seems to me that you are downplaying the importance of a proper education for pastors. Am I misunderstanding you?

I know you advocate the type of seminary training that comes with enrollment at WSC. I don't disagree with you that it is a fine school. My pastor graduated from there. He says many good things about it.

All I'm saying is if the bar is WSC or is any other good reformed seminary, we need to stop patting ourselves on the back and praising the theological education we're providing, and get serious about it. I know it is rigorous as it is. And it should be hard. (I saw your boot camp analogy, and being a former Marine I can identify with it.) But it can be much more than it is. Let's consider making it longer than a three year degree. What is so special about three years. Let's consider how much more training we could fit into it. Let's consider how many more teachers and classes we could provide. Let's not consider a man done until we know him well, have served alongside him, and are extremely confident of his piety and his earnestness.

Maybe I'm way off. But really, it was necessary for us to make the bar what it was for the time. Perhaps our own time dictates that we make the bar even higher. Not so much to keep out those who really want to serve. But if they're called, doesn't that mean that they will serve all along the way towards the ministry? There is nothing saying that any man could not take 10 years in order to prepare for the ministry. It is not a right. Just because a man graduates from seminary does not hand him a pulpit and a flock.

Let's raise the bar. Let's not fall into the paradigm of "professional" education. Let's not make it about a vocation. Let's make it about a life.

In Christ,

KC
 
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