Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Biblical Grounds for a Seminary Education

It is difficult to point to a specific chapter and verse that clearly mandates all pastors should receive a seminary education. Some Christians even argue against it, citing the perspicuity of Scripture, the foolishness of preaching, and the illumination of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, the Church has historically valued an educated pulpit. The Magister Divinitatis can be traced back to the medieval universities and the first seminaries to the Council of Trent. The first colleges in the United States--Harvard, William and Mary, and Yale--were started to train men for the Gospel ministry, and the first official seminary--Princeton--was started in 1812. The mainline denominations and their off-shoots have historically ordained only those with seminary degrees.  This history and practice of the Church can be supported logically and Biblically.
  1. First, the self-evident complexity of the subjects of Divinity requires education. For all its perspicuity, Scripture is still a very complex book that can be easily misunderstood and misapplied apart from adequate preparation in exegesis, theology, and history. Theology itself has been called the Queen of the Sciences, which suggests that, as much other sciences, mastery requires scholarship and expertise.
  2. Second, the clear statements of Scripture that pastors are “teachers” and elders should be “apt to teach” presume an educated knowledge of that which they teach (Eph. 4:11; 2 Tim. 2:24) . 
  3. Third, the apostles were disciples of Christ, (οἱ μαθηταὶ--student followers), who spent up to three years being tutored by the Lord himself in preparation for their apostolic ministry. Some suggest that Paul, when he disappeared into the desert for three years, was taught by Christ as the other apostles were (Gal 1:17). 
  4. Fourth, the authors of Scripture exemplify scholarship through their magnificent, complex, and ubiquitous interweaving of Old Testament verses and ideas into their New Testament writings. 
  5. Fifth, Paul admonishes Timothy to be a diligent worker, especially regarding the proper use of the Scriptures (2 Tim. 2:15). Paul establishes an educational model when he tells Timothy to teach what he has been taught to others who will in turn teach what they have learned (2 Timothy 2:2). 
  6. Sixth, most of the epistolary authors of the New Testament appear to be concerned that the original Gospel message not be adulterated in its transmission from person to person and generation to generation, which would require exacting religious education for all those who would be pastors and teachers in the Church (1 Tim. 6:20; Gal. 1:8,9; Jude 3; I John 2:18-27; 4:1-8; 2 Pet. 2:1-3; Hebrews 13:9). 
These lines of reasoning are consistent with the standard denominational requirement of a seminary education for ordained ministers.

However, I will next argue that the Master of Divinity is not always necessary to accomplish this Biblical ideal.  Instead it might even get in the way.

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