Listening to some podcasts and reading some of the deep theological constructs currently being debated by seminarians, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the minutia. It reminds me of a quote many years ago by J. Vernon McGee who frequently stated his goal was to present the Bible in a clear, straightforward manner. Quoting Dr. Ironside, his desire in teaching the Bible was to “put the cookies on the bottom shelf”. There is nothing inherently wrong with seminaries and Biblical scholars debating the finer points of theology. However, there are at least five areas of caution for the layperson.
Errant Theology From the Fine Details
The deeper one gets into the minutia of Biblical Christian theology, the higher the probability one’s conclusions are suspect. The Lord makes it clear in His word that many of His truths are a mystery (1 Tim. 3:16). God has revealed more in the Old Testament than He did to Adam and Eve. He revealed more in the New Testament than in the Old (Rom. 16:25). And, God promises to reveal more to us on the other side of the grave than we are currently capable of understanding (Rev. 10:7).
It is a healthy and valuable exercise to dig deeply into Scripture and have productive, challenging discussions, weighing the pros and cons of various theological constructs. However, man’s pride, arrogance, self-assurance, and basic sin nature often create walls and barriers between denominations and individuals on the finest points of dogma.
End-Times and Woke Institutions
As we approach the end of the ages, we know from Scripture that faith will grow cold (Matt. 24:2) and that there will be an increasing number of false teachers saying what our itching ears want to hear (2 Tim. 4:3). In that regard, if we believe we are truly in the end-times, then logically one should be extra cautious about the latest views on Biblical Christian theology. Are seminaries, like other educational institutions, becoming more radical in their views? Are some of the esoteric discussions centered around a reinterpretation of Scripture resulting in a weakening of its relevance or application in today’s deteriorating society? Are seminaries prone to the same “wokeness” that is infecting other institutions of higher learning?
From the Pulpit and the Mission Field
Seminaries are in the business of providing pastors and evangelists with the tools to disciple and motivate those in their care. The great commission is directed toward “making disciples of all nations” not making all disciples theologians.
Pastors and missionaries can come out of the bubble of seminary with a false mandate to discuss the latest debates with their congregants and seekers. This is neither the purpose nor the best approach to “building up the church” or witnessing to the lost. The time invested in seminary is precious and professors should be cognizant that their students need practical training in Christian counseling, effective missionary strategies, basic core theology, and growth strategies under a climate of cultural darkness.
Unlike in the scientific community, the latest research on cutting-edge technology in sub-narrow fields of exploration is not the goal of a seminary. Writing papers in narrow areas and arguing about terms that no layperson has any idea what they mean may be what gets seminary professors out of bed in the morning, but wasting time on the pros and cons in the classroom undermines the true importance of their charge to students.
What about Seminaries that don’t Teach the Truth
Of course, there are seminaries and “bible” colleges and professors in general who do not teach the truth of God’s word. For them, it is not a function of esoteric theology, but fundamental theological heresy. A case in point was a blogger on Medium who recently wrote a post entitled,
“One Semester at Yale Divinity School and I’m No Longer a Christian. Here’s Why.”
It is not worth offering any details on the contents of this post and its clickbait title other than to say that anyone deciding to attend Yale Divinity should have known they would not be receiving Biblical Christian theology from its liberal faculty. it behooves anyone considering a seminary education to evaluate the institution, its doctrine statement, and its approach to Biblical inerrancy before attending.
Where Is the Real Truth of God to be Found
Are seminaries the source of God’s truth? The first book of Timothy offers insight into where truth lies for the Biblical Christian.
1 Timothy 3:15 …You may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.
One could understandably point out that there were no formal institutions of theological Christian education at the time of the writing of the New Testament, and that the church was the closest point of discipleship available. However, this verse can have practical application today in the sense that true discipleship comes from moving the Christian from drinking spiritual milk to meat (1 Cor. 3:2). This process does not take place on seminary campuses and, frankly, is not dependent on seminary-trained teachers. It takes place when Biblical Christians come together for fellowship and accountability as a body of Christ.
Recently I had a conversation with a very educated brother in Christ who posed the question, “Does one need to be seminary-trained to be a church pastor?” My initial opinion was that a Biblical Christian seminary provides a foundation for teaching and acts as a filter, both in core theology and an ability to deliver value to a pastoral role and/or missionary opportunity. However, stepping back, there are areas where we should not accept the value of educational institutions, even seminaries, without a degree of skepticism and caution. This is not to say that there are not wonderful seminaries and Bible colleges that teach students to be amazing disciplers and evangelists. We just need to not take formal Christian education at face value.
James 3:1 – Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
If this is true of teachers, it is of greater truth for the teachers of teachers.