With the big to do over Dr. Owen Strachan leaving Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for Grace Bible Theological Seminary, I thought it would be a good time to have a look at seminary education as a whole. I’ve given some thoughts on seminary education in the past but I want to reinforce that here because I’ve accumulated a whole lot more data since then. I want to show you just what is going on at even conservative seminaries.
Those who don’t like Strachan for whatever reason are sniping at GBTS for several reasons. The big one is that it is unaccredited. Now I graduated from an unaccredited school for my undergrad. It did me literally zero harm. No one ever asked if my degree was accredited in an interview. Ever. Now I could see that an unaccredited school might be a concern in certain academic circles, but it’s a seminary. Why would a seminary need accreditation? Why should a seminary have to adjust its classes, practices, and potentially even doctrine to accommodate a licensing board? They should be able to teach people how to be pastors as they see fit, without interference. Now if you can find something unbiblical about what they are teaching, by all means, take them to the cleaners. However accreditation is not in the Bible anywhere so I don’t see it as an issue.
Another issue I’ve seen tossed at GBTS is that they are very tightly associated with a church and that is “ripe for abuse”. I really fail to see how it is any more ripe for abuse than the mainstream seminary model where the oversight is committed to a group of trustees who are often little more than yes men. That’s certainly the case at SBTS where Strachan used to be employed according to reports from Tom Rush who is a trustee there. Further, the local church model seems to match a lot better with how the New Testament worked. Seminaries didn’t become a thing until long after the New Testament was written. How did men learn the Word? They studied it for themselves, got involved in their local churches, and were instructed by elders in the faith. They didn’t go away to a school and get taught to be theologians, they got hands on experience as servants of their churches. And there is a significant difference between the two.
A third complaint, and this one really demonstrates the elitism of the Big Eva types, is that GBTS does not have appropriate facilities since they use a strip mall for at least part of their seminary classrooms. I am sure many seminary founders in south east Asia or central Africa would absolutely love to have a strip mall to conduct classes in rather than a grass hut or open field. Again this is simple elitist snobbery. The buildings used to proclaim the Gospel, and teach young men to do likewise, are largely irrelevant. If GBTS were using a strip club, a casino, or a marijuana dispensary, I would be concerned. They aren’t.
Note I write all this not to defend GBTS. I had never heard of them before Dr. Strachan’s announcement. I know next to nothing about them, other than the woke elitist types in the SBC rushing to attack them. Generally this means they’re on the right side but again, I know nothing of them. They are not the point really, but they make an excellent illustration of it. Seminary education is currently a raging dumpster fire.
The seminary model is excellent at producing theologians. It is terrible at producing shepherds. Young men go to seminary and they learn an awful lot of facts (real and otherwise depending on the seminary), but they are not taught how to love and shepherd their congregation. Further, because seminaries are dependent on the income their students bring in, a man who has no business being a pastor might graduate with an MDiv, or a DMin simply because the school didn’t want to lose money. Alternatively, the same might be true because the professors simply did not know them well enough. I don’t think many, if any of my professors could have given you much of a barometer on my spiritual walk, or my fitness for ministry. Smaller schools will have less trouble with this than larger ones, just based on the nature of it, but all schools will have the issue to one degree or another.
Further, like all institutions, seminaries inherently drift left. I think this is because conservatives have no forward vision for society beyond status quo, with maybe a few window dressings here and there. Leftists always have a forward vision, almost exclusively evil, but a forward vision none the less. This means as leftists start pushing an institution left, they inevitably wear down conservative’s attempts to get along, and keep the status quo. SBTS is an excellent example. Critical race theory is being openly taught in their classrooms. Most other Southern Baptist Seminaries are the same.
Worse, the seminary DMin model requires new thought. That is part of the PhD process, proposing new ideas. That encourages PhD students to push the bounds of orthodoxy in an attempt to put together a PhD dissertation that will pass muster. That helps explain why some of the wacky ideas that are in Christianity exist. PhD theses put them there.
In a future post, we will discuss what theological education should look like, and give some examples of the heresy currently permeating even conservative seminaries. For now, think about the current model and ask yourself a question: how many seminary graduates do you know who are worth a dime as ministers? Then ask yourself how many you know that are not? I suspect the ratio will be quite in favor of the “nots”. If that’s the case, ask yourself why and how we can improve it? In the next post in this series. (and this one) we invite your feedback.
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