What’s Wrong with Seminaries?

Posted: October 13, 2010 in Uncategorized

My own faith journey has been a long, strange trip.  I was raised in a fundamentalist home but rebelled early and was an avowed agnostic by the time I was 15.  I became a Christian at age 24 after a cancer diagnosis and thought that I had two options–Fundamentalism or what my Father called “neo-orthodoxy,” which he implied was cooked up in a level of hell right alongside communism, beer and “the MTV.”

I then found my way to seminary and I chose a graduate school of theology the old-fashioned way–the one who gave me the best scholarship! I discovered the seminary had embraced that “neo-orthodoxy” my Father deplored but was shocked that the professors prayed in Jesus name and were kind.  I was confused.

Soon  I discovered the Young Leader’s Network which morphed into The Terra Nova Project which morphed into Emergent Village.  The guys there seemed cool and very uncommunist-like (although they did like beer and “the MTV”).  I was intrigued.  Soon, I had tossed aside my MacArthur Study Bible for an RSV (the NRSV being for sissies!), scoffed at the idea of the inerrancy of Scripture or penal substitutionary atonement (“Does God need blood?” I would ask hapless “fundies” wth a sarcastic tone.).

Yet, when I hit the church as a pastor I found that my copious notes from hours of careful exegesis frosted with a bit of theology from dead Germans like Karl Barth bored and confused the congregation.  I soon found myself bored and confused too as I slowly drifted toward a soft universalism…and I was lucky!

Many of my colleagues from seminary had their faith so shaken by the liberalism my professors professed that they seemed to be hollow shells of the men and women who entered the master of divinity program “on fire for Jesus” (many are now on fire for causes “in the name of God,” like same-sex marriage and interfaith dialogue) but the Jesus of Scripture seems to be a bit of an embarrassment to them.  

I, on the other hand, eventually found my way to the wonderful world of evangelicalism formed by Carl F.H. Henry, John Stott and J.I. Packer.  The discovery of evangelical scholarship saved my faith while many of my friends who endured three-years of Greek, Hebrew and church history by my side still wallow in a vague but arrogant new age, Oprah-esque religion. 

Back in my Emergent days I read a book by a seminary professor about seminary entitled, “What They Don’t Tell You: A Survivor’s Guide to Biblical Studies” in which he argued from the get-go that he felt no responsibility to save a seminary student’s faith.  After all, he is a scholar and that, not ministering to his students,  is his job!

That is part of the problem.  Seminaries have become “think tanks” for men and women who desperately want to be king of the little scholarly world known as The Society of Biblical Literature.  Don’t know what the Society of Biblical Literature is? It is the Cadillac of progressive religious organizations. The Society or SBL as it is know in “the biz,” hosts regional conferences and a huge annual national conference where professors present papers to their peers.  Most seminary profs, especially those who aren’t evangelical, are near obsessed with rockin’ the conference with a bombshell of a paper.

This is another problem.  In order to truly make waves at the conference you have to present something new and edgy despite the fact that a brother of Jesus himself spoke of a faith once and for all delivered to the saints. 

So, professors try to outdo each other and, in order to keeps it real, convince themselves that their “new” theories for the old faith are valid.  They then teach these theories as facts to young seminaries who don’t know any better. 

It is a sick system.  A system where those commissioned to train pastors look upon their students as second to publishing new, sometimes odd theories, about the faith.  It is a system where a professor can write a book in which he states, without shame, that it is not his job to help save one of his student’s faith.

I hope this system dies.  I pray that something committed first and foremost to healthy churches that preach and live the faith once and for all delivered to the saints.

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