To the dedicated Christian, attending a theological seminary can seem like sort of utopia: A place where one can escape for a season to study, to reflect on all the mysteries of the faith, and even acquire answers to some of the most difficult of theological questions. Others (particularly of the charismatic and fundamentalist traditions) view seminaries with suspicion, as places which turn pure faith into academic exercise and potentially even kill spiritual vitality altogether.
What is the truth? Is seminary genuinely helpful for the would-be church leader? After all, the original disciples were just fishermen, right? As one who is currently pursuing a seminary degree, these are questions I can’t help but consider.
In one of his epistles the Apostle Paul urged the young Timothy to “Do [his] best to present [himself] to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2Timothy 2:15-16) Presumably theological seminaries are places where young men can be equipped for faithful ministry, that they need not later “be ashamed” for failing to correctly handle the Bible.
The Association of Theological Schools (ATS) reported that there were 215 theological schools in the U.S. in 2005. Of course, there is much variation between the schools represented in this grouping, and some better (or worse) than others. Though I have had some contact quite a few theological schools, I have had personal experience as a student at both Fuller Theological Seminary and Reformed Theological Seminary.
In answer to the question “Is theological seminary education valuable?”, I would say that it depends. I’m no seminary-hater but I don’t think it’s always necessary or helpful to for a Christian worker go to seminary.
[I’ll be sharing more detailed thoughts on this topic in two posts later this week: 1) What Seminary Isn’t and 2) Potential Benefits of Seminary Education.]