Saturday, March 18, 2006

Reform the Seminaries!

An article in the St. Patrick's Day New York Times says that enrollment in Protestant seminaries is increasing, even as the number of graduates entering pastoral work is shrinking. This is no surprise.
I have watched with dismay as all the major "theological schools" in Canada have shifted from training preachers and missionaries, to graduating "Christian professionals." Here it comes - hoogly!
Seminaries on the whole have completely lost focus. What is the purpose of the seminary if not to help train men how to perfom pastoral ministry both locally and "to the ends of the earth?" I fear what motivates decisions more than anything else in this realm is money. As post-moderns grow increasingly bored with genuine Biblical thinking, school enrollments nose-dive. As numbers decrease, the powers-that-be decide to "broaden our course offerings" in order to get more students. It happens all the time.
Of course, when a school does this, it must shift resources to fill in all the new course addtitions. Professors end up teaching things they are not as skilled at. New professors have to be brought on staff in order to offer key courses. Course schedules get stretched into wonkiness and students end up spending too much of their week on campus instead of in their local church. I could go on.
In my opinion, the bottom line is that true "theological education" suffers. Not a sudden death, but a slow blood-letting that fools those in the middle of it that nothing is really that wrong. Then one day everyone wakes up and they are the new Liberal School of The Day.
My solution is this. Let the seminary be a seminary!

I think it would look something like this:
1. Courses are taught by elders of local churches.
2. Courses are geared toward "the grammar subjects" - like languages, theology (Biblical and systematic), Bible surveys, in-depth book studies (like a semester in Philippians!), historical theology, and even grammar (English, Greek, Hebrew) itself.
3. Courses are restricted to men (at the very least in the M.Div. program).
4. All the other good things that seminaries could teach are sent to some other school or local church to teach.
5. Personal spirituality is the greatest emphasis with regular accountability in Bible reading, prayer, evangelism, purity, and personal character.
6. No man gets a degree who cannot have a board of elders affirm him as an elder in their own church.

That's at least a start .