The future of seminaries

November 26, 2007

culture / theology

In light of this post, and the past few years of wondering whether it’s idealistic of me to think that followers of Jesus should be biblically intelligent, I want to add a thought. Typically, Christians believe that to be biblically and theologically intelligent one has to go to seminary. For the most part, one has to have either a large amount of money, or the possibility of a career that can use a seminary degree, to make such a thing practical.

First of all, it certainly isn’t essential to go to seminary to be biblically intelligent. Often, seminaries teach people to be less biblically intelligent in certain areas, while they are becoming more biblically intelligent in other areas. Who wins? Does anyone win? And, of course, it is entirely possible to become biblically intelligent without ever attending seminary. It’s not as easy to motivate oneself without professors and grades, but it is possible.

On top of this, the majority of seminaries are, or should be, shaking in fear at the cultural changes that continue to occur in our society. The knowledge they offer is, for the most part, entirely modern knowledge in a growingly postmodern world. I can count on one hand the number of U.S. seminaries I know of that are actively trying to engage postmodern culture without fear and resistance. Resistance of postmodern culture in defense of what? Modern culture, of course.

So, what does the future of seminaries look like? Over a year ago, a missions professor at Fuller wrote this (in this post):

I dream that my seminary will move away from the professional training model and will equip entire communities for mission… In a sense, we allow community degrees.

Imagine that. A community of people who, together, are biblically and theologically and ministerially smart. Is that necessary? Maybe. Is it idealistic and unrealistic? Maybe. But it’s a thought. It’s a change. It’s an idea. And there have to be thoughts and changes and ideas in the way the church educates itself, or things are going to get worse.