Many of you know that I will begin as a faculty member at Northern Seminary, in Lombard, Ill., this Fall. I will be teaching Synoptic Gospels, New Testament Theology, Paul, Kingdom of God and the Ethics of Jesus—and I am very excited about teaching each of these courses. I began my career teaching seminary students, shifted to undergraduates for 17 years, and now will move into the seminary again. This move has driven me to think and rethink what seminary provides the church, or what the church provides the seminary. Today’s post offers 10 reasons for going to seminary, and I know full well that many today both find seminary irrelevant and contend they are “successful” ministers without seminary. I’ve heard not a few of said contenders say that they think seminary would have hurt them. I disagree mostly … and, yes, the MDiv or a seminary degree is the union card or accreditation level for many churches … so here then are 10 reasons to attend seminary:
1. Gift enhancement.
Seminaries will not “gift” a person, but seminaries can almost always enhance the gifts God has given to a person. I have argued for years that seminaries work best when they are populated by ministers and not by folks who think or want, but aren’t sure, if they are gifted or called. What seminaries do well is enhance gifts.
2. Biblical and theological enhancement.
Seminary students will study the Bible, the whole Bible, and that will be a first for some. And, they already have a theology; seminaries can enhance that theology, both by way of subtraction (getting rid of some careless ideas) and addition (adding better ideas). Students have the opportunity to study great theologians, and pity the seminary that assigns textbook-ish theology books, and I’m thinking here of Athanasius and Augustine, Aquinas and Anselm, Luther and Calvin (and the Anabaptists like Hubmaier), and then into the modern era with Barth and Moltmann.
3. Personal enhancement.
There was a day when seminaries assumed seminary students would be praying and reading the Bible and practicing the disciplines and attending church … they assumed formation was already underway. No more. Increasingly, seminaries are making spiritual formation—personal enhancement—a part of each course in the curriculum. I will be.