The fall semester is soon approaching. In light of that, I thought I’d share Benjamin B. Warfield’s short (public domain) essay on the religious (or what we might today call, “spiritual”) life of students of theology.
A minister must be both learned and religious. It is not a matter of choosing between the two. He must study, but he must study as in the presence of God and not in a secular spirit. He must recognize the privilege of pursuing his studies in the environment where God and salvation from sin are the air he breathes. He must also take advantage of every opportunity for corporate worship, particularly while he trains in the Theological Seminary. Christ Himself leads in setting the example of the importance of participating in corporate expressions of the religious life of the community. Ministerial work without taking time to pray is a tragic mistake. The two must combine if the servant of God is to give a pure, clear, and strong message.
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On Not Divorcing Theological Studies from the Religious Life*
I am asked to speak to you on the religious life of the student of theology. I approach the subject with some trepidation. I think it the most important subject which can engage our thought. You will not suspect me, in saying this, to be depreciating the importance of the intellectual preparation of the student for the ministry. The importance of the intellectual preparation of the student for the ministry is the reason of the existence of our Theological Seminaries. Say what you will, do what you will, the ministry is a “learned profession”; and the man without learning, no matter with what other gifts he may be endowed, is unfit for its duties. But learning, though indispensable, is not the most indispensable thing for a minister. “Apt to teach”—yes, the ministry must be “apt to teach”; and observe that what I say—or rather what Paul says—is “apt to teach.” Not apt merely to exhort, to beseech, to appeal, to entreat; nor even merely, to testify, to bear witness; but to teach. And teaching implies knowledge: he who teaches must know. Paul, in other words, requires of you, as we are perhaps learning not very felicitously to phrase it, “instructional,” not merely “inspirational,” service. But aptness to teach alone does not make a minster; not is it his primary qualification. It is only one of a long list of requirements which Paul lays down as necessary to meet in him who aspires to this high office. And all the rest concern, not his intellectual, but his spiritual fitness. A minister must be learned, on pain of being utterly incompetent for his work. But before and above being learned, a minister must be godly.
“Imagine an institution that requires its leaders to attend not only college, but graduate school. Imagine that the graduate school in question is constitutionally forbidden from receiving any form of government aid, that it typically requires three years of full-time schooling for the diploma, that the nature of the schooling bears almost no resemblance to the job in question, and that the pay for graduates is far lower than other professions. You have just imagined the relationship between the Christian Church and her seminaries.”
~ From “The Seminary Bubble” by Jerry Bowyer. Continue reading here.
I’m currently in my third year of seminary. So the intense financial, physical, relational, emotional, psychological, and (am I allowed to say it?) spiritual strain of the seminary experience is particularly vivid to me (and my wife) right now. This awareness comes not only from personal experience–although that’s my primary source–but also from the stories of many of my peers. Some of those stories are rather heart-wrenching.
I’m recuringly bothered by this. I’m troubling with how straining the seminary experience typically is and how little attention the church (speaking broadly here) seems to be giving to this problem. To be blunt, it seems that many are actually pretty oblivious to the problems. And, mind you, these seminarians are the future leaders of the Church who are putting themselves through this because of their heart for and call to serve her.
I don’t have a solution to offer for this multifaceted dilemma (I’m just well aware that there’s a problem). So, I suppose I’m leaving this post in a bit of a depressing mood (sorry). However, my goal is not to be a “Debbie downer,” but to bring some awareness to this issue.
Read the rest of “The Seminary Bubble” here.
Recently, Zondervan has put out several “Advice to Student” videos featuring Bible and theological professors from around the world. As the school year begins, I thought I’d share some of these videos.
Keep the primary literature primary.
Learn to deal with the text 1) in terms of competency and 2) in terms of what questions you ask of it.