Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Seminary is Worth It.

Seminary. Today I heard that “it just isn’t Christian to ask a guy to move across country and go $50,000 in debt to get an education that is about two thirds useful before he can become a pastor.” Evidently the better model is learn as you go. Or take your studies piecemeal while serving a parish, and work two jobs if you have to. I’ve heard this disparagement of the seminary before. I have even heard it from students at the seminary. Quite frankly, If that is your attitude you don’t belong at seminary, neither do you belong in the ministry. If this is you, change your attitude, or leave. If you can’t see the worth of seminary I don’t want to share my profession with you.
Don’t get me wrong. I wish seminary was cheaper. But we are already robbing our Sem. Profs. Blind! We should be thankful for the education they impart to us, on the slave wages we pay them. The education you receive at seminary is worth a lot more than $50,000. I kind of wish there were a couple more seminaries distributed throughout the country. Currently our church body has two. Though, presumably you could study at two others in Canada, and a few more around the world.
I think about this. We would never consider going to see a doctor, who has not gone to med school. Would you? Would you go to a surgeon that had never gone? Then why should we ask people to trust their souls to pastors, who have not gone to seminary? A surgeon just slices around on your body. Pastors care for people’s souls. This is not a light matter. Souls are real, so is hell.
I suppose there are seminaries that could just fold shop. I wish most of them would. The guy paraphrased above is not Lutheran. I don’t see much value in the Baptist church across the street, so I don’t see much value in a seminary that teaches men to be Baptist pastors. Most doctors don’t see the need for a med school teaching shamanism either. Quite frankly, I believe where you go to church is a lot more important than that you go to church. If you aren’t hearing the Gospel, that your sins are forgiven Sunday after Sunday, then going to church isn’t doing you any good. You don’t earn brownie points with God for going to church. If you don’t leave forgiven, then don’t go. Better yet drive 3 hours if you have to, to go to a church where you will hear it. Don’t go to churches that disparage baptism and say that it is worthless water, when God has attached a promise of salvation to that water.
But you see, I can’t relate to that. I know there are a lot of pastors that go to seminaries of their denomination, and leave as empty as they came. Well if the churches doctrine is empty then perhaps there is no reason to move across country, and spend $50,000 dollars. But we in the LCMS have a treasure. We have the Gospel. And we have sem. Profs world renowned for their ability to shape students with that Gospel. There are pastors throughout the world that would love to be at our seminaries. Oh, there were annoying quirks at the Seminary, students who thought it was just a hoop to jump through, and to be honest I didn’t care for the administration side of the house. Though, perhaps if the seminary had more money they could have sent some of them to a class teaching them how to turn on their computer, and do their job proficiently. It wasn’t always pleasant. But really, my only regret when it comes to seminary is that I didn’t stay longer, and didn’t have another $50,000 dollars to spend doing so.
The time spent at seminary is not just about the academics, though those are of the utmost importance. Really they are. That Greek and Hebrew comes in handy. Early Church, Reformation, etc. all of extreme importance. Confessions and Systematics, all I can say is know Pieper inside and out, and the Confessions backward and forward before you step into a pulpit. But there is another side that is just as important. That is the conversation the brotherhood, the studying together that goes on. There is the mentorship of the Profs. You can read Pieper at home, you might even be able to teach yourself Greek and Hebrew. But you can’t replace the theological community that is seminary, and the value of learning in such a community. It’s priceless to be able to ask a fellow student or professor a question when you see them walking among the stacks at the library, or meet them for a beer.
The library. Sorry, having a computer is not the same as having 100,000 hard copies on shelves. I only wish I could do the same level of study in my study as I could at sem. I have a book buying addiction that surpasses any teenager’s iPod addiction. But I have a huge handicap called lack of space. I don’t have room for the books I have already. Neither do I have a choice, I will be buying more books. Of course, my seminary of choice, Ft. Wayne, has the same problem I do now, no space for the books they have, and more on the way. But they are taking donations for the expansion. I think $20 dollars a month for the next five years is worth it.

1 comment:

Steve Martin said...

That would be terrific (being able to go to Seminary)!

Your church body has two.

Our church body has zero (that are worth anything).