Theological Education

Though I’ve tried to change this about myself many times, my singular passion is for theological education. I wish I could switch, I’ve tried, but it stays with me.

One of the frustrations with theological education is that for many Christian traditions it is required in order to officially lead in any capacity. Many jobs within Christian institutions are reserved for those with official training of some kind, with official documentation. I’m certainly not against training, merely the result of taking a movement built by the unschooled and ordinary and putting them through a system to make them, at least seemingly, schooled and extraordinary. Many Christian leaders in the making have a passion for a great number of things, all filtered through the singular belief that Jesus Christ and his gospel will bring about his kingdom of peace, joy, love and truth. When that passion is pushed through the sieve of  institutionalized theological education the result is often varied, and too often with unfettered passion diminished under the weight of canned knowledge.

One of my primary theses regarding theological education is that it doesn’t have to be like this. We can acquire the necessary and helpful knowledge without losing passion, and even have them serve one anther. Even as a middle and high school Bible teacher, this is my goal (albeit a bloody challenge, no doubt).

I was reflecting on issues related to this this morning, and contemplating moments in my own formal training that were positively transcendent. For instance, in an otherwise dry Hebrew class when the professor sang “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood” before exegeting  Isaiah 53, pausing to explain what each detail had meant to him personally over the years, and the entire class had done more than learned about Hebrew Grammar, Jewish history, prophetic imagery, Old Testament Christology and Biblical theology, we were worshiping Christ through all of it.

In this brief reflection I just want to share an idea. Theological education happens in and out of formal training, and in all contexts I believe it transcends mere knowledge acquisition with at least one key ingredient, a deep sense of longing. And this, while always a challenge, is most helped by a pastoral teacher whose heart is heavy with gospel saturation so that with everything they do the blood of Christ is dripping everywhere.

More on this later…

Albert Mohler

In May of 2005, Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote a compelling warning to Seminaries using the state of Business Schools as a case study.

From the article:

“As in the world of business schools, seminaries are tempted to redefine their mission in strictly academic terms. The lure of academic respectability and the enticements of the academic culture exert a magnetic pull toward those who have given themselves to the teaching profession. Understanding this fact is a first step toward preserving the seminary’s mission. Theological seminaries should be unembarrassed to hold the stewardship of a primary mission that is irreducibly directed to the practice of ministry.” […]

“The academic world is, by its nature, a profoundly insular and self-referential environment. The academic guilds control much of the academic process, and faculty power is virtually unbridled in some institutions. Theological seminaries must be fully accountable to the local church and must see their task as centered in the training of ministers for the actual tasks and challenges of preaching, teaching, evangelism, and church leadership.”