Why Should You Go to Seminary?
And they taught in Judah, having the Book of the Law of the LORD with them. They went about through all the cities of Judah and taught among the people.
– 2 Chronicles 17:9
It’s too expensive! It is unnecessary since all you need is the Bible! Church on Sunday is good enough!
All of these are typical responses made by those who feel seminary school is unnecessary, redundant, or unrealistically expensive. In our economy it is difficult for people to pay household bills, let alone seminary tuition. After all, doesn’t the Bible contain all things necessary for one’s faith and life? Why should we need to incorporate seminary into our schedules if we have church, small groups, and helpful online resources?
These are valid questions to ask, and the concern is very real. Yet, there may be a few things concerning seminary which are less considered. Perhaps the effort and sacrifice is worth it in the end. In this article I want to discuss reasons for attending seminary which, hopefully, you, the reader, will see as reasons which surpass any excuse not to go to seminary.
Seminary is a Biblical Concept
Whether you believe there should be higher Christian education within the context of church, or whether you prefer seminaries as they are now, the principle of learning a fuller understanding of God’s Word is replete throughout Scripture. Let’s take, for instance, the basic concept of teaching. If teaching is a principle taught in Scripture, there are a few questions we are all forced to consider in light of the biblical data. 1) What do teachers teach? 2) Where do teachers teach? 3) And who do teachers teach? Let’s look at an Old Testament text as well as a two New Testaments texts:
And they taught in Judah, having the Book of the Law of the LORD with them. They went about through all the cities of Judah and taught among the people (2 Chron 17:9).
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers (Acts 2:42).
He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness (2 Cor 9:10).
The modern English word “seminary” comes from the Latin word “seminarium” which literally means “seed plot” or “to plot a seed.” Seminary really is then the product of the corporate discipleship efforts of the Church. Though, I believe it a biblical model that a seminary or theological school of any kind be conducted within the context of the Church, we gain insight from Scripture that seminary, seed planting and training of young men for ministry, is a boldly biblical principle.
What do teachers teach? “The book of the Law”, but what is that? The “book of the Law” was a gloss of all Scripture both for the Old Testament prophets and for Jesus Himself (Matt 11:13). In other words, when someone said “the Law” people knew that that person was talking about all of Scripture (Ps 119:18).
Where do teachers teach? In the 1st century, there were not many opportunities to form the caliber of gathering places we have today. Back then, and in some places of the world today, people were, and are, forced to hold “church” in an “underground” location. In other words, it is important for these individuals to have corporate worship away from the public eye because of persecution. However, that didn’t, nor does it, stop the New Testament Christians from coming together regularly in order to learn about and worship our God (Heb 10:25). We know further that God’s Word is good for teaching among other important things; it is meant to be taught to others (2 Tim 2:16).
Who do teachers teach? The apostle Paul wrote two letters to a very young, yet very able, churchman named Timothy. He was, as I mentioned, young, he was Paul’s disciple. Whenever you get a chance, read 1 & 2 Timothy in order to get a feel for the relationship Paul had with Timothy, and the extent to which Paul poured himself out to this young man. Teachers teach men, young and old, who sense a calling to ministry. As Paul wrote: “And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord. (Col 4:17)” So too we ought to be sensitive to this call to ministry in young men and older men alike. Paul again writes: “do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry (2 Timothy 4:5).”
Where did these ministries come from? Did they just fall out of the sky? Of course not! These men were called to do the work of the Lord. God has ordained, before the foundations of the world, our places in history and what we are to do for Him in this life. It would be a shame if we took that and soiled it like we might with any other human conviction.
Seminary “Pays Off”
In the day and age where we look for the effect of the cause rather than the cause itself (pragmatism) it may be important to mention that seminary “pays off” from a pastoral perspective. Why does seminary pay off? I have formed three reasons as follows:
- Seminary glorifies God: It is the role of the professor and the student to glorify God and enjoy Him forever (1 Cor 10:31; WSC 1.1). One primary way of doing this is through an intense study of theology (lit. study of God). The way to do this is through seminary. Seminary provides to students the tools necessary to study God as He is revealed both in nature and Scripture. We are but lowly creatures, who are we to withdraw our duty to glorify God based on superficial matters? Therefore, seminary ought to be a priority for those called into formal ministry.
- Seminary equips God’s children: There is really no better way to ensure a child of God is equipped to deal with the ever-shifting foundations proposed by this world, which is ruled by sin, than to send him to seminary. An academic setting which is chiefly devoted to conforming the student nearer to the image of Christ is the best place one could hope to see their son or daughter end up. Not only this, but this setting is dedicated also to changing the child of God in order that this child can change others. This is the evangelistic model as set forth in Matthew 28:18-20.
- Seminary prepares the Christian to help others: As mentioned above, seminary is an institution in which the Christian aspiring to ministry will be equipped to help others in the most lowly of circumstances. We recognize, as Christians, that all scenarios are gospel scenarios, and that ultimately the solution depends upon others’ relation to God. Whether or not they are a child in Adam or a child in Christ makes all the difference; more so than any job, career, financial situation, hobby, friendship, or goal.
These are just a few of the ways seminary “pays off”. It is important to recognize that, if all men, everywhere, are commanded to glorify God as a result of simply being a human in existence, then the first way in which seminary “pays off” is all sufficient, and the next two are unnecessary. Even so, all three of these reasons help to understand why seminary is worth the time and money.
Seminary Makes the World a Better Place
Seminary is a method by which the evils of the world are crushed under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It is no surprise that today there is suffering by way of war, hunger, oppression, persecution, liberalization, theft, deception, media lies, and much, much more. These are all results of total depravity, the human condition after the Fall of man as recorded in Genesis 3. These crimes have existed since then, and are bound to continue… unless the Church steps in.
First, I want everyone reading this to know that I am not claiming that the Church is going to end all that which is offensive to God. Surely sin will continue to exist until Christ returns. However, I am trying to say that the Church is a means by which God restrains evil. One of the ways this happens is through the vein of the academic setting. Those who graduate seminary with, say, a Doctorate in Apologetics, or Philosophy, as a Christian, will most likely be engaged in inter-collegiate debate whether that be in print or on the debate stage. This means that there will be a man of God who, at a scholarly level, can address and deal with those who try to inject evil into places such as secular universities and public school systems.
As an aside, I want everyone reading this to imagine what the world would have been like without the Church. I’ll bet the first image which popped into your head was the suffering the Church has actually causes. Perhaps the world would’ve been better without her! Ah yes, but let’s focus on the actual Church. The one that Jesus started. This Church has made mistakes, yes, but it has been the wall between evil and humanity more times than one could count. We could think basically of the founding of this nation, or of the zeal of King James in ensuring a universal English translation of the Word of God. These events drastically changed the world for the better.
Everyone reading this has been positively affected by those two events alone, atheists and Christians alike.
Educated men of God are equipped to “go to bat”, so-to-speak, for the Church against atheists and those who support things such as the oppression of people who are less fortunate, unborn babies, and those who desire to change the world into a domain of ungodly, unstable and double-minded behavior. The atheist, for instance, has no reason, according to his or her worldview, to believe a dictatorship is wrong. The Christian on the other hand does have a very good reason to believe such a thing is wrong. If the Christian God exists, it follows that all that which is contrary to His nature (i.e. dictatorships) is wrong. Therefore, the Christian has a good reason for believing a dictatorship is wrong, the atheist doesn’t have any “reason” that passes for anything more than an arbitrary conjecture––an opinionated sentiment.
I couldn’t possibly state enough reasons to attend seminary in this short article. There are so many more, but I’m afraid these few will have to do. Does it follow from what I’ve said that every Christian ought to go to seminary? Of course not. The Christian doesn’t have a moral responsibility to go to seminary before God, unless of course his conscience compels him to do so as the result of a call to ministry. To stifle this would be sinful. Seminary is not a necessity to our salvation, nor is it a reality for many Christians. But for those who have been called into the teaching or pastoral ministry, it is a surefire benefit which will stay with those who attend for a lifetime.
Never allow temporal situations to prevent you from making decisions with eternal effects.