Tommy F emailed the following report on what happened at the Brad Cooper blog last week. From what I recall from reading the original discussion, his report here is substantively correct.
The gist of my various posts are below (3 were deleted from BCoop’s site). I have not made any attempt to make them either more polite or more pointed. This posting represents both the spirit and, to a large degree, the letter of what I wrote on BCoop’s site. In the originals, there were no offensive words, no expletives, and no personal attacks. In other words, there was no good reason to delete them. You’ll just have to take my word for it.
Apparently 15,000 people don’t care at all that their pastor and his leadership team have 0 seminary degrees among them. Or perhaps they just don’t know, which is why BCoop needed to delete my posts. This is conjecture, of course. But, if the information was incorrect, he could have simply corrected it. If it is true, but he didn’t want it to be publicized, well that takes a slightly different approach, doesn’t it? I call it the enema approach to blogging (H/T: Ace Noble).
On a less personal note: I find it disturbing that a youth minister’s blog feels it necessary to delete posts recommending theological education. Are they against education? Theology? Or just the combination of the two? Seriously.
I confess that I think highly of ministerial education. Is it perfect? No, but I think if all things are equal a seminary trained minister has a wider breadth of knowledge and has shown the proper dedication of basic preparation for his/her calling. I think it’s clear that Paul had a high view of training, the parchments (the scriptures), and clear teaching when he advised Timothy. For a few passages related to this, see: 1 Tim 1:6-7; 1 Tim 5:22; 1 Tim 6:20-21; 2 Tim 3:14-17; 2 Tim 4:1-4; 2 Tim 4:13.
On to the tantalizingly delete-worthy posts:
1) Theblakebutler wrote:
“@ Tommy F- I believe you need to make a distinction between apostles and disciples here if you are going to split hairs and cause dissension.”
I should begin by saying that I am not trying to cause dissension. As I see it this is a difference of opinion and perspective: I prefer my church leadership to have deep theological training, while others, apparently … not so much.
Blake asked whether I should make a distinction between apostles and disciples. This distinction is important and vital, and I’m glad he brought it up.
From the angle of apostles and disciples, the argument against going to seminary relies precisely on not making a proper distinction. As I understand it, the argument (at its simplest) runs as follows:
The 12 (apostles) never went to seminary, so why should I/we (21st century disciples)?
There is a big difference between ministering with Jesus in the flesh for 3+ years, listening to him teach, watching him perform miracles, and observing how he dealt with people (both those sympathetic to Jesus’ ministry and those opposed), compared with the situation that Christians find themselves in today.
In fact, I would argue that it is impossible to parallel the experience of the 12 with any discipleship training that could be experienced today. The approach has to be different. Distincitons need to be made between 1st century followers of Jesus and 21st century ones.
I would argue further that the 12 experienced both ministerial on-the-job training while learning the requisite teaching required, and still they were stunned by the crucifixion, and were completely surprised that he rose on the third day. All of this, after following him for 3+ years.
Following the example of the 12 as a reason to avoid seminary is a fool’s errand. Too much time has passed, and Jesus is not walking the earth any longer.
On to the other substantive point made by theblakebutler:
“Tommy writes all of the time on other outlets about not preaching from the word, but I cannot find anywhere where getting a degree certifies and qualifies one to stand in a pulpit. Are you claiming that this should be an addendum to the Gospel? Yes we are to equip ourselves, but can a relationship with the father not simply be enough?””¨”¨
I do not think that a degree qualifies one to stand in the pulpit, but often it can prepare someone to know what to say and do, once there. But, more importantly a theological education trains one to know what is erroneous and what is true. In other words it has the effect of preparing one for what should be said (truth), as well as what should not be said (error).
Overall, it seems to me that those who say seminary is an option for full-time ministers are trying to divide what Jesus joined: teaching and training coupled with ministry experience.
2) BCoop was not impressed with my follow-up comment, and came back with this gem:
“NS has a rule”…. id beg you to not make assumptions — you know how that can be perceived…
My original reply to BCoop (before he hit the delete button) was:
NS gives advice to young people re: seminary every time they utter the word cemetery regarding ministerial education. In fact, NS has a unified message regarding theological education. They don’t think it’s worthwhile. BCoop, this is not an assumption. It’s a conclusion drawn from evidence:
1) NS leaders explicitly call seminary cemetery. Not exactly a glowing endorsement, is it?
2) No one on their leadership team has completed a seminary degree. No, not one.
I suppose it’s not a rule in the sense that it’s in their operating manual, but it’s a unified stance regarding language and hiring practice. And I am fairly certain that these two points communicate a level of expectation from the students who look up to them and seek guidance. The combination of calling ministerial education cemetery and not having anyone on the leadership team with a seminary degree communicates loud and clear to high school and college students how NS views seminary: “don’t go. Don’t waste your time. We didn’t.”
3) Spencer wrote:
“I’ve been in the trenches four years w/o a degree. i have a friend who is graduating from four years of bible school this month with a degree in youth ministry.
“i’d put my experience versus his academics any day.””¨”¨
I have a very simple two-fold reply:
1) Any Bible College that allows a ministerial student to finish without substantive ministry experience is not a very good one. If all s/he has is 4 years of classes, and no experience, then your friend should have gone elsewhere.
2) The posting relies on faulty logic. In the scenario Spencer presents, both individuals need to complete their training: he has 4 yrs of ministry, but no education. His friend has 4 yrs of Bible college, but no experience. Neither is fully prepared in my view.
When it comes to ministry and education, it’s not either/or. It’s both/and.