Christian Education

“The men who will change the colleges and seminaries … are the men who will spend the most time alone with God … It takes time for the fires to burn. It takes time for God to draw near and for us to know that He is there. It takes time to assimilate His truth.” ~John R Mott

My early childhood education started when my parents lived on campus while my dad was attending Bible college. That, in itself, was an impetus for me to be part of an academic community. I then grew up in a manse, read the Bible, went to church regularly, came to a personal knowledge of salvation when I was still young, and was called to preach. After high school, the only higher education that interested me was Bible college. So I went.

When I see new converts and outright opportunists coming into Bible college these days, I think someone with my background should have had advanced standing. I did not.

I took every course required for my own major, plus every course I could take in biblical studies. I enjoyed the Bible courses; but when I got to seminary, I had to take Old and New Testament again.

“I’ve already had this stuff.”

“This is graduate school—it’s deeper.”

A different textbook, a different teacher, yes, it was a little different.

I enjoyed the theology courses in Bible college. I wound up having two semesters of doctrine, plus two semesters of biblical theology. Four semesters of theology in Bible college, followed by two semesters (four courses) of systematic theology in seminary.

“I’ve already studied this stuff.”

“This is graduate school—it’s heavier.”

A thicker textbook, a strange teacher, yes, it was a little heavier.

When I took church history in Bible college, what I wanted to learn was the great Evangelical preachers of yesteryear: Moody, Spurgeon, and Wesley, because they had name recognition. I was disappointed when I found myself studying the early church fathers.

When were we going to get to the good stuff?

Well, we never did. I stayed in church history two semesters, and the latest era we reached was the Reformation. I wasn’t too interested in Luther either—I’d seen the film of his life several times at church and was forced to sit through it again, one morning, beginning at 7:00 am, an hour earlier than usual, so we could make our 9:00 am class.

So, I learned that in Bible college, you study whatever is shoved in your face, then on your own, you get to the good stuff.

I doubt that becoming acquainted with all the Latin fathers and all the church councils hurt me, but I would have preferred to have studied them once and been done with it. Instead, when I went to seminary, I was again forced to take two semesters of church history, only this time it had a new name.

“I’ve already studied this stuff.”

“This isn’t church history—it’s the history of Christian thought.”

A rose by any other nameSix in one hand; half-dozen in the other … We still didn’t get beyond the Reformation. For post-Reformation studies you had to take electives. (I could just see bright-eyed comptrollers rubbing their greedy little palms at the thought of me having to spend another semester, or another year, in school taking electives.)

In Bible college, I never tested out of general courses, as some young persons do today; and in seminary, I never had advanced standing, as some seminaries allow today for Bible college grads. So, I probably have more Bible college and seminary credits for the same degree than young persons who have had those kinds of breaks.

And I was an excellent student. I had a head for academic stuff and a heart for the gospel. That combination is hard to find and hard to beat.

Today I see young people going from a bachelors degree to a doctorate, with nowhere near the amount of education I’ve had, much less the experience, and they come out teaching in institutions of higher learning. So, I see that education is not about what you know or what you’re capable of, only about getting the degree and, nowadays, looking the part. If you can flash a neon white smile and cozy up to people, you can go places.

I am acquainted with a certain artist, and he was saying the other day that before he was eighteen, he’d already done over 20,000 drawings. When he showed up in art school, he was something of a phenom because he could outdraw everyone else, including the teachers.

One morning, early in the semester, an instructor found him waiting outside for the building to open. The instructor asked him, “Why are you here?”

“I want to learn.”

“No, why are you really here? You don’t need us. You can draw better than any of us. We’re young and not too long out of art school ourselves. To us, you’re a nightmare, because we don’t have anything to teach you.”

So, only two weeks into the semester, the fellow dropped out of art school, went home, and never again pursued higher education. He just painted. And became very successful.

All this shines a new light on higher education. What’s it all about—really?

Well, first of all, it’s about money. Education is no longer education. Today it’s a business. Better, a racket. Students are nothing but cannon fodder for the machine.

Second, it’s about job training. At least, seminaries are. Would-be preachers know that if they want a cushiony place on a church staff, they need seminary. And seminaries are taking students from other disciplines besides Bible college. Anyone with a major in liberal arts or even engineering or medicine can get into a seminary, and probably without pre-requisites, though serious degrees from secular schools would require pre-requisites for persons jumping into a new discipline. And an applicant for seminary or candidate for ministry doesn’t even have to be born again or called to preach: he just has to convince someone he is.

Third, it’s about youth. In ages past, a 60- or 65-year-old could start a new job, if economically pressed. And the older the person, the more wisdom, right? Try doing that today. No matter how qualified you are, you probably won’t be able to get past the front door. Institutions want young persons. Why? I don’t care where students went to school, what do they know? I suspect younger workers are merely easier to train and manipulate, and inexperienced enough that they don’t make waves.

Fourth, it’s about feminism. Young women want to be in the ministry. They may say God called them, but there is no evidence of that. What they really want is power or stardom. They are even leaving sound denominations for unsound denominations just to get credentials and a position. That is not religion: that is narcissism.

I was educated with males because most students in Bible college and seminary were male. In class after class, I was the only female. I was not trying to make a statement about women preachers. I had been reared in a manse, knew the Bible experientially, had worked in church all my life, and had been called to preach. I was qualified and gifted for the discipline. Their maleness and my femaleness was incidental.

It was after I left Bible college and seminary that I learned males and females are not equal. In a kind of knee-jerk reaction to the ordination of women in Liberal churches, Conservative denominations are becoming more restrictive of females, not less. Women in ministry can teach children and women, but they cannot be higher in authority than the least male. So they can never be leaders, only “administrative assistants” (secretaries), VBS directors, nursery workers, editors, proofreaders, or the like.

I appreciate my formal training, but my informal training, as an adult, has also been enriching and enlightening. Because I worked for Christian organizations and was an avid reader, I was able to continue learning, on my own. So, I finally read about Wesley, Spurgeon, Moody, Carey, Judson, Andrew Murray, Amy Carmichael, and more. And, through Providence, I was permitted to do things in print (write biblical exposition) that were more difficult to do in person (preach sermons).

Further, some of the time, I was ghosting for male preachers. Men were willing to use a female ghostwriter as they were willing to use a female secretary or a female proofreader. “We can use you, just don’t let anyone know about it.” And if they knew that I would do the writing for them, why bother even making a rough draft? They would just dump the assignment on me. For me, it wasn’t about credit (byline); it was about getting the job done. It was a way to make a meaningful contribution and exercise my training and ability.

“No man who worships education has got the best out of education …. Without a gentle contempt for education no man’s education is complete.” ~GK Chesterton

Copyright © 2013 Alexandra Lee

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1 thought on “Seminary

  1. Pingback: Women Preachers and Gender Bias | Morning Light

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