Jan 18, 2012
Seminaries the Problem?
My blog-friend, Dave Kludt, has posted some reflections on what he believes to be the role of seminaries in the future; some critical and some affirming. Part of his conclusion, which is posted on his blog, is a shortened version of another one of his publications. He writes:
I remember reading Helmut Thielicke’s A Little Exercise for Young Theologians. In it, he deals with the dynamic of a theologians life between the life of professorship and the pulpit. Theirs must be a life that lives between the two. With clarity, Thielicke diagnoses the difficulty of overcoming pride in both practice and identity for someone in a seminary.
He does so by discusses the difference between church-goers and church-doers. Those who come and sit to watch and those who go to seminary to learn and lead. The danger is that once seminarians have come to know the deep secrets of God, they quickly become academics and either leave the church or become useless to the church.
He further talks about a theological puberty as a moment when the theologian knows more than they have lived. At one point, he calls this a “diabolical theology”; unlived truth.
For Thielicke, the demon's wrote theology by knowing but not doing the deep things of God.
As a professor at a number of schools (Bible colleges, Universities, and yes, a seminary), I have seen this come up over and over: unlived truth. Trust me, I believe in these institutions. I depend on them to eat. I live in them. I work in them. I owe money to some of them. But a danger lurks in the halls of any seminary or Bible College.
I believe that Kludt rightly discerns one of the central truths inherent in this whole conversation: seminaries do what they do well. They teach good theology, history, pastoral care. You name it. That's not the problem. Because knowledge is only so good as it has a place to be lived out.
The church is the practice field of the stuff of seminary.
After digesting his comments, perhaps a couple of thoughts in reflection to Kludt's demonstration are in order:
1) Seminaries must repent and change not because they are seminaries but because Christ-followers are existing in their communities. Repentance is individually initiated and communally enacted. That is, communal repentance is a product of Christ-followers turning to righteousness. The seminary faculty can't do this for an individual. Only Jesus can.
2) Seminarians put Jesus on the cross. Furthermore, I am not convinced that Jesus' solution to the world's issues is not having enough MDiv's. What is needed are seminary grads and students to help change the world where they can in simple ways and recognize that they are themselves part of the problem.
3) Seminary is a garden. The word seminary comes from "semem", or "seed". It is never intended to be the main venue of fruitfulness, rather, it is the place that fruitfulness begins. Here, ideas and theologies, prayers and pains, are given room to grow into fruit.
Can seminary change and evolve: yes! Will it: hopefully!
But must I change first? Without question!