Why go to seminary?

This guest post is by Daryl Eldridge, President of Rockbridge Seminary.

Seth Godin wrote an interesting piece about education at the crossroads today. And he raised an interesting point:

School was the big thing for a long time. School is tests and credits and notetaking and meeting standards. Learning, on the other hand, is ‘getting it’. It’s the conceptual breakthrough that permits the student to understand it then move on to something else. Learning doesn’t care about workbooks or long checklists.

questionIn another blog, Craig Groeschel raises this question, “How important is seminary?” All of us know people who have become successful without the benefit of a degree. Is “success” the criteria for why someone should get an education? Seth Godin says the point is not education or schooling, but learning. Is education different from learning?

I am a lifelong learner. I read a book a week, attend continuing education conferences, research on the web, and write. I believe in the admonition: “Leaders are learners.” People can sit in a classroom and not learn. People can get a degree without getting an education. People can learn a lot of things, but not be educated. There is a difference between learning and education; both are important. Here are some reasons why I believe it is important to get a seminary education.

  1. A seminary education exposes students to fields of learning beyond their interest. Most of us read and learn about things we are interested in. I love to learn about leadership. If it were up to me that would be all I studied. However, my education would have been incomplete without my studies of theology, psychology, ethics, algebra, history, chemistry, and biblical courses. There is more to ministry than leadership. A good education provides a well-rounded experience. A good education lays the foundation for future learning.
  2. A seminary education provides structure and encourages self-discipline. People can find out what books are required of seminarians and establish a learning goal to read all those books in 3 years. They could discuss their learning with veteran ministers in their geographical area. However, what percentage would structure their life to accomplish that? In the busy-ness of jobs and ministry, sharpening the saw through a self directed learning program is usually the first thing to go. Some people need the structure of a formal education. It is because schools have deadlines, provide accountability, and have standards that students learn to excel. A good education teaches students discipline and self management. I have several friends who have become very successful in life without finishing a degree in higher education and seminary. They would say they received their education in the school of hard knocks. However, every one of them have insisted and paid for their children to get a college or seminary education. They understand the value of a formal educational program.
  3. A seminary education sharpens your thinking through interaction with others. Just because we have an idea, doesn’t make that idea right. You may like an author because you agree with his or her point of view. That doesn’t mean your view is the only correct view on the subject. A wise sage wrote, “Iron sharpens iron. So one man sharpens another. (Prov. 27:17, NIV) A seminary should be a sacred and safe place to explore ideas and have them sharpened through the interaction with others. A school is a community of learners seeking truth. A good education will expose you to a wide range of views and interpretations and help you develop critical thinking skills.

Don’t misunderstand me. I believe our educational system (including seminary education) is broke and needs an overhaul. The term “higher education” in some cases is an oxymoron. All education is not created equal. I have sat through boring lectures and taken exams that were poorly constructed and didn’t help me learn. There is much we can do to improve learning in higher education.

A residential seminary education is not the right learning pathway for some people, nor is online learning the best model for others. If I have learned one thing in life, it is that education humbles you. The more I know, the more I realize how little I know. I don’t have it all figured out. To not learn and not get an education is arrogant. It is saying I know all I need to know. Figure out how you can further your education and be a lifelong learner.

SPECIAL NOTE: Rockbridge Seminary is currently waiving tuition for all new students beginning seminary in the September 2009 term. To get in on the free tuition madness before it ends go to their site.

Written by
Ryan Burns

Ryan Burns is a past Marketing Manager at Faithlife and now works at Redemption Hill Church in Richmond, VA.

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