My tertiary education experience has led me to think that the main aim of tertiary education is to produce more tertiary academics and for them to engage with one another (by publication and conferences).
The fact they have to educate people whose aim is not to become tertiary academics is understood to be the sacrifical means by which their lifestyle is supported.
It’s one of the reasons why I think that the places where people are educated for pastoral ministry should be designated ‘Trade Schools’ instead of ‘Theological Colleges’.

Having gotten that off my chest, Michael Jensen has provided some notes about Theological Education that are very helpful.

Here’s point 5. Read them all here.
I’d want to add, do the lecturers genuinely engage with the students?

5. What to look for in a theological education
a) is the whole Scripture central and authoritative in the institution?
You can’t claim to be studying the knowledge of God if you aren’t taking the Scriptures with utmost seriousness, or if you are prizing other sources.

b) is it theological?
I object to the term ‘bible college’ because the purpose of theological education is not to know the Bible better: it is to know God better. The word ‘theology’ indicates that study of the texts is the means and not the end. It also indicates that there will be a prayerful integration of the curriculum, and that the confessions and creeds of church history will have their place.

c) are the original languages emphasised?
Not every Christian or even every Christian leader needs to learn Greek and Hebrew to have an effective ministry, but I don’t theological study is really serious if it does not ask you to learn at least one of these languages. Given the choice, most people would NOT learn even Greek. Don’t take the easy option – because serious study of the Scripture by someone who would teach God’s people demands the harder path!

d) are Church History and Ethics and Philosophy a part of the course?
These subjects are all auxiliaries to the study of Theology in a way. But without them the theological task is scarcely complete.

e) is community life emphasised?
The nature of theological knowledge is that it is a shared knowledge – learning it on your own is counter to the kind of knowledge it is.

f) is there regular corporate worship and prayer?
Goes without saying.

g) are the practical ministry subjects taught in a theological way?
You aren’t going into theological education to learn secular counselling methods, or bits of pop psychology.

h) is the theological curriculum calibrated for ministry and mission?
I would asking why a theological curriculum does not address itself to the context in which those who are studying it are going to have to work. These days, it is simply not enough to say ‘we teach the theology stuff, you work out how to put it into practice where you are’.

2 thoughts on “Why Theological Education? (via Michael Jensen)

  1. scotschurch says:

    I am perplexed by our beloved Presbyterian Church, in which we demand the highest standards of tertiary academic achievement in order to qualify someone for ordination, including the original languages; yet on the other hand we allow almost anyone into the pulpit, often without any tertiary theological education at all, almost always without the original languages, and sometimes with nothing more than a few “lessons” with their local minister. So are we really taking the handling of Scripture seriously?

    Not only do we allow such lay people an ocassional “pulpit supply”; sometimes we appoint them for extended periods of time as regular supply, or locum; and sometimes we even put them in a manse and give them a stipend.

    Yet we turn folk down for ordination who in every regard (gifting, skill, calling, character, approval of the people, spiritual discernment, etc) appear suited for pastoral ministry, except that they fail Greek.

    Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a criticism of the lay preacher. Some of these guys do fantastic jobs…. but it does that not just prove that enforcing either tertiary-level study, or especially the original languages, really is not that essential for ordination?

    1. Gary Ware says:

      Well I didn’t anticpate that response to this post.

      Seriously though, here’s a list of the presuppositions that I think stand behind the inconsistencies you identify in your post.
      Firstly, the ‘priesthood of all believers’ is not the same thing as the ‘interchangeability of all believers’.
      Secondly, the ‘equality of teaching and ruling elders’ does not mean that they carry out the same activities (necessarily).
      Third, ‘all of life may be every Christian’s ministry’ but that does not mean that every Christian is a called minister (pastor)
      Fourth, our understanding of the reading and preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments as ‘means of grace’ have been marginalised by Zwinglian low church evangelicalism or (worse) Knox-Robinson theory.
      Fifth, if your congregation’s model of church is something like a group of mates hanging out at a barbie, then one of them insisting he has a fixed role because of God’s calling is going to seem like a party-poop.
      Sixth, asking someone who’s preaching a sermon where their evidence of calling has been tested doesn’t sound very egalitarian.
      Seventh, pretty much anyone should be able to gain 51% consistently in New Testament Greek exams. Hebrew is a bit harder.

      What do you think?
      What is the corrective to the problem you identify above?

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