Beliefnet
The Bible and Culture

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Cary Hughes sent me a link to an article on Don Carson’s blog about seminary education and what needs to change about it. Here is the link to the article 

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2010/08/13/tgc-asks-what-one-thing-you-would-change-about-seminary-education/

What intrigues me about this article is two fold. First of all, the people being asked are connected to Reformed Seminaries, it isn’t a representative sampling of seminaries to start with, and what is being said, by and large is things that Wesleyan seminaries have long been doing— integration of the practical with the more cerebral stuff, and commitment to Social Gospel type experiences for the seminarian.

The cry for integration is understandable, especially if the integration has been left in the past entirely to the bewildered student. But integration can also go wrong as well.  I have seen institutions where the drive for integration in fact led to a massive dumbing down of the required seminary curriculum, all in the service of trying to be more ‘useful’ to the church.   But herein lies a problem— what the church often wants, or even thinks it needs,  is not in fact what it needs, and if the seminary curriculum is dictated to on the basis of the latest list of desideratum and desires of churches then seminaries are in deep trouble— trying to follow the latest trends or wants. It is like trying to catch the wind. 

This is not to say that the seminary should not have its ear to the ground and constantly being assessing how we can do a better job of training people for ministry in our various ever-changing cultural situations, but that is more a matter of hermeneutics than content when it comes to what should be required of students.  The relentless push to get to the finish line of application and implications needs to be resisted in the sense that those things should come into play only after the basic tasks of education in the classical curriculum are addressed.  One can’t preach cutting edge Biblical sermons if one doesn’t really know the Bible, to give but one example. You can’t do practical ministry well and wisely without understanding what the Bible actually says about the practice of ministry.  

The problem with setting sail, following a prevailing wind, is that you may find yourself sailing entirely in the wrong direction and ending up at the wrong destination.  The Bible frankly doesn’t need to be ‘made’ relevant. It is inherently relevant to the practice of ministry in any age. It is more a matter of showing that relevance and applying it rightly so that it is a word on target.   Somewhere between a seminary becoming a glorious anachronism and becoming captive to the latest cultural trends is the right place for the seminary to be, with the Bible in one hand, and the newspaper in the other— relating the one to the other, as Billy Graham long ago said.