Where did you go to seminary?

I am often asked where I’ve gone to seminary. Usually after speaking with someone I’ve recently met, and especially when visiting a church.

I fully understand where this question comes from. It is, unfortunately rare to find someone who is well trained Biblically, theologically, philosophically, and apologetically. So when we run across someone who has such specialized training, it is easy to assume they pursued formal education in order to obtain it.

What I want to tell people who ask (and seldom have the chance to do so fully in the span of a few seconds) is that I am nobody special and encourage them by getting them to understand that they can learn and grow just as well as I can and have1.

Stephen at “Chronological Bible Storying Journal – Rural Brazil”, in a post outlining lessons learned regarding discipleship [HT Alan Knox], observed:

Don’t be a Bible scholar. When I first arrived in Brazil, I loved to talk theology and apologetics. This was expected in many pastoral circles in America. Inadvertently, I began to create a dependency on me as the expert and not the Bible. People would not trust themselves to understand the Bible or apply it correctly. (Incidentally, this is an extreme problem in Brazil, even in evangelical churches. It creates a passive and shallow form of Christianity.) I had to change from teaching to asking questions, and guiding discovery. Huge difference.

I believe Stephen is dead-on, here. Which is why I take great joy in telling the people who ask me where I went to seminary: Nowhere, but I am Biblically trained.

If time permits, this answer leads gracefully into the obvious follow-up question of what resources I recommend to them to assist them in their walk.

We may not all have the resources or opportunity to attend seminary, but especially in the 21st century we do all have access to some excellent training material to make us all better biblical scholars.

For anyone interested, here is a list I wrote a while back where you can find some excellent training material.

  1. Not that I’ve learned all there is to learn, mind you, growth and learning is a lifelong commitment. []

4 responses to “Where did you go to seminary?

  1. Good for you! I've had that happen a few times ("No, I'm not a pastor but I play one on TV.")

    Sometimes people use it as an excuse not to study more themselves — sort of a false humility.

    • Exactly!

      And that sort of attitude is EXACTLY what I want to combat.

      After a rather weighty lesson on whether faith is opposed to reason and the life of the Christian mind, I told a room full of men last Thursday that I held no college degree so they had no excuse not to study and learn and grow.

      It is a mandate for all believers to become mature which includes both our actions as well as our thought life. On the whole, Christians tend to do pretty well on the actions (stop drinking, swearing, womanizing, etc.) but there is still sadly very little emphasis placed on the life of the Christian mind.

  2. That's my big focus these days, challenging people to think more carefully. We just did a college visit at a conservative Christian college and despite some very positive things there was some sloppy thinking and talking.

    The biblical illiteracy in church is disappointing. I just pointed out to some high school kids how ridiculous they would look to any atheist if they hadn't even read the NT or were not even engaged in regular Bible study. If I was an atheist that would be my lead argument: "What??!! You claim to follow Jesus as Lord of the universe and your personal Savior yet you don't care enough about him to read even the NT, let alone the OT?"

  3. "I fully understand where this question comes from. It is, unfortunately rare to find someone who is well trained Biblically, theologically, philosophically, and apologetically."

    I get your point, but I wonder if you realize how autodoxological that can sound to most ears? the way we say things is often as important as what it is we say itself.

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