10 June 2008

To seminary, or not to seminary?

by Dan Phillips

A reader emailed me this query:
Hi Mr. Phillips,

I've been impressed with your writings, as well as Mr. Johnson's. [He knows we're two different people. Nice move. Starts him out on my good side! — DJP] I have a question. This is a young man seeking [counsel] from a man with more wisdom. [Yes, I'm very old, thanks for mentioning that. Buh-bye, "good side"! — DJP]

How much did you benefit from seminary? In regards to your understanding of the Bible and theology, how much was learned on your own and how much at school?

Would you do it over again at the rate of $200.00 per semester hour?

Thank you sir.
Oh, boy.

Well, first my convictions, and then my experience.

Convictions. Though I earned an MDiv and am glad of it, I don't think seminary is universally necessary, nor best.

The Biblical model is apprenticeship. Paul apprenticed Timothy, then urged him to do the same for other gifted men (Philippians 2:22; 1 Timothy 4:6; 2 Timothy 1:13; 2:1-2; 3:10-17; cf. Titus 1:5). And so, I think the best model is a pastor leading men under his care in guided studies and instruction in Greek, Hebrew, the Biblical sciences, pastoral ministry, and theology. Which I am assuming (in my ideal world) that the pastor has; as all pastors should.

The best model is preparation of pastors of churches by pastors of churches for producing men who will pastor churches. The best model is not academic instruction in a non-church environment by men who have not themselves been pastors.

Now, I said "not universally necessary." It depends on where you're heading. If you see yourself needing a level of academic expertise and recognition, then formal cred will be necessary.

And at least some churches "get" that. I am seeking pastoral ministry, and churches I've reviewed say they are looking for an MDiv "or the equivalent." I think that's a wise escape-valve. An MDiv at some solid, not-necessarily-Caesar-approved institution does demonstrate a degree of commitment and discipline and focus and perseverance. But it isn't the only way.

Experience. I was absolutely thrilled to be at Talbot, under the instruction of men whose reputation I respected. Knowing them was instructive and joyous at the time. Being selected and invited to teach classes even before I graduated remains a thrilling memory, one of the highlights of my life. Doing as adequately as I did, academically — where it's not just me alone with a book, but me up against some external and objective measuring-devices — was and remains encouraging to me.


But I entered Talbot with a pretty solid grasp of Greek, and a degree of Hebrew, plus Biblical and theological knowledge. Most of this, I'd gained by my own studies. All of it stood up well in that setting, which gave me a sense I'd been on the right track. Also, it gave me (as I said) an objective measurement I could show other people. That's a good deal more helpful, in interviews, than saying, "I've read and studied a lot on my own."

I was intensely motivated, interested, hungry and needy. So I read. A lot. I started teaching myself Greek the year I was saved, 1973 — because I was sure I'd flunk if I didn't! By the time I started Talbot (1981), I had long-since been reading the Greek New Testament for my devotions. My four-year pastoral training school had only started me out in Hebrew, so I took a supplementary class (under the marvelous John Sailhamer; what a fantastic teacher!). Thus, I was able to "test out" both in Greek and Hebrew at Talbot, and begin with more advanced classes in each.

As I alluded, Talbot was good insofar as objectifying my academic progress and abilities. It's one thing to read and do some work and have good folks in a Bible study think you're adequate. It's another thing to have to test, write, perform, meet deadlines, observe standards, be evaluated. Also, it made me buy and read books I'd otherwise not have read, forced me to interact critically with perspectives I might have bypassed — and required me to air and defend some of my own notions in an analytical environment. All this is good. You don't need seminary for it, but it served.

My greatest regrets include:
  1. Assuming I'd be able to find any of my classmates later, when I wanted to. Now I've tried, and can hardly find any of them. And so...
  2. ...not working much harder to make lasting connections and friendships and partnerships with my good classmates.
  3. Believing the lab-grown notion that, if you were faithful, God would bless you (—with a thriving, growing ministry).
  4. Not taking the opportunity to find out much more about a much broader array of denominations.
Now, to respond specifically to this: "In regards to your understanding of the Bible and theology, how much was learned on your own and how much at school?" Honestly and in retrospect, the most important and central convictions were formed before and after seminary. What seminary contributed is a firmer and deeper grasp of tools useful for evaluating and developing my Biblical convictions, as well as a good environment for testing them.

So, concluding brevities:
  1. In an ideal world, pastors would apprentice gifted men within their congregations.
  2. At most, area pastors could pool resources in apprenticing gifted men within their congregations.
  3. On the basis of the Word, such apprenticeship is sufficient for a God-honoring ministry.
  4. In an ideal world, churches would focus on evaluating candidates individually, against vitally necessary Biblically-based criteria, and not solely on the basis of institutional boxes checked.
  5. HSAT, it probably does better position at least an American candidate if he can demonstrate some academic performance via some kind of valued, earned degree. Pulpit committees can't test every applicant in Hebrew, Greek, and the branches of theology; it is useful to know that some institution already has.
Hope that helps, young man. God bless and guide you and your thinking.

Dan Phillips's signature


Charles e. Whisnant said...


I am sure you would agree, learning the Bible and learning theology and learning Greek does not necessary make one ready to pastor a church. Just ask me.

In seeking or desiring pastoral ministry requires training by those who are in pastoral ministry, who knows how to train young men.

Churches who are seeking a pastor usually have a limited understanding of how to select a pastor. They generally are looking for a men who have education and a MD or DD. Or they steal a pastor from another church, who generally is looking for another church.

But you are totally correct that the best method of training is apprenticeship.


DJP said...

You're right; no argument here.

John said...

Thank you for the good and helpful post.

And I believe the comment was "a man with more wisdom," not, "an older man."

DJP said...

What?! Are you saying I'm touchy? Eh? Eh? You kids get off my lawn!

ezekiel said...

Exodus 4:12
John 14:26
1 John 2:27
Luke 12:1

ezekiel said...


Is this correct? Did Spurgeon really preach his first sermon the same year he was saved and baptised?


Aaron said...

Hi Dan,

Long-time reader, first-time commenter...

Thanks for a very thoughtful, very helpful post. I just graduated from seminary and wholeheartedly agree with everything you said. Seminary, for me, was all about jumping through hoops, not really learning much new, though there certainly was some. The thing is, they keep you so busy reading, reading, and reading, that if you are working and supporting a family, you really have little time at all for anything else (many, many of my classmates rarely attended church at all in the 3-4 years they were at school). Also, the nickname "seminary widow" isn't far off in most cases that I have seen; it was a daily battle for my wife and I to have meaningful time together over the last four years.

Now we're in a Sovereign Grace church, and are delighted to see the way our pastor is taking guys, apprenticeship style, along and training them up. Then they also have a pastor's college, which is decidedly shorter then seminary, but very intentional and all run through the church (all students are plugged in deep at the local church there, Covenant Life).

So my prayer is that more and more churches will the wisdom and call that you pointed out, and take it upon themselves to sow into young men and train them up, rather than assuming seminaries will do it all for them.

All that said, lest I misconvey, I did build some very meaningful and lasting friendships while there, and agree with you that I was challenged in some ways that I would likely not have been otherwise. I thank God for my school and my professors; but even they know the system is flawed...

Thanks again Dan, very helpful.

DJP said...

Thanks, Aaron. No doubt priorities should shift. One pastor I had kept referring to my then-future studies at Talbot as when I would "begin studying for pastoral ministry." At the time, I'd already been through a four-year course at a local-church institute, had taken additional studies, and knew Hebrew and Greek better than he. (Actualy, not sure he knew them at all.)

I tried politely to correct him; but he was very "professional," in both the best and worst senses of the word.

Jerry said...

I am very thankful for my four years at SWBTS and the resulting MDiv.

At the same time, I recognize that my best training took place under Godly men in the setting of the local church.

After my conversion at age 16 my first pastor spent many, many hours discipling me. He now enjoys his heavenly reward, but his influence lives on.

During seminary I was blessed to be under the mentorship of another Godly pastor, and I truly believe that I learned as much, if not more, in that church than I did on Seminary Hill.

DJP said...

Sounds like you ended up being blessed with a perfect blend, Jerry.

Hayden said...


I would agree that seminary gave me great tools and then I went to serve in the local church to sue them. Praise the Lord that I work alongside a pastor who is a Paul to me. I believe I have benefited so much from this that it has caused me to be intentional about discipleship of others.

By the way, how is the candidating going?

Teresita said...

For months I served on the Wikipedia committee to keep the thing from filling up with crud, and there was a certain "Dr." Jason Gastrich, "B.A", "M.A". and now "Ph.D." who tried to promote his "Louisiana Baptist University" on there. Well it's in a strip mall right next to Tattoo Alley. When you have a situation like that, it might be better to have your pastor come up as an apprentice through the blue collar ranks, as it were.

DJP said...

Charles Whisnant — your comment provoked from me a spin-off post on my blog.

James Scott Bell said...

Same deal with law school. In the "old days," one would apprentice with a lawyer. It was a whole lot more practical that way.

When I was a new Christian, I immediately decided I wanted to go to seminary. How green was I? I thought all seminaries were pretty much the same. Didn't matter which one you picked. Just decide what town you'd like to live in.

I was in New York City at the time, and walked by an Episcopal seminary. Hmm, I thought, this has nice buildings...

I shudder to think what would have happened if I just jumped in there. Perhaps that's why God slammed the doors shut on my seminary searching.

What happened was life, another career, wife and family...and a great, solid church where I was apprenticed by men on the staff leading to ordination at age 50.

We need more of that model, I think.

Steve Burchett said...

Dear Dan:

Very, very good and helpful thoughts. In our church, we have determined to be intentional about training men, and so perhaps more men than the norm, because they have been given opportunities to learn and even teach, find themselves wondering if they are to serve as elders either in our church or eventually elsewhere. Interestingly, this triggers the thought in some, "I guess this means that I have to go to seminary."

Indeed, some of these men will benefit from going (for the reasons you mentioned and more), but too many, especially the older gentlemen, will simply dig a hole for themselves financially (what a shame that our seminaries are helping men bury themselves in debt!) and potentially harm their families (working a full-time job, studying themselves silly, resulting in an absent husband and father). Unfortunately, if men are aspiring to go into an existing church, they may "need" the degree. What a strange system we have devised. However, for the men going into church planting, especially who are a little older (30+), degrees don't seem as important and necessary.

Thanks again, brother.

Warmly in Christ,

Kim said...

Here's something I'd like your thoughts on...

What value do you see for women going to seminary, if any?

DJP said...

Steve, what great thoughts, and good for you!

One of the failings of my first four-year training institute was that the pastor never gave us any opportunities to do anything. No preaching, no teaching. His concept of almost apostolic guidance (as I discussed in a previous post), to him, precluded it, I guess.

So I had no opportunities to do, learn, make mistakes, grow, get correction and counsel. I had to go elsewhere to preach my first sermon, and teach my first adult class — both of which I remember, thirty years later!

frenchcanadianmissionary said...


I'm a church planter in Quebec. In my 10 short years in ministry, it seems that one major weakness in the church is that most pastors don't have a clue HOW to mentor/coach men in their church (myself included before coming to Quebec). They know how to preach and teach (which are also essential).

Have you heard of the seminary model (supported and encouraged by John MacArthur) that is being used here in Quebec? The seminary is called SEMBEQ and it is a 7-year program, in ministry, through local churches. SEMBEQ brings in world class professors for 1-2 week courses (D.A. Carson was here last week). Local pastors teach courses as well.

They have a seminary staff who actively work with pastors, teaching them how to mentor men.

Everyone in the seminary is active in their local church and actively being coached (usually by their pastor or an elder in the church, or another pastor in the region).

It is a 7-year process because of the fact that it is "in ministry".

They are attempting to combine the strengths of a seminary with the strengths of an active apprenticeship in the local church.

I had never seen a working model of this type before coming to Quebec.



-Rob Karch

Don Fields said...

"It's one thing to read and do some work and have good folks in a Bible study think you're adequate. It's another thing to have to test, write, perform, meet deadlines, observe standards, be evaluated. Also, it made me buy and read books I'd otherwise not have read, forced me to interact critically with perspectives I might have bypassed — and required me to air and defend some of my own notions in an analytical environment."

My experience exactly! Thank you for these very good thoughts.

DJP said...

Kimberly — good question. My answer will be jumbly.

I think pastor's wives auditing courses is a great thing. One of the funnest activities I've done in my marriage was getting Valerie to go to T4G with me. She was hesitant because it was for pastors, she'd be lost, etc. I knew that was bosh. I refer to her both as my better, prettier, and smarter half for good reason, and I was certain she'd be energized and thrilled — and she was. And we've had a wonderful time talking about, discussing, reading, as a result.

Also, I can conceive of a woman taking seminary courses for ministry she'll do with women and/or children, or for counseling in a church context.

HSAT, I now come to the issue of MDiv's for women.

MDiv's have for a long time been viewed as "a professional degree" — by which is meant only that it is a pastoral degree. It's a degree a pastor would earn.

So why would a woman earn one, since "female Christian pastor" is a contradiction in terms?

I remember when Talbot first started doing it. There were a lot of closeted feminists at Talbot, and I clashed publicly with some of them. I wonder where it is, now.

But a professor told me at the time that giving a woman an MDiv, but telling her not to become a pastor, is a bit like handing someone a loaded pistol, but telling him never to fire it.

So if you want to force me to give an opinion on that specifically (which you didn't ask, but would have if I waffled), I'd have to say MDivs for women makes me uneasy. Can't say there's a Bible verse that rules it out, because there's no Bible verse about MDiv's, period.

But insofar as it is still viewed as a pastoral degree, I can't easily understand a good reason for a woman earning one.

BTW, I know this could open, not just a can, but an entire section of a grocery store full of cans of worms; I warn any and all that I'm going to keep this meta close to the subject of the post.

Antoine said...

One of the challenges for me after reading this is to be able to take this post, in its entireity, to a young adult that I mentor. He is very much opposed to seminary, but the reasons that you lay out for seminary are solid ones that he and I can discuss a bit easier because of the format that you have laid out for this.

Thank you (again) for taking the time to make a very wise and insightful post.

Jim Jordan said...

From talking to several seminarians I must say that some seminaries can safely be termed as "suspect". There's one that I won't name but it's in Atlanta and I've nicknamed it the Millstone School of Liberal Theology. The liberal religionists I've talked to are aware of the seminary's political and theological leanings and go there for that reason.

Another problem is definitely the training of senior pastors to their juniors. My church had as gifted a speaker for senior pastor as they could hope for, but whenever the youth pastor gave the sermon, it was a disaster. I mean, crash and burn disaster; forgetting where he was in his notes, going off on tangents and then putting his foot in his mouth, poor illustrations, long silences, talking too fast, etc. Ten years later, it's still the same.

Pastor Michael said...


This post provides the opportunity to express something I've been mulling ever since you tossed your hat into the proverbial ring: I think you already have a pastorate or sorts.

As F.T. (that other guy who is also not you) commented, I would be disappointed by any role that resulted in your blogging less. How many pastors/teachers have the interest of the thousands of serious readers that Team Pyro attracts?

As a pastor with no formal training, your writings here (and the contributions in the meta) have provided me with innumerable learning opportunities. Though I can’t prove it from experience, I suspect the give and take here supplies some of what a seminary would.

HSAT, I think it would be all the more valuable for you to also have the experience of pastoring a local congregation. I can’t help but think this would serve to provoke your thinking and produce even more meaningful posts.

May God direct your path for his highest purposes.


DJP said...

Pastor Michael: you can't know how touching, humbling, and encouraging that is to me. Thank you.

DJP said...

(And my joking response would be that I need pastoral ministry because I'm running out of material for blogging!)

Mike Riccardi said...

May I just say, that I love the picture of the Honorable Chamberlain Haller.

Did you say yutes?

DJP said...

Jim Jordan, you introduce a valid and entirely different dimension than I considered.

In my post, I'm assuming a best-case scenario. That is, I'm assuming a seminary that is fundamentally Biblically faithful. And even then, I express those reservations.

But the fact of institutional entropy is undeniable and almost certain as death and taxes. So, beyond everything I said in the post, there is also the danger of a naive, inexperienced young man with great intentions and not much training heading off to a wolves' den. There he meets and falls under the spell of credentialed men who put him on the wrong track. I have in mind a particular seminary, too, which started off evangelical, and is now far, far from it.

Then go in talking about Jesus, and come out talking about Zeitgeist; they go in with Bible, and come out with bibble-babble.

And even in sound institutions, there are those small-"c" charismatic individual professors who are apostate in their hearts, but still sign the statement. And they sow their corrupt seeds in the young men's hearts.

So yeah, that further complicates the issue.

Kim said...

Okay, no MDiv's for women. I can see your point about that.

But you see, there are women like me who often need the accountability of handing something in to feel like she's "getting" what she's learning. So, would there be anything wrong with a woman working toward this just a means of motivation? I'm very goal-oriented and having that little "carrot" of meeting all the requirements for a degree would be something beneficial for me. Are there other "designations" that are more suited to a woman who is learning just as a way to equip her better for service in the local church?

greglong said...

I am very thankful for and benefited greatly from my M.Div. at Faith Baptist Theological Seminary. BTW, we were required to get involved in local church ministry (yes, we had to do something meaningful, like ministry). When you think about it, it really doesn't make much sense to be "training for ministry" but not involved in actual ministry.

But I appreciate your point, Dan, about churches and pastors training men for ministry. Can you point to any current churches who are doing an exemplary job of this and who have resources online to help other churches do the same?

DJP said...

Strong Tower — unfortunately, Blogger doesn't let us edit comments. I deleted your post because you unintentionally and good-heartedly fed a troll (Rule 5). I'm sorry, this is just my least-worst solution.

So here's most of Strong Tower's comment:

The typical model is as djp said, apprenticeship, or should be. The family institution of the church assumes that spiritual young men will be trained up to take over their spiritual fathers' business. Specialized training in seminaries can only supplement that, but never replace it. Churches also, when they can, need to be extensions of seminaries. Dan, God let him pastor, would be qualified to teach languages, and should. In reality, our churches are to be educational institutions, for that is what it means to disciple.

I think it would be great if seminaries required practicums of at least two years in situ training before granting degrees. Simply because, this is not a "professional" degree, but a degree of service. It matters far less that a person is skilled in the finer academics than it does to have had the faith once for all delivered to the saints passed on to them as trustworthy men.

Generally, maturation is the key element- a man married who has proven himself able to manage his family- which is an attribute that is not acquired as a youth, and is rare at that among men who have been married. The Scripture calls for "testing". That can only be accomplished in close relationship to those who are personally mentoring a prospect.

In many ways the "system" of deacon to elder progressive advancement has been undermined by the seminary system. One might wonder how a propective pastor (elder) gains a good reputation with outsiders let alone is known as a apt teacher or has a good reputation with those within, or frankly any of the other qualifications of a pastor/elder. It then falls to reports in letters and recommendations from hopefully trustworthy sources outside the congregation. The local church then needs extensive external knowledge of those who make such recommendations. And one of those bits of knowledge would seem to be what form of apprenticeship in pastoral work the candidate had.

One of the things that djp's piece points us to is the fact that this is not simply a career choice, nor is the choice of a pastor simply the hiring of a CEO. The nature of the church requires much clearer, deeper intimacy of charge, one that is much more like marriage than a job. The difference being is that Scripture seemingly indicates that a man who desires such a noble task as pastor should know what being married is before he says I do.

Strong Tower said...

Is okay.

MSC said...

In no doubt many many (most?) cases, their are young men in churches who are called to pastoral ministry who have had no mentoring and apprenticeship opportunities. Seminary helps fill a gap in that regard.

I did not change very many areas of my theology while in seminary, but every area of my theology was sharpened where fuzziness ruled to one degree or another. This promoted a kind of confidence in the truth that I could not have as easily gained without the rigor of seminary training. It also provided the tools to remain sharp and cofident. In my case, mentoring has come post-seminary as I have developed solid relationships with other pastors both near and far who have provided a forum for iron sharpening iron.

Solameanie said...


Does "jumbly" rank up there with "biblely?" Just kidding.

Several here have made brief allusions to liberal seminaries, and that's good. I honestly don't think that caution could be overstated. Even sadder is the situation of a heretofore conservative seminary being eaten from within by closet liberals or heretics.

I suppose institutional drift is an unavoidable reality in this world, but you'd think there'd be some provision for automatic, instant sacking if some professor was playing footsie with doctrine. The situation with Greg Boyd is a good example. He has the right to deny God's omniscience if he chooses, but he doesn't have the right to teach it at a seminary where that is not the doctrinal position of the school.

You can have institutional drift in churches as well, but I speculate that it would be easier to nip in the bud at a local church.

Susan said...

Hi Dan,

This is my second post (EVER) on Pyro, even though I've enjoyed reading Pyro for quite a while now. I'm curious:

1. Is that Fred Gwynne (aka Herman Munster) I see in that picture of the judge? Looks like a shot from the movie "My Cousin Vinny", which I've never watched. I grew up watching reruns of "The Munsters" (and a few episodes of "Car 54"), so I recognized him almost immediately!

2. If I don't have time to go to class to learn Greek and Hebrew and therefore have to resort to self-study, what beginner's material in each language would you suggest?

Many thanks,

Rachael Starke said...

nRe: seminary vs. or w/ apprenticeship - I'm wondering if it is appropriate to distinguish between preparation for what used to be called "gospel" ministry vs. pastoral ministry. Medical school prepares a variety of people for work in the medical arts, but it's only after a surgeon has had his/her hands on a great number of patients successfully that they are deemed appropriate for their specialty. In the same way, while seminary can prepare a great number of people for ministry, only through mentoring and discipleship in a local church can it be discerned if a man is truly called to pastor a congregation.

I wonder if that is sometimes why people are disappointed or deceived by what they believe an M.Div or other seminary degree sigfnifies. I also wonder if the church ought not to do more to hold up not just the value of seminary, but the value and even vital necessity of other types of ministry beyond pastoral/preachng, for those whose gifts, after being tested, appear to be in those areas.

Teresita said...

djp: So why would a woman earn one, since "female Christian pastor" is a contradiction in terms?

Maybe she can just be an Apostle, like Junia.

Rom.16:7 Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.

DJP said...

(A) It's irrelevant, as there are no apostles today; (B) if Junia is a feminine name (which is debatale), she could not have been an apostle, since apostles necessarily authoritatively taught men, and women may not do so without sinning; in which (C) the alternate translation "well known to the apostles" (ESV) is a possibility.

Shark Food said...


Thanks for a terrific post. Do you know anything about North American Reformed Seminary, which does not charge tuition and has all the textbooks free online>

Not having to pay tuition might change the equation about going vs. not going for me.

David A. Carlson said...

I believe the GCC follows you model almost exactly


for the curious

(for those who care, I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the GCC)

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

DJP: "I have in mind a particular seminary, too, which started off evangelical, and is now far, far from it."

Is this one of those guessing games where you provide a quote and then ask readers to identify who said it or wrote it?

If so, can I make one guess as to the identity of the seminary that you're referring to and have you verify whether my guess is right or not?

Fuller Seminary!

John said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DJP said...

TUAD — Fuller Seminary!

Hssst! You said the F-word!

Hadassah said...


I appreciate your comments on women attending seminary. I'll confess, I sort of wish that more women did attend, not to become pastors, but because there seems to be such a lack of theologically sound women teachers out there.

I'm thinking specifically of women who write/speak/teach other women, not from a pulpit aimed at men and women. Just recently I've become highly disappointed in a well known woman who I thought was solid, only to discover that she believes some things I find highly suspect.

Are there any women writers/Bible study authors that you would recommend? Sorry if this diverges too far from the topic, but it does sort of have to do with seminary.

DJP said...

Well, you raise a good point, Hadassah. I'm sure that's a point of frustration to many of our readers.

If not an MDiv... maybe an MFem?

I suppose we could have a whole discussion one time over whether it's best for women to teach women's classes or not. I had a lady student in one of my Hebrew classes who was just terrific, and I was sure the ladies under her care would be well-served by her. I still remember her paper: "Proverbs 31 — Wisdom at Her Busiest" (I think I still have it).

My dear wife angled to get me to speak at our church's ladies' tea one year. I spoke, then scatted, let them have their fellowship.

Oh, I have appreciated just about everything I've read or heard from Joni, but I don't think that's what you're looking for. Maybe others have suggestions?

Susan said...

Besides Joni?? That could be difficult. How about Elisabeth Elliot? Even though I personally don't agree with some of her views completely, she has been faithfully walking with the Lord for a long time. Incidentally, she once taught at Gordon-Conwell Seminary (although I don't know if she only taught women there).

As for my previous comment to this post, perhaps I sounded a bit off topic by asking Dan's opinion's on Gk/Hb learning materials, but considering I once applied to a seminary (not Fuller!) AND was accepted (but did not go because my father was dead against it), maybe Dan could still answer my Gk/Hb question...?

Anonymous said...


You said "...(but did not go because my father was dead against it)..."

As a Dad, that line was a wonder to read.

Thanks for that.

DJP said...

Ditto that.

Anonymous said...

Susan, I've been self-teaching Greek this summer. I've been using the basic Greek course by Mounce, and so far I've found it to be very useful.

Kim, there are several things you can do. My wife is currently taking distance learning courses - you can do it for certificate or sheer edification. If you have a seminary nearby, you can audit some classes, or even work towards something like an MA degree. Or you could work something out with your church, doing the papers/outlines as part of discipleship or something. Or you can do the work on your own and blog the results. I'm sure there's other ideas, but my mind's fried now.

Susan said...

Daryl and Dan,

Lest you gentleman should think that I was every father's dream of a daughter, I can assure you that was not (and, sadly, is not) always the case. I was exploring the option of seminary because I wondered if God had "called" me into seminary. Even after my father pleaded with me and I finally conceded to his wishes, my head was in a fog because I didn't know for sure if I had disobeyed God's calling by obeying my father. Looking back I must say that it was silly to think that, and I am certainly glad that the Lord closed that door on me then--or else you could be reading the comment of an MDiv today! (Well, maybe.)

Susan said...

Thank you, Trogdor. How about Hebrew?

Peter said...

Dear DJP,

When I lived in the Valley, I used to go to Grace Community. Now I live in South Carolina and am right now applying to Erskine, not far from home.

So far, I am aiming for an academic future (I have some other degrees). Since I am not ruling out the ministry, your article is helpful. My grandfather was a career Southern Baptist preacher who was hoping I might attend seminary; I grew up hearing about the poverty my mom and her siblings grew up in.

Thanks! (By the way, I found your article when researching the Emergent movement; I still haven't figured it out, but the adherents sure talk a lot about, about, ...actually I'm not sure about what and I have read Jacques Derida!)

Tim Brown said...


Great article.

When you were at Talbot in 81 and following, were you at the Grace Church campus? Just wondering, I was attending Logos Bible Institute during the '82-'83 year.

Just curious,


DJP said...

Tim, I don't think so. Only times I remember being on GCC grounds have been... once, when Merrill Unger was speaking, and... er... another time. About which I don't remember much. Except it was big. And I remember the bookstore. Which was open on Sunday? Or did I make that up?

Oh, wait; you know, I think I was at a Logos class one time. And met... that guy. I think it was, uh... that guy. Who writes. Rats, have to look at the other web site.


Irv Busenitz.

But I don't remember the circumstances. Sorry!

Anonymous said...

Hi Dan

Another reader, but first time commenter. What would be your recommendations on self learning NT Greek? This post touched upon a lot of thoughts I've had. I've been looking to furthering my skills at learning God's word on my own. I had considered seminary, but don't see God calling me to full time academic study.

I thought about seeing if I could sit in on some Greek classes at Talbot or possibly some local colleges. How would you recommend I approach learning the language?


Alexander M. Jordan said...

Hi Dan

Though I haven't commented much here, I'm a big fan of your writing and this blog. I think Phil is great but I also really like your sense of humor. Your post title today caught my attention particularly because I've been considering seminary for a while. Why? Because I've fallen in love with the doctrines of grace that have brought new excitement to my reading and study of God's word, and which is helping me in many practical ways.

Now I'm about the same age as you Dan, which means, not that young any more (if you'll pardon me saying so).

So that, and a few other factors are making my decision about seminary a tough one (maybe others can relate). One issue is, although I greatly admire the pastoral calling, I'm not entirely sure if it's what I'm called to. So I guess my first question is-- is getting an MDiv in seminary an appropriate route for one who wants training for the ministry as well as for personal spiritual growth, but who isn't necessarily sure of a call to pastor?

I know I would really appreciate the opportunity to sharpen my theology as well as hone my apologetic skills, through the discipline of completing a seminary degree. At this time I don't think I want to be an academic (get further degrees), so the MDiv is particularly appealing to me. But as a creative type-- English lit. major, musician, blogger, I wonder whether I ought to develop my skills in writing and music and use them more, in ministry at church and on the web.

The other thing that gives me pause me is whether I can justify putting my family into $40,000 worth of debt when I'm not fully decided about what I'd do with the MDiv. I'm married, and hoping to start a family soon.

So another option I'm considering is attending a free online reformed seminary that has a good reputation, and in the meantime continuing to work my admittedly passionless day job, stay involved in church ministry, maintain my blog and website ministries, and further develop my music.

I've heard about a school called North American Reformed Seminary. So I wonder if you have any thoughts on the value of an unaccredited degree from a good and reputable reformed seminary vs. an accredited degree.

Anyway thanks for this thoughtful post and I hope this question is relevant to others as well.



CR said...


I've heard one of the benefits of going to seminary and getting the MDiv is learning the homiletics. My understanding is that you don't learn the homiletics techniques with a non-div masters.

Teresita said...

djp: (A) It's irrelevant, as there are no apostles today;

Ephesians 4:11-13 teaches that apostles will come until the end of the age:

[11] And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

[12] For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

[13] Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

(B) if Junia is a feminine name (which is debatale), she could not have been an apostle, since apostles necessarily authoritatively taught men, and women may not do so without sinning

I am told that there is no contradiction between the OT and the NT. In the OT, we read that Queen Esther could "confirm with full authority" (9:29) the "inviolable obligation" of celebrating the festival of Purim.

DJP said...

Well, that's... creative.

But Ephesians 4 isn't a temporal statement; it's a statement of design. And Ephesians 2:20 specifically places the apostles and prophets at the laying of the church's foundation. Not its roof.

So much for that.

And you show me that Queen Esther was pastor of a Christian church with apostolic blessing, then perhaps we'll have something to talk about.

Teresita said...

djp: But Ephesians 4 isn't a temporal statement; it's a statement of design. And Ephesians 2:20 specifically places the apostles and prophets at the laying of the church's foundation. Not its roof.

1 Cor. 13:8 says tongues and prophesies and knowledge may cease, but no scripture predicts an end to apostleship. It is God Himself who raises apostles up and sends them, ala Saul/Paul, and we have no authority to gainsay Him.

And you show me that Queen Esther was pastor of a Christian church with apostolic blessing, then perhaps we'll have something to talk about.

Your claim is that a woman having teaching authority over men is sin. Sin is the transgression of law. There were no new laws invented for the New Covenant, only a clarification of old ones. If Queen Esther could define a religious feast with binding authority, and that in itself was sin, then she transgressed the law and would be remembered more as a Jezebel figure rather than a Jewish national heroine.

DJP said...

I'm not sure what axe you're meaning to grind, but that's a nonsense-argument. Esther is queen in a pagan nation. There is no law of God involved, it isn't the church and, as a matter of fact, the church is something new (e.g. Ephesians 2:15).

And, once again, apostles are foundation-gifts (Ephesians 2:20). The foundation need only be laid once. This was intentional. Qualifications were set such that only believers from the first generation might qualify (cf. Acts 1:21-22).

Your generosity-token is spent. Back to the topic, please.

Mike Riccardi said...

You know... I'm going to make it a practice from now on to scroll over the pictures posted within the posts. The hidden captions are hysterical. Kudos, Dan.

DJP said...

You'd better go back to 1/2006, Mike. You've missed a lot of mouse-overs!

Strong Tower said...

And all along I thought that was a skin toupe'e. We all know that Phil has a great hair piece. But you, with that sword and all, I just thought you liked the global look...

DJP said...

We all know that Phil has a great hair piece

Stands up to a pretty solid yank, it does. He doesn't so much, but it does.

candy said...

My husband is interested in taking classes from NARS, but we have also really liked the model that Sovereign Grace offers, which is Pastor's College.

Kim...my understanding is that Pastor's College also includes wives taking classes, since wives can certainly utilize the learning within their local church with other women and young people, like you do. I appreciate that the women's ministry in my church centers on doctrinal teaching instead of fluff.

One wonderful woman teacher actually was the speaker at our conference last week. Noel Piper. What a blessing she was to the women in our church!

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

TUAD — Fuller Seminary!

DJP: "Hssst! You said the F-word!"

No denial by DJP!

Therefore Fuller Seminary must be the answer to DJP's statement: "I have in mind a particular seminary, too, which started off evangelical, and is now far, far from it."


GUNNY said...

Mr. Gambini, that is a lucid, intelligent, well thought-out objection to the necessity of seminary.

Some would still sternly say, "Overruled," but I would not.

Honestly, that's one of the best blog posts I've read in a very long time ... and I read a great deal of them.

I'd love to see a comparative study one those apprenticed and those seminaried.

I think one thing you'd see is fewer guys wash out because there's more hands on care and concern in the apprenticing to deal honestly with the potential pastors.

It's easy to take a guys money and give him passing grades and not have to worry about his future and what he might do to a church.

I'm not saying they all do or the system necessitates that. But seminaries do that and those who've been there know it.

lawrence said...

good stuff my man

Donna said...

I've met several men who have gone to seminary simply for greater indepth study of the Bible and theology. I think women might be more hesitant in attending seminary as they see this privilege only availed to men.

Donna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Donna said...

> since apostles necessarily authoritatively taught men, and women may not do so without sinning

Wasn't it that women needed to study more thoroughly before they taught? I thought that was the reason why women were not allowed to speak in one of the churches [that Paul wrote to.]

No matter, I see no harm in a woman learning more about the Bible and theology. People go for advanced degrees all the time just for the sake of knowledge.

DJP said...

Wow, Marie, when you first did that comment, you excerpted just like "Lilith"! But then you reposted a second time and changed it. Interesting.

No, there is no text nor context that ever relates the blanket prohibition of women teaching or exercising authority over men to their being insufficiently instructed. That's a made-up construct fabricated to undo 1 Timothy 2:11-15, which links the prohibition to Creation and Fall, not contemporary culture.

Now, please, stay on-topic.

That goes for all screen names.

~Mark said...

"2. At most, area pastors could pool resources in apprenticing gifted men within their congregations."

Love that idea! It would serve wonderfully toward uniting churches I think.

By the way, you haven't asked but I want to say that as you seek your place of service your posts have been challenging, encouraging and a real blessing to sparking my ongoing education in the Word.

Thank you!

DJP said...

Belatedly: to everyone who asked for beginners' Greek or Hebrew helps, or opinions on various seminaries.

I didn't answer the former, frankly, because I haven't used beginners' books for decades. What I used are advanced texts, grammars, etc. Make sense? And not being currently in fulltime ministry, I don't have much call for them. Pray for my search to get back in, and we'll see. But since I didn't have a greatly useful opinion, I didn't give one.

A lot has come out since I last taught, and I'll bet it's better that what I knew. I mostly learned Hebrew from Weingreen, and Greek from Machen. When I tutored in Greek, I used Wenham's Elements, and liked it a lot. I see it's out in a revised edition by some other guy (see Amazon), but I've never eyeballed it.

As to the seminaries, I had no opinion. Hoped I'd have time to take a look, but haven't yet. Hoped those who knew them better would offer their opinion.