Some Questions to Consider as You Consider Seminary
Why would I need a theological degree from a seminary or divinity school?
For purely practical reasons, if you are called to ministry in a church, an accredited seminary degree may be a requirement for employment. The better the school, the better the preparation you will have for real life ministry. Moreover, when you serve in ministry, you’re dealing with God’s Word and people’s souls. A strong seminary will take that very seriously, placing major emphasis on spiritual formation as an absolute essential in the curriculum.
Is seminary really relevant for ministry today?
Although the Bible is widely accessible in multiple forms, we live in a time of profound biblical illiteracy. Many students now enter seminary with far less understanding of the Bible than in the past. Gordon-Conwell, in fact, recently revised its curriculum, moving Old and New Testament survey courses to the beginning of the curriculum to ensure that after the first year, students have a sufficiently solid understanding of the Bible to take more advanced classes.
Likewise, today’s students enter seminary without a theological orientation. Many do not know how to interpret the Bible, are not aware of the abiding tenets of Christianity over the centuries, or the complexities and nuances of the faith. If you don’t attend seminary, you may not know whether you’re holding to orthodox Christian views. A seminary provides you with that depth, and the tools to continue growing in knowledge and depth of understanding for the rest of your life.
What if I’m not planning to serve in direct Christian ministry?
A seminary education is valuable for people preparing for any kind of vocation. Christians have a natural desire to know God and his Word more deeply. Many students who already have well established careers come to seminary because they want to do their jobs better. They believe a seminary education will enable them to approach their work with a Christian worldview.
Should I choose a school that is independent or denominationally-affiliated?
Seminaries and divinity schools can be independent or “freestanding,” meaning that they are not directly affiliated with a particular church or denomination. Their faculty and students often represent a wide variety of denominations. Gordon-Conwell is an example of an independent seminary. Harvard Divinity School is an example of a non-sectarian institution.
Many seminaries and some divinity schools are affiliated with specific denominations, such as Presbyterian, Methodist, Southern Baptist and others. In these schools, students are more likely to represent a common ecclesial tradition, and are preparing to serve in denominationally-affiliated ministries. Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, for example, is an evangelical divinity school affiliated with the Evangelical Free denomination.