What Good Is Seminary?

What good is seminary?

As a devout Christian, after graduating with my Master’s Degree in Christian Studies from a theological seminary (and by the grace of God with a 4.0 GPA), I feel I am adequately equipped to answer this question.

Some believe that seminary is where to go if one wants to become a “professional Christian”. They believe that to go to the next level of belief and faith in God, that one should go to theological seminary or to bible college. They believe that one cannot know all there is to know about God, the church, and the Holy Bible without going to seminary.

The university from which I matriculated had four levels of seminary. There was an Associates, Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorate program. Some might feel that until one attains the highest level of seminary that one is not a good enough, or well-equipped for ministry Christian. I will tell my opinion about that towards the end of this blog post after I tell a few benefits that come from attending seminary.

For starters, if you hope to be a bible teacher one day, it helps to be taught by others who have spent a lifetime of studying the Bible. Some people spend their entire adult life studying the Old Testament or the New Testament or even just one book of the Bible. Therefore, if you want to teach others about the Bible at your church, it would prove beneficial to be taught by this particular person.

Some people feel as if Bible study is unnecessary. They feel that the Holy Spirit Himself can teach them all they need to know about the Bible. That is true. The Holy Spirit can teach you whatever God wants you to know. But the reality is that because of our strong traditions that come from our church or denomination or family, we will always FILTER God’s truth through mankind’s teaching. And much of that teaching might be faulty. It is hard to drink purified water through a dirty glass. Sometimes, seminary can clean the glass so that you can rightfully receive what God is telling you about the Bible.

For example, many Christian partake of the Daniel Diet. This is the diet that we read about in the book of Daniel wherein Daniel only ate particular foods and did not eat the Babylonian food that was offered to him. Today, for ten days many Christians will refrain from eating meat and sweets as a way to get closer to God. BUT seminary can teach you that many of the foods we eat in America were not even around in Babylon, so if we were hoping to eat just like Daniel, then would not be doing exactly as he did. Also, Daniel’s purpose for eating those particular foods was not to get closer to God, but rather it was to avoid eating the unclean food being offered to him by the Babylonians. The Israelites only ate Kosher clean food, and because Daniel was a Hebrew, he could not in good conscience eat their food. And Daniel did not only eat the right food for 10 days as we do, but he ate that way his entire life. But because we are not Hebrews in Babylonian exile, we should not feel bad that we cannot do the Daniel Diet as Daniel did because we should only be trying to grasp the principle of the matter which is to hold fast to one’s convictions even under dire circumstances. These are things one might only learn in seminary. Do you see how your information determines your actions?

Another important function of seminary is when one is confronted with false doctrine. My seminary professor of Church History 1 taught us many of the false doctrines/heresies that were condemned in Councils by the Orthodox church in the first few centuries of church history. So when a friend invites me to their church or tries to convince me to believe in some false doctrine, I can automatically dismiss it because I know it as being closely related to a condemned teaching that has returned in the last one hundred years or so to deceive others. Theological seminary can be helpful in recognizing and rejecting false teaching.

I have also found theological seminary to be very helpful in me worshipping God in TRUTH. Believe it or not, but your theology will affect your praise and worship. For example, if you think of God as some cosmic Joe Jackson who is scrutinizing your performance waiting with a celestial whip with which to cast you into hell at the slightest mistake you make, it will greatly impact your relationship with Him. If you think of God as the deists who believe that God simply created all humanity and then left it alone to its own devices without any interference, then it will greatly impact your prayer life. But if you know God’s true character which is a Heavenly Father who loves you unconditionally and who chastises those whom He loves as sons, then you will have a better relationship with Him and therefore worship Him in truth. Seminary has theology classes that teach you accurately about God and His nature.

One last thing I’ll mention about the importance of seminary is that it tells you not simply WHAT the Bible says but HOW to read the Bible. We know that many a cult is begun by one charismatic leader telling an ignorant congregation EXACTLY what to think and believe. But this is uncommon in seminary. I attended a seminary that had students and teachers of different denominational backgrounds, and we were not always told WHAT to believe, but we were told HOW to read the Bible. The problem with the 33,000 – 38,000 Christian denominations is that most of them attempt to tell their members WHAT to believe. And doubtless they are being told what to believe by one imperfect human being. So whatever that one imperfect person teaches them is now believed by them and taught to their children. If the originator of the teaching was wrong, then everyone who believes everything he says is wrong too. And that is how cults get started. For example, one might teach their congregation that women must wear stockings and closed-toe shoes. Even though this is not in the Bible, it will be passed down to all generations as the truth. However, it is not true, but merely tradition and preference. Seminary will help one to see whether or not a tradition is actually and accurately based on a Bible verse or principle.

The Bible tells us to RIGHTLY divide the word of truth. It does not tell us to blindly swallow whatever we are told. And seminary has taught me that. I have learned to prayerfully read the Scriptures with illumination from the Holy Spirit; I have long ago ceased to accept everything I am told even though I know the Bible says the opposite or otherwise. Seminary has not made me a better Christian or a more godly person, but it has cleared my mind of the traditions of men that are not rooted in the Bible so that I might be more clearly influenced by the truth of God. If nothing else, seminary can serve as type of detox for tradition clutter.

Why Did God Trust YOU with This Horrible Experience?

Writeous Rhema:

Ever wonder to yourself why God trusted you with a bad experience? Cancer, loss of a child, etc.?

Originally posted on writeous rhema:

Image As a child, I remember watching” Alive” with my family. This movie is based on a 70’s plane crash survivor story known as “Miracle in the Andes”. Being so young, the only things that stuck out to me were the mountains, the cold temperatures, the plane crash, and the cannibalism the survivors had to do to survive for weeks without food. But there was so much more to the story.

I just finished watching the movie some days ago as a 27 year old, spirit-filled adult. And the movie was so much richer than I’m sure even the director intended. God blessed me to open my eyes to the wonderful insights and rich revelations one could glean from that movie.

The movie starts out with a man sucking on a cigarette saying that he was given a glimpse to another aspect of God. For the longest, he was introduced to…

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Masks Off: Disliked for Who You Are or Loved for Who You Are Not?

“Love takes off masks we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.” – James Baldwin

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Sadly, I believe that very few of us ever reach true intimacy. I believe most of us have enjoyed the temporary joys of dating and making out and other conventions of relationships. But so few of us will ever reach true intimacy. And the reason is simple. God has given each of us memories and emotions. And when those memories are painful and those emotions are hurt by people that we love, we make a decision – consciously or subconsciously – to never let anyone hurt us like that again. Unfortunately for us, making that decision does absolutely nothing to our stronger desire to connect with others.

After watching different movies about life in the penitentiary, I discovered that a man would rather be in general population where he is in danger of being shanked (stabbed) or violently sodomized against his will than to be locked up in solitary confinement. It is the worst punishment for even the most hardened criminal to be locked away from others – even though those others may have and may continue to hurt them. This goes to show that all humans were made for connection with other human beings despite how hurt they’ve been in times past.

So how do we cope with that cognitive dissonance? How do we love WITHOUT risking hurt? This post does not attempt to answer that question. The previous paragraph just goes to show that humans want connection in spite of pain. Yet despite our desperate need and desire to connect, why come so few of us achieve it?

I believe the reason we cannot achieve true intimacy is because our past hurts “force” us to put on masks. They don’t actually force us, but they terrify us enough to put them on because we fear what could happen if we do not don our masks. Our memories remind us how painful it was the last time we loved as we truly were. Maybe as a child, you reached out to Mommy for a hug and she pushed you away. Maybe you waited hours for Daddy to come home to show him a card you made just for him, only for him to wave you away and lock himself in his room without any greeting or acknowledgement. These simple examples represent profound experiences that shape us. They make us question ourselves as to why our parents don’t like or appreciate us as we are. So we try to alter our real, “unlovable” selves so as to prevent being rejected again for who we really are. We’d rather be loved for we are not than to face the pain of being rejected for who we are.

One thing about masks is that we continue to wear them because they work. If they didn’t work in getting us what we wanted, we would no longer wear them. So masks are effective in a sense. Another thing about masks is that they can be changed at any time – even several times in an hour. So if you meet four different people in an hour, you could act four different ways to make all of them pleased with them. If you felt your Mommy liked you smarter, skinnier, neater, and cuter, you worked on that mask and presented it to her. You saw it made her smile at, compliment, and hug you. If you felt that your Daddy liked you more accomplished, you worked on that mask and presented to your Dad a new you that was a star quarterback, a great tennis player, or a straight A student. And that made Daddy show you off and give you attention. While it is sad that some parents do not love their children unconditionally, it is a reality that must be accepted. And once you accept that you had demanding, perfectionistic parents, you have another choice to make.

You can choose to be disliked for who you are or loved for who you’re not.

And if you make the right decision, you will remove those masks and say, “HERE I AM! LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME, BUT I WILL NOT HIDE ANYMORE!”

Now let me explain some things. I am not suggesting that you don’t change anything negative about yourself and command others to love you as you are if who you are is abusive, offensive, and criminal. Don’t molest children, beat up people on the street, and call people outside of their names and then say, “Love me for who I am because I refuse to hide under my mask anymore!” By no means! But what I am saying is that you have to understand that if you are not intentionally hurting anyone, you do not have to change to make people except you.

Another disclaimer is that you also have to understand that people have expectations of adults. A newborn baby is expected to do absolutely nothing but eat, sleep, and poop. No one is disappointed in them for not knowing the alphabet. No one is shaking their head in shame because they are not walking. No one is scolding them for not changing their own diaper. So you must know that when you are an adult – especially a male – people expect you to work a job. Also, as an adult, people expect you to obey laws. Don’t be a lazy slob using welfare when you are able to work and then say, “Take me as I am!I refuse to work, and I will continue to rob and steal!” (If this is your attitude about not wearing a mask, I personally don’t expect anyone to like you.) But if you are a person who does not hurt others deliberately, who works a job to pay bills and whatnot, and who does not intentionally break laws or biblical commands, then you should not have to put on a mask to make people like you. Just doing those things makes you enough.

So back to what I was saying about intimacy. One cannot be intimate with a mask. You cannot feel someone’s face who is wearing a mask. You cannot know someone who is constantly lying to you. You cannot be intimate with someone who refuses to get close to you. That is because INTIMACY IS THE REMOVAL OF DISTANCE.

Think of intercourse. Intercourse is considered intimate because it is the removal of space between two physical bodies. In fact, not only is space removed outside of the body, but with the woman, the space inside is also removed. There is no distance between two people engaging in intercourse. The same goes for tongue kissing. There is no space left there. So it is intimate.

Well, that was speaking physically. Now let’s think emotionally. When you are truly intimate with someone, you remove all distance between their emotions for you and your emotions for them. They know how you feel about them, and you know how they feel about you. But if you hide your true feelings behind a mask, they do not truly know your emotions. So there is still distance. So there is no true intimacy.

Again, the reason we do not tell them our true feelings is because we fear they will stop loving us. But think of children and their parents. Younger children will tell their parent that their breath stinks because kids are brutally honest. But it doesn’t mean that they will stop loving the parent. We have to stop equating truth with abandonment. And if you do, just understand that those you were honest with who abandoned you were simply unwilling to be close to you. Doubtless, they’ve heard worse things from others that they continued to be in relationship with because they WANTED to be in relationship with them. But don’t let their rejection of you make you redefine the lovability of you. Just take their rejection as redirection to someone who WANTS relationship and intimacy with you.

We want so badly to be loved for who we are, but we learn to hate who we really are because who we really are – flawed – resulted in someone rejecting us. So we hate ourselves so much so that we forget who we are and begin to truly think this mask is the real us. But we must do the thing we think we cannot do. We must remove these masks and dare to be loved for who we truly are. The people who God has for us, will love us without them.

However, if you so decide that life with a mask is preferable to being loved as you are, carry on as you were. But just know that you are not in a real relationship. You are in a dance, an arrangement between a person and a mask.

mask

Truth Matters: Does Truth Come from Within or Above?

truths

I’ll never be popular, or well-liked. I’ll never have a totally easily life without challenges or difficulties. The reason for this is simply because I believe that truth matters. I am convinced that truth matters. I believe that people should hear and be told and know the truth. Because of that, most people will not like me. I will be labeled as judgmental, as a troublemaker, as a party-pooper, as a rain on one’s parade.

But I will not be silent.

Because I am a mouthpiece for God, I expect to be at odds with the world. Because I have no intentions of turning on God, I expect a world bent on silencing me. But in spite of it all, I will cry aloud.

This is because TRUTH MATTERS. It really, really matters.

If truth did not matter, I would not care if my loved ones dated the wrong person. If truth did not matter, I would eat and drink whatever I wanted without any regard for my health. If truth did not matter, I would not waste my time and money enrolling in a Master’s level seminary program to learn how to better tell people the truth that they someday will die and will face the wrath of an omnipotent God with the power to condemn them to eternal punishment.

Unfortunately though I cannot pretend in that way because TRUTH MATTERS.

It matters that you understand that you only get one body in a lifetime. It matters that you do not marry and produce children with the wrong person who will wreck the lives of your offspring. It matters that you obey a God who can destroy both body and soul in eternal fire. I know these weightier things matter because much smaller truths matter.

Does it matter if you and your boss agree on your pay rate? Does the truth matter about whether or not they are paying you $3 an hour or $30 an hour? Does the truth matter whether or not the sign which says “Bridge Out Ahead” is true or not? Does the truth matter of whether or not the person you are about to engage in unprotected sex with has the HIV, Hepatitis, or Herpes virus? Do these things matter? Of course, only because TRUTH MATTERS.

The thing about truth is that IT WILL HAPPEN TO YOU. A lie will never happen to you. I can tell you that the Tooth Fairy will fly in through your ceiling and give your daughter a quarter for her tooth. But if will never happen. I can tell you that Santa Claus will descend down your chimney to leave presents in time for Christmas morning. But it will never happen. I can tell you that the Easter Bunny will hop through your backyard to leave dyed, hard-boiled eggs and a pastel, shrink wrap-covered Easter basket full of candy and toys and fake grass. But it will never happen. So because it will never happen, I don’t waste my time talking about it. But what matters is what will happen. The truth will happen to you. The reason for this is that TRUTH COMES FROM THE TOP DOWN. In other words, truth comes from God down to mankind. That is the reason it will happen because God can make it happen.

Contrary to popular belief, truth does not come from the inside out. Neither does it come horizontally from person to person. In other words, a fellow human being cannot create eternal truth and then make it true for you unless it is first true from God. In other words, if God says that you will live to be 100 years old, a person can push you off a bridge at age 30 and you’ll simply come up wet. If God says you will be married at the time of your death, you can rest assured that before you die, you will have been at someone’s altar for a wedding. No human can create a truth that God does not agree with.

Truth is eternal; that is why humans cannot make it. Only God can. God knows the end from the beginning. He knew the death dates of every human that would ever be born before the earth was created. Nothing has caught God by surprise. God wasn’t surprised that you got pregnant at age 16. He wasn’t surprised that you lived a homosexual lifestyle for 10 years before you got married in a heterosexual union. He wasn’t surprised that you got addicted to heroin at age 20 because He knew all the truth and facts before they occurred.

In this post-modern society, we are taught that truth is subjective. We are taught that what may be true for you may not be true for me and vice versa. For example, they will teach you that maybe Christianity is the way you will get into heaven, but it will not be the way Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims will get into heaven. They will teach you that maybe you have to be heterosexual to please God in a relationship, but not them. They CLAIM to believe that truth is not objective. It is not from the top down, but they CLAIM to believe that truth comes from within or from whatever is popular in culture at the time. What was true for the 1700’s may not be truth now. What was true from the 1950’s may not be true now. What was true even yesterday and what will be true tomorrow, will not necessarily be truth today for them. But that is a lie. Truth is truth from the beginning because truth does not change because truth knew from the beginning what would be. Why would truth change its mind? Truth would only change its mind if it didn’t know all the facts. But it does!

Truth is not created day by day. Truth is REVEALED over time. God lets His truths be discovered. Don’t think for a minute that if you get married to your soulmate that you MADE that person your soulmate. What happened was that God KNEW it was your soulmate all along and He LET you find him. He LET you discover that truth. You didn’t make it true; it was true. Barack Obama didn’t just happen to become the first black president. God knew from the beginning that it would be so. He didn’t just luck out and win the vote. God knew. It doesn’t mean God chose him, but it means that God knew the truth about who WE would choose.

As you can see, it’s best to discover truth as soon as possible. It saves a lot of wasted time, money, energy, tears, blood, etc. There is one benefit to denying truth however. It seems to temporarily postpone what one does not want to feel at the moment. For example, if the doctor tells me that I have Stage IV pancreatic cancer with 6 weeks left to live, I will be very hurt by that truth. So I may want to deny it in order to postpone those overwhelming feelings of paralyzing, crippling fear. But regardless of what I lie to myself about at the time, it will not change the truth that will happen to me. The lie that I will live to a ripe old age of 92 will only provide temporary comfort. But even while you tell yourself that lie, you can already rest assured that every few seconds, the truth will be screaming loudly, YOU WILL DIE IN A FEW WEEKS! YOU WILL DIE IN A FEW WEEKS! YOU WILL DIE IN A FEW WEEKS! Now you may not die in exactly six weeks. You may die in four or you may die in 6 months, but you will die. You may not die from complications of the disease in 6 weeks because you could die in a car accident immediately after leaving that doctor’s office or you may die of a self-inflicted fatal gunshot wound in 5 weeks. But do not lie to yourself and say that you will live to be 92 if you still have this disease (not unless God Himself tells you that you will because remember only God knows all the truth). What is fact to the doctors doesn’t necessarily have to be truth to God. The doctor can say your prognosis is 3 months, but if God says, “You’ll live 30 more years,” then God’s truth will ALWAYS trump the doctor’s prognosis. Doctors only talk about what their limited experience and studies have shown them, but they cannot talk about what God has ordained. The doctor can say you’ll die in 6 months, but God can say, “You’ll die tonight.” It will happen as God has said.

Truth can hurt, but lies can destroy. For example, let’s say you really want to marry a particular person. Some people would rather believe the lie that they will live happily ever after, but God knows if that person is going be an abusive, raging alcoholic who will leave you for another man or woman after a few months of marriage. Sure, the lie is more dreamy, but remember that a lie cannot happen to you. But the truth will always happen to you.

I have committed myself to sharing the truth with people. Because of my humanity, my delivery may not always be tactful. But may it never be said that I did not share the truth with people when I knew it. If God gives me discernment to see into your situation, if God gives me a close relationship with you, and if God tells me the bad that will come of it if you do not make some changes, then trust me to tell you the truth.

The dilemma that comes up then is that people question your love from them. Why is it that people equate lying with love? They feel that if you choose not to lie to them about what makes them happy, then you do not love you. For example, I believe that godly marriage should be between one man and one woman. But if a loved one of mine chooses a homosexual relationship, they will more than likely want me to give them my blessings (despite the fact that God does not), and they want this done all in the name of being loving and nonjudgmental. But how loving is it for me to see you headed towards certain destruction and heartache and to turn a blind eye and to offer you a smile as you head there? Love will say STOP! DON’T! RECONSIDER! Love does not always say, DO IT! GO AHEAD! I SUPPORT YOU 100%!

And that is why I will not be popular in this world. I will be seen as the enemy. I will be seen as judgmental. I will be seen as harsh. But at least the eyes of God, I will be seen as His mouthpiece. I will only tell the truth.

truth

A High Failure Rate for the Time-Honored Altar Call?

Originally posted on writeous rhema:

altarcall_grumpy

If you’ve been raised in the American church any length of time, you’ve heard of or experienced the traditional and time-honored “Altar Call”. This is a call that is administered typically at the close of a church service after the sermon and before the offering. This call is a petition – a beckoning if you would – of the lost souls in the church to come down the aisle and to stand at the altar to do business with God.

In the church settings in which I was raised, one would seldom do just one altar call in their life. If you were like me, my cousins, and my  sisters when we were young, we went to the altar to get saved just about every few weeks. Guess it was like a bad perm – it didn’t take the first time. But yet in spite of the fact that it…

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