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.

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Why Hate Religion? How Religion Can Help Relationship in Christianity

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Sometimes, religion can be a good thing…

While on my lunch break, I called a friend of mine who is an unbeliever. He jokingly said that I was religious. I told him that I was not. And I usually take offense to be being called religious. I usually say, “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual/I have relationship.” But this time, instead of being cliché, I proceeded to explain to him the difference between a person who has a close relationship with God and a person who is just religious without any true relationship with God. We often hear this as Relationship vs. Religion. Just recently there was a very popular YouTube video that became viral overnight. It’s called “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus”. The video was spoken word poetry by a young Christian man who was basically saying why he hated the Christianity religion, and yet retained all of his love for Jesus and the church. He received many likes on the video from people who were disillusioned with church rituals. (Here’s the link to the YouTube video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IAhDGYlpqY)

Many believers are growing tired of the Christianity religion and its rituals. Wake up at 9:15am on Sunday morning. Get dressed. Drive to church. Let the ushers direct you to your seat. Stand up when the pastor says to. Pay what the pastor tells you to. Pray when the pastor says to. Fast every two weeks. Pay 10% of each paycheck. Eat this communion wafer. Drink this communion juice. Sing this song. Clap and sway this way. Come to the altar to repent. Come to bible study on Tuesday. Read the bible for 15 minutes every night. Listen to this worship CD on your way to work…Repeat.

I’ve done this ritual for almost my entire life. And lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of people say that so many people have RELIGION, but no RELATIONSHIP. They say religion as if it is profanity or if it is to despised. But while talking to my unbelieving friend, I realized quickly that religion – but more specifically RITUALS – is not always a bad thing. In fact, they can be a blessing.

I told my friend that a ritual can be anything that you do at a certain time over a long period of time. I used hygiene as a good example. For example, every morning, many adults wake up and hop in the shower or the tub. Then they brush their teeth. Then they apply deodorant. If they are not African-American, they usually wash their hair while in the shower. They do this EVERY morning RELIGIOUSLY. When people use the word “religiously”, they mean that a person does a certain activity CONSISTENTLY and FREQUENTLY. Without frequency and consistency, MOST things in your life will be ineffective and inefficient. If you apply consistency and frequency to just everyday routines, it will even help propel you into greatness. Greatness is not just achieved by being born with skill or even by sheer luck. Greatness at anything is usually achieved through practice (which is another way of looking at consistency and frequency).

Consistency denotes someone doing a particular thing every time. Some people get their oil changed on their car consistently whenever the mechanic tells them to. They do it on time every time they are told to change their oil. Some people pay “tithes” consistently. Whatever the Sunday is after they get their paycheck, they give 10% of their income. They do it EVERY Sunday after payday WITHOUT FAIL. But if someone pays tithes on every third paycheck, and then every first paycheck, and then every tenth paycheck, and then every second paycheck, then that is not CONSISTENCY. It has to be every time at the same time to be considered consistent.

Frequency denotes someone dong a particular thing OFTEN. If you have a particular type of obsessive-compulsive disorder, you wash your hands FREQUENTLY. Consistently washing your hands may just be washing your hands after every trip to bathroom, before meals, after meals, and after sneezing or coughing on your hands. But washing one’s hands FREQUENTLY could mean every 5 minutes. Some people pray FREQUENTLY. They don’t just pray at meals and before going to bed at night. Some people pray whenever they get a minute to get alone with God. Some people pray when in their car alone. Some people pray in the bathroom. Some people pray on their lunch breaks. Some people pray while talking their walk. These people pray FREQUENTLY.

Well, consistency and frequency are two important factors in the Christianity religion. If you don’t do Christian “rituals” consistently and frequently, then you will not be referred to as a religious person. People who only go to church on Christmas Day, Mother’s Day, and Easter will not be considered as people who attend church consistently or frequently. So if you remove CONSISTENCY and FREQUENCY from Christianity, what have you? Well, you’d have some pathetic Christians.

I work with toddlers at my job. They tell us to change our gloves after every diaper change/nose wipe. But how great would our hygiene be if we only changed our gloves after every second diaper change/nose wipe? Then after every fifth diaper change/nose wipe? Then after every third diaper change/nose wipe? Then after every tenth diaper change/nose wipe? We would putting one child’s feces on another child. We’d be putting the germs of one child’s mucus on another child. And what if that next child’s whose nose you wipe has a weakened immune system? And because of your INCONSISTENT handwashing this child catches a very serious disease? Change your gloves/wash your hands/use hand sanitizer after EVERY diaper change and nose wiping to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. I will be ineffective as a child care provider if I do not use consistency.

How great would your hygiene be if you brushed your teeth twice according to the following schedule: April 1, 5, 9, 13, 17, 21, 25, 29? Your breath would smell horrible and being near you would be unbearable! Notice the consistency though. It is every four days. That is consistent. But it’s not frequent enough! You will have inefficient dental hygiene if you do not use frequency.

So we can see in the natural that there are very practical ways in which consistency and frequency are beneficial to humans. But let’s apply this to our spiritual well-being. I can speak from personal experience. When I pray inconsistently and infrequently, things go awry in my life. But those days in which I pray first thing in the morning, talk to God on my way to work, and pray before bed, I have an AMAZING DAY and next day. I ASSURE YOU, when I do not pray as consistently and frequently, I have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. So because of this Praying “Ritual”, I know what works and what doesn’t work in my faith walk. I know that praying for five seconds before rushing out of the door to work DOES NOTHING FOR ME OR GOD. But I now know what works.

When it comes to fasting, I have my Fasting “Ritual”. I fast every first day of the month. I eat or drink nothing for the entire 24 hours. (I had to make an exception for April 1st because my church had communion today and because I had to take an important medicine, but other than those things, I ate or drank nothing else.) I have done this for January, February, March, and April. And take me at my word, I cannot describe the blessings I have received from being faithful to the commitment I’ve made to God for this year of 2012 of abstaining for the 1st of each month. I know from the Old Testament that my God likes receiving the first of things – first-born sons and first fruits of a harvest – so I decided to give Him more attention on the first day of each month (so of course that included the first day of the year) than I did every other day of the month. I couldn’t imagine the blessings He’s bestowed on me because of the first day of the month fasts.

And with regards to church attendance, I go to church every Sunday and most Tuesdays for bible study. I love going to church. And I’m not going to be religious and ritualistic. I’m going because every time I go to church, I get blessed. I’ve found that church always leads me to a spiritual blessing. So since I’ve learned to associate church with blessings, I just add one word before church and before blessings. Consistent church attendance = Consistent blessings. Now, I don’t always get blessed as I would like especially when I visit different churches on Sundays or Tuesdays, but I usually do. So religiously and ritualistically attending church can cause you to be frequently and consistently blessed. If God told you that every time you went to church that He had a blessing waiting for you there, how often would you go? Let me guess… You would probably go CONSISTENTLY and FREQUENTLY. You would attend church religiously. Observers would say that you attend church as if it were a ritual. But you wouldn’t care because unlike them, you are being consistently and frequently blessed.

Now if you are going to a dead church without the spirit of God working through the members and the pastor, then don’t expect to be consistently and frequently blessed. But if you are connected to the right “activity” and the right people consistently and frequently, then expect God to bless you “religiously”!

How would you feel if you had a husband or wife or child or best friend who you only heard from every 5 weeks? That relationship would suffer tremendously and bring a lot of resentment and hurt to you. What if you worked a job where your paychecks were not consistent? The boss paid you every ten days, after that every 3 days, after that every 40 days, after that every 2 days, after that every 180 days? You’d not stay at that job for long!

So as we see, in order for your relationships, health, and Christian walk to be EFFECTIVE and EFFICIENT, it must have consistency and frequency. Religion is characterized by consistency and frequency. If you already have relationship with God and the Holy Spirit, then religion can sometimes consistently help the relationship and frequently keep the door open for the Holy Spirit to continue moving in your life.