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.

Advertisements

Why God’s One Church Is Better Than Our 33,000 Christian Denominations

Have you ever stopped to think of the power of ONE? After having one of my enlightening convos with God where He seems to download insights into me about random subjects, I began to have an appreciation of the power, significance, and benefits of the number 1.

Because zero has no value, 1 is the first number of value. There is always something special about being the first. The bible talks of how being the first born is a coveted position for a child to be in. Number 1 is also the simplest number. When you think of monogamy, which basically means a one woman marriage, you can already know that compared to a polygamous marriage, it will be much simpler. Also think of a couple with an only child vs. a couple with sextuplets. Life is much simpler with singles.

One also signifies wholeness. One is a whole number. It has no division, no dissension. But think of a fraction. 1/2, 3/4, and 5/6 are fractured numbers; they are no longer whole. You know that 1/2 is missing a half, 3/4 is missing a quarter, and 5/6 is missing a sixth of its worth. But one is missing nothing.

Throughout the New Testament of the Holy Bible, we see that God desires ONENESS in the church.

1 Corinthians 1:10-13 – I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you AGREE, and that there be NO DIVISIONS among you, but that you BE UNITED in the SAME mind and the SAME judgment.

Philippians 1:27 – Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in ONE spirit, with ONE mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel

Ephesians 4:4 – There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call

Philippians 2:2 – …complete my joy by being of the SAME mind, having the SAME love, being in FULL ACCORD and of ONE mind.

Matthew 19:3-6 – The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

We can see from the above bible verses that God desires for Christians NOT to divide ourselves. And what is division but separating a whole thing? Think of divorce for example. The bible asays that what God puts/cleaves together (a husband and a wife in marriage), let no man put asunder. It says the TWO shall combine into being ONE flesh after marriage. It says that they are no more TWO SEPARATES, but are now ONE WHOLE UNIT. The word asunder means “torn apart” or “divided”. When a couple divorces, both parties will tell you that they feel fractured, they feel as if their lives have been torn apart. There were ONE, but are now not two wholes (until God restores them), but they are two HALVES of a previous whole.

God made the church WHOLE. He only made ONE, WHOLE church. He did not establish two whole separate churches. And He also did not create two church halves either. Just the one. But it is said that the CHRISTIAN religion has anywhere from 33,000 to 38,000 denominations!

A denomination means a group of people who have the same religious/biblical/spiritual beliefs. So that means that from the time the church was first established about 2,000 years ago to this date, the one church disagreed thousands upon thousands upon thousands upon thousands of times. Now of course, some of these disagreements were very minor. All of the Christian denominations ought to be believing in Jesus Christ as our only Lord and Savior and hopefully they all believe in the truths of the Holy Bible. But it is still disconcerting that we can all be reading the same ONE bible (even with its different versions and translations), and still come up with up with over 30,000+ interpretations of certain doctrine. One really is a simple number! Much simpler than 38,000!

Matthew 16:18 – And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Let me tell you what I think Satan hates about the number 1. As we know, Jesus created one church. He did not say in Matthew 16:18 that “upon this rock I will build my churchES; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against THEM.” He said CHURCH and IT. The lack of plurality denotes ONENESS. And as Jesus said, the gates of hell cannot prevail against His one church. But is does seem as if Satan is coming against the church quite heavily. He is making a fool of many church denominations it seems. He is causing us to lose our credibility it seems. Why is it so easy for him to do this?

Well, another important thing about ONE, is that it is very POWERFUL. There is power in an army of one. As we know, ones add up. Some people may disparage receiving 1 cent and 1 dollar because they are the smallest units of American currency. But when you combine a lot of pennies, you can have a dollar. And when you combine a lot of dollars, you can have a billion! But ONLY when they are UNIFIED. So when every Saint/believer/Christian comes together, we have so much more than we have separate or divided. Over 2 million of the world’s population identify with the Christian religion. But we are so divided. And not only are we divided, but we are also WEAKER. If a couple is married and both combined have a billion dollars, they are both billionaires. But if they divorce one another and split all the money down the middle, they become millionaires. A millionaire doesn’t have as much spending power as a billionaire does!

So when a large group of people with a lot of power begin to divide many times over, it results in a lot of weaker people. It seems as if the church has lost its effectiveness when it began dividing. If you split a one in half, it has HALF its former power. If you split a church in half, it will have half of its members which means it may have HALF of its gifts. One half of the church is robbing the other half of the church of its gifts, and vice versa. When the Baptists are competing with the Church of God in Christ, and the Reformers are debating with the Church of Christ, and when the Apostolics are arguing with the Methodists, we are robbing each other of the other’s “power”. We know that God has let THE church know what His will is for us to do on the earth. But no one denomination has ALL the answers. So if we unify in some manner, we can have access to all the answers God wants us to have for this time.

I am not pushing an ecumenical agenda where we pretend that every denomination is 100% right just so that we can combine with a clear conscience. But what I am trying to do is bring awareness of a very simple concept and dynamic of God’s which is the power of ONE. ONE has more power, effectiveness, resources, gifts, unity, etc. than 33,000. So many believers are so making enemies and competitors of other believers that they aren’t focusing their attention and efforts on those who need Christ. When separated we can’t do the work that we can do if we are one.

John 13:35 – By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

Now I am not naive to the fact that many churches create denominations because they are CONVINCED that another denomination has many false doctrines. And who wants to be under a denominational name that is known for poor bible interpretation and unbiblical practices? And so many denomination leaders branched off to identify their organization as THE organization with the TRUTH with 100% of God’s “backing”. But is that not arrogant? If you are the ONE TRUE church, you don’t need any name other than “church” because you are the one true church. If Christians would truly seek God’s will and only interpretation of the different bible questions we may have, He’ll only give ONE answer. So obviously, we’re not seeking Him as we should. Instead we assume our interpretation is the one, right one and that everyone else is deceived and lost until they adopt our beliefs.

We need to stop majoring in the minors. Let’s love one another and accept one another. The verse above tells us that the WHOLE WORLD can know that Jesus is real and that He has real disciples if we love one another. But when they turn on the tube and see that Christians act hatefully to one another, they laugh at and deride Christians everywhere. They can’t believe in Jesus because they have no witnesses (no disciples) to observe acting Christ-like. Two billion of the world’s population identify with Christianity, but there is little unity amongst us. No wonder the world is confused.

No one denomination has it ALL together. Every one is doing something unbiblical. But let’s be unified in love and our belief in the God of the Bible – YHWH has being the only one holy, true living God and Creator of all and in Jesus (Yahushua) in being the one mediator and Savior and Deliverer and Messiah of all those who believe and apply the gospel message! Let’s not major in the minors. Let’s be unified and gain back the power and effectiveness that the church had in the beginning.