Protestant seminaries


#1

Why do protestant seminaries exist? I was under the impression the doctrine of sola scriptura enabled anyone to just pick up a bible and start preaching. I may be wrong but it sounds to me that they have set up a type of teaching authority of their own to make sure people understand their doctrines.

I admit I know very little about what goes on in them but it seems to me that the idea of “training” pastors run contrary to sola scriptura. Any thoughts?


#2

Most Protestant Churches have a structure of some sort…some more than others. Seminarians, once graduated, are then hired by churches in a comprable denomination to preach.

The problem is there is no regulation on seminaries. Any Joe Schmo can start a seminary and they can teach whatever they want without any church sanction (the sola scriptura dilemma you mentioned), but if they aren’t teaching well then then probably won’t get hired anywhere.

There are good and bad ones, just like anything else created by man. A minister I knew mentioned that at the first seminary he went to, they preached how the Bible had errors and that you couldn’t trust a lot of Biblical truths we take for granted in the creeds.


#3

LOL Why stop at seminaries? Might as well throw out education of any kind - weren’t universities mostly Catholic at one time?

Seriously though, don’t you think education is important? Are you suggesting that Protestants are not important to God as well? Some in Protestant seminaries actually become Catholics, and some become atheists. The same thing happens in Catholic education for the ordained life.

Would you want Protestant ministers to be devoid of lessons in History, Counseling, Ethics, Old Testament, New Testament, Greek, Hebrew, Theology, Spirituality, Prayer, etc, etc, etc?
To suggest that Protestants cling only to Scripture is naive. Faith, for another of the “onlies”, is essential.


#4

[quote=DennisS]LOL Why stop at seminaries? Might as well throw out education of any kind - weren’t universities mostly Catholic at one time?

Seriously though, don’t you think education is important? Are you suggesting that Protestants are not important to God as well? Some in Protestant seminaries actually become Catholics, and some become atheists. The same thing happens in Catholic education for the ordained life.

Would you want Protestant ministers to be devoid of lessons in History, Counseling, Ethics, Old Testament, New Testament, Greek, Hebrew, Theology, Spirituality, Prayer, etc, etc, etc?
To suggest that Protestants cling only to Scripture is naive. Faith, for another of the “onlies”, is essential.
[/quote]

Yes I think education is very important but I think you misunderstand my question. I think it didn’t write it well.

Is the idea of a seminary contrary to sola scriptura? If all you need is the bible and the Holy Spirit to guide you then why bother going to a school? To me it seems that some denominations realize that a teaching authority of some sort is needed to ensure proper understanding of their doctrines. Again, pretty much what the Catholic Church has been saying all along.


#5

[quote=Zski01]The problem is there is no regulation on seminaries.
[/quote]

Whoa there, soon to be Tex. Ever heard of the ATS? It includes seminaries of many denominations, including Catholics.

Now, if you say there is little regulation in many denominations - Well, you’d still be wrong.

Non-denominational churches - that’s a different matter. Many non-denominational churches would go along with the original post on this thread, by asking, who needs seminaries anyway.


#6

Sola scriptura means that the Bible is the final authority, the only infallible rule for faith and practice. It doesn’t mean that God wants each person to come up with his own interpretation while isolated from any other influence but the Holy Spirit.

The “priesthood of the believer” is a doctrine that would more easily be twisted into the idea you expressed. It can lead to autonomy for someone with a personality inclined in that direction.

Most Evangelical Protestant interpretation is called grammatico-historical, which means that you use good sense and good scholarship when discerning the meaning of a text, rather than using a mystical “Jesus told me” approach. The primary goal is to uncover the author’s intent.

Seminaries are staffed, hopefully, with teachers who can model and inculcate good sense and good scholarship.


#7

“Is the idea of a seminary contrary to sola scriptura?”

Let’s see…
Didn’t Jesus prepare the disciples before sending them out?
Didn’t the Jews have Rabbi’s to teach them?

Would an uneducated person always know truth, or might they be swayed by fine sounding arguments. Education is a must for ministry - to suggest otherwise is foolish.


#8

Yes, the ATS (Association of Theological Schools) is an arbitrary accreditation service which looks at seminaries for their educational standards based upon their own theology. So yes, it accredits any seminary which wants to be accredited based upon its adherence in educational standards to its own theology. It accredits Jewish, 7th Day Adventist, and Unitarian Churches…along with actual Christian churches. It bases its judgements not on theological content, but upon secular educational standards.

And no, there is no universal authority over Protestant seminaries. The ATS may cover “many”, but it only covers the ones that request accreditation, and it certainly does not monitor the doctrine spit out of the seminaries.

Catholic Seminaries are evaluated for their educational standards by the ATS if they so desire, but our Church regulates the theological content which is taught (the most important aspect).


#9

[quote=DuMaurier] I was under the impression the doctrine of sola scriptura enabled anyone to just pick up a bible and start preaching. I may be wrong but it sounds to me that they have set up a type of teaching authority of their own to make sure people understand their doctrines.
[/quote]

Your impression about sola scriptura is wrong. I have only seen a few fringe groups that teach an idea like this.

ken


#10

[quote=DuMaurier]Why do protestant seminaries exist? I was under the impression the doctrine of sola scriptura enabled anyone to just pick up a bible and start preaching. I may be wrong but it sounds to me that they have set up a type of teaching authority of their own to make sure people understand their doctrines.
[/quote]

You completely misunderstand sola scriptura. Remember this next time you get upset at a protestant that claims that you follow a practice of works salvation. Don’t mock what you do not understand.


#11

Seminaries teach the biblical languages, biblical history and assorted theology courses. In addition, practical courses on homeltics, church finance and administration/leadership courses are taught.

Many operate under directorships established by their respective denominations.


#12

[quote=Shibboleth]You completely misunderstand sola scriptura. Remember this next time you get upset at a protestant that claims that you follow a practice of works salvation. Don’t mock what you do not understand.
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Myself, I didn’t detect mocking. I think that it’s okay for DuMaurier to state the doctrine as he understands it until others cast more light on it; and I welcome any Catholic to refer to what he thinks is a Protestant belief without worrying too much about striking a meek and conciliatory tone.

In my opinion, this generation is far too touchy.


#13

I wasn’t mocking anything. I just noticed many little congrations popping up in my neighbourhood, usually in run down store fronts. They ministers, if you could call them that, are just regular people who picked up the bible and started to preach what they think the various passages mean.

Then I wondered about the protestant seminaries out there, which theses ministers obviously did not attend, and wondered why they exist. Obviously to maintain an interpretation which conform to the doctrines of the particular denomination.


#14

my guess is because there are differing points of view… :thumbsup:


#15

[quote=Zski01]And no, there is no universal authority over Protestant seminaries. The ATS may cover “many”, but it only covers the ones that request accreditation, and it certainly does not monitor the doctrine spit out of the seminaries.

Catholic Seminaries are evaluated for their educational standards by the ATS if they so desire, but our Church regulates the theological content which is taught (the most important aspect).
[/quote]

Not all communions adhere to sola scriptura. Methodists see scripture as the primary source, but it is also informed by tradition, reason, and experience.

United Methodist seminaries are approved by the U.M. Academic Senate. Church law/polity, United Methodist History, worship/liturgics, Historical Theology, Methodist Doctrine are all required and accredited by the Senate. There are other seminaries that are accredited by the Senate, but the above courses must be taken at another school, or taught at the school one attends.

It’s not a “free for all.”

A Master of Divinity degree usually runs 90 semester hours, which includes biblical studies, homiletics, historical theology, systematic theology, church history, patristics, and pastoral care/counseling.

O+


#16

[quote=DuMaurier]Why do protestant seminaries exist? I was under the impression the doctrine of sola scriptura enabled anyone to just pick up a bible and start preaching. I may be wrong but it sounds to me that they have set up a type of teaching authority of their own to make sure people understand their doctrines.

I admit I know very little about what goes on in them but it seems to me that the idea of “training” pastors run contrary to sola scriptura. Any thoughts?
[/quote]

You are wrong. Sola Scriptura historically means that Scripture is the only infallible authority, from which all doctrine must be proved. Protestants historically believe that the essential truths are accessible to ordinary people, but the help of learning and scholarship is very important in order to understand Scripture correctly and fully. The idea that anyone can just go out and start a new church with a Bible in hand did crop up in the early days of the Reformation, but mainstream Protestantism quickly rejected it. In modern Protestantism, it owes a lot more to the revolutions of the late 18th century than to the Reformation. I recommend Nathan Hatch’s The Democratization of American Protestantism. Much that Americans think of as Protestantism is not historic Protestantism at all, but rather stems from the Revolution and the egalitarianism of that era.

There are Protestant groups that deny the need for seminaries, and others (notably Baptists) that ordain their pastors before sending them off to seminary, to make it clear that seminary training is helpful rather than essential. I actually think they have a point. Seminaries are a post-Reformation development. They are very useful, but unfortunately their existence has given rise to the idea (among both Catholics and mainline Protestants, though it’s far more dominant and deadly among the latter) that seminary training is what makes clergy special. For many Protestants that is essentially true–since they reject the idea of a priesthood, clergy function as rabbis–learned scholars who interpret Scripture and guide the faithful. In fact, mainline/“classical” Protestantism (as opposed to Anabaptists, Baptists, Pentecostals, etc.) is historically a highly academic religion. The Reformation began with a curriculum reform in the University of Wittenberg, and it was led by university professors from the beginning. Because of the populist rhetoric, this is often forgotten. But historically academics are central to Protestantism. (This is one of our greatest weaknesses, I believe.)

In Christ,

Edwin


#17

[font=Verdana] But the problem stems from the fact that those that adhere to “Sola Scriptura” and look to the bible for their “only infallible authority” can come up with different interpretations; each claiming they are correct. Some Protestants say that “infant baptism” is not allowed because they looked to the bible and used it as their “only infallible authority” . Others, claim that infant baptism IS allowed because they looked to the bible and used it as their “only infallible authority”. [/font]

[font=&quot][font=Verdana]When people use the word “historically” what writings are they using to make that assertion? Writings from the bible or from some other source? If using the bible only, where is that chapter or verse that states it. If using some other writing other than the Bible, isn’t that defeating the claim on “sola Scriptura”?

[/font][/font] The idea that anyone can just go out and start a new church with a Bible in hand did crop up in the early days of the Reformation, but mainstream Protestantism quickly rejected it.[font=&quot]

[/font][font=&quot][font=Verdana]Uh, look around, that is still happening nowadays. Churches around the corner a popping up and they are all claiming “sola scriptura”. Besides, what Protestant Church had the authority to reject it. None of them had any authority to reject anything. How could they make that claim? That’s why it’s still happening.
[/font][font=Verdana]I personally know some people who went to some bible college, got some sort of diploma and now they are “the true church” and use “sola scriptura” to assert that Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, etc., etc., are all wrong. [/font][/font]


#18

[quote=TobyLue] But the problem stems from the fact that those that adhere to “Sola Scriptura” and look to the bible for their “only infallible authority” can come up with different interpretations; each claiming they are correct.
[/quote]

We know, we know. Protestants have disagreements, Catholics all agree. Right?

When people use the word “historically” what writings are they using to make that assertion? Writings from the bible or from some other source? If using the bible only, where is that chapter or verse that states it. If using some other writing other than the Bible, isn’t that defeating the claim on “sola Scriptura”?

The claim was that sola scriptura has been used in history to denote a concept different from the way it is commonly caricatured.

Uh, look around, that is still happening nowadays. Churches around the corner a popping up and they are all claiming “sola scriptura.”

It’s a free country. If somebody wants to hold a conclave and declare himself Pope, he’s free to do so. It says nothing about the Catholic Church’s claim of authority. Note also that most pop-up churches may accept the doctrine of sola scriptura, but their popping-up stems not from some new interpretation, but just a desire to believe that same old things in a new congregation.

I personally know some people who went to some bible college, got some sort of diploma and now they are “the true church” and use “sola scriptura” to assert that Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, etc., etc., are all wrong.

Well, they ARE all wrong. At least, they’re wrong somewhere about something. Nobody’s doctrines are perfect; except, perhaps yours. Or mine.

Or maybe the people you refer to are just boneheaded clods. We probably have two or three of those in the Memphis area, too. Although I don’t think we have anyone claiming to be Pope this week. Or anyone claiming a Marian apparition on a scorched tortilla.

No doctrine is safe from abuse unless you kill those who err. And even that doesn’t usually work. Historically, I mean.


#19

[quote=TobyLue][font=Verdana] But the problem stems from the fact that those that adhere to “Sola Scriptura” and look to the bible for their “only infallible authority” can come up with different interpretations; each claiming they are correct. [/font]

[/quote]

This is a truly strange argument. I’m using the word “historically” to speak of what Protestants have historically believed. I wasn’t making a doctrinal claim at all, but simply telling you what Protestants believe. So why the issue of sola scriptura is even relevant I don’t know. Even the craziest fundamentalist doesn’t think that Scripture alone will tell him what Lutherans believed in 1550!

However, your objection also makes no sense because sola scriptura does not generally mean that no books except the Bible are used. You can find fundamentalists who come close to this, but in practice even they use other sources. And most Protestants are very up-front about it. You’re creating a ridiculous straw man.
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[quote=TobyLue][font=&quot][font=Verdana]Uh, look around, that is still happening nowadays. Churches around the corner a popping up and they are all claiming “sola scriptura”.[/font][/font]
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That’s exactly what I said. This radical version of sola scriptura is important nowadays especially in the U.S. It is not what the major Protestant groups have historically taught.[font=&quot] [font=Verdana]

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[quote=TobyLue][font=&quot][font=Verdana]Besides, what Protestant Church had the authority to reject it.[/font][/font]
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We don’t think you have to have some kind of diploma in order to say something true. To reject an idea means to say that it is false. You don’t have to have “authority” to do that. You just have to be right.

And of course Protestant denominations do have authority over their own members. You may think that Protestants don’t have divine authority for the things they believe. But that doesn’t stop them believing those things. The fact is that the major historic groups of Protestants don’t believe the kind of sola scriptura you’re attacking–this view hangs on the radical fringes of Protestantism and has become prominent largely in modern times in the U.S., and to a lesser degree in Britain.

[quote=TobyLue][font=&quot][font=Verdana]None of them had any authority to reject anything. How could they make that claim? That’s why it’s still happening.[/font][/font]
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No, it’s still happening for the same reason that people are still leaving the Catholic Church–because in the absence of government coercion, people with free wills are sometimes going to dissent from what the church of their baptism taught them. The “authority” that prevents dissent is not a theological authority but the authority to imprison or kill people. The Church is shakily, tentatively, timidly learning to live without this authority. It’s taken us centuries even to begin to do that. Many Protestant groups are ahead of Catholics on this score but only by plunging into radical individualism. Learning how to be the Church–how to make decisions together within the bonds of charity, without government coercion or arrogant schism–that is perhaps the hardest thing we are called to do as Christians. But since Jesus shed his blood to establish the Church, it’s worth doing.

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[quote=TobyLue][font=&quot][font=Verdana]I personally know some people who went to some bible college, got some sort of diploma and now they are “the true church” and use “sola scriptura” to assert that Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, etc., etc., are all wrong.[/font][/font]
[/quote]

Thank you–you’ve made my point for me. These people are not teaching the same doctrine as historic Protestantism. So why blame Protestantism as a whole for people who reject Methodist and Baptist versions of Christianity just as they reject Catholicism? This makes no sense. Your own experience should have taught you that these people are different from other Protestants and are not representative of Protestantism. They are part of the vast chaotic picture that is Protestantism. But only part.

Edwin
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