Jump to content
ShavedIce

Good place to get a theological education

Recommended Posts

I'm an evangelical Christian and I'm going to be the college pastor at my church. I would like to get a graduate theological education so that I can minister to college pastor. I do not intend to earn a doctorate. Which school and academic program would you recommend? Would it be better to earn a degree in Biblical Studies, Theology, or Christian Studies as some schools call it?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It would help to know a little more info:

 

Where are you located? Will you be attending part time or full time? Do you feel like you lean more conservative (maybe better put, does your church require that you lean more conservative) or are you looking to be challenged and confronted with points of view that may be new to you?

 

There are a lot of options, but it will helpful to first know some of these things.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just make sure it is accredited. Some "schools" offering courses with names like this are not licensed to confer dergees, and I think that is doubly true if you are looking at distance education. You can check with the state government, most have a website listing all accredited institutions of higher learning. Also, even if it is accredited, many for-profit universities have abysmal gradaution rates and are exorbidantly expensive, which is why they are the subject of a Senate investigation as potential scam outfits (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/30/education/harkin-report-condemns-for-profit-colleges.html?_r=0).

 

The folks on this thread may be able to give you specific recommendations if you post a little about your mobility (have to be local, can move to a school) and educational adn work background.

Edited by Usmivka

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It would help to know a little more info:

 

Where are you located? Will you be attending part time or full time? Do you feel like you lean more conservative (maybe better put, does your church require that you lean more conservative) or are you looking to be challenged and confronted with points of view that may be new to you?

 

There are a lot of options, but it will helpful to first know some of these things.

 

I'm in northern California, but I'm willing to go anywhere in the U.S. I would like to attend school full time and my church wants me to attend a conservative school. I'm looking for something that is academically rigorous.

 

I wouldn't mind the challenge of confronting different points of view. Is it possible to get challenged that way at a conservative school? 

 

By the way, I have an undergraduate degree in computer science. I haven't had a formal education in the Bible or theology. I teach Sunday School to adults at my church and I have spent considerable time mentoring new Christians in the faith. The leadership of my church has observed this volunteer work at the church and they asked me to consider being a college pastor.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just make sure it is accredited. Plenty of "schools" offering these types of courses are not licensed to confer dergees, and I think that is doubly true if you are looking at distance education. You can check with the state government, most have a website listing all accredited institutions of higher learning. Also, even if it is accredited, many for-profit universities have abysmal gradaution rates and are exorbidantly expensive, which is why they are the subject of a Senate investigation as potential scam outfits (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/30/education/harkin-report-condemns-for-profit-colleges.html?_r=0).

 

The above poster is correct that we need more details: do you need to stay local, are there places you might considering moving to for a couple years, and what is your academic background?

 

 

I would only go to an accredited school and I don't want to earn a degree through distance learning.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Conservative school & academically rigorous? This will be a serious challenge.

 

As you note in your question: "I wouldn't mind the challenge of confronting different points of view. Is it possible to get challenged that way at a conservative school?"

 

I think that you're asking that is wonderful - and you should use that thought to seek out a complex education that isn't 'conservative' or anything else - but instead is driven by that curiosity.

 

If you get an academically rigorous education, you'll likely end up coming out the other side with many ideas that don't fit the church's notion of 'conservative.' That's not a bad thing though.

 

Why not apply to the top programs - write about your evangelical background, explain that you want to learn it all so that you can see the full picture and then decide what makes sense to you?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The MDiv (master of divinity) is the typical degree for ordination at the more mainline seminaries and divinity schools. Whether or not it's right for you will depend on what your denomination requires for ministry formation.

Are you planning on being ordained? Or serving in lay ministries?

Is the position you are working towards common in your denomination? If so, what sorts of education and credentials do other college pastors in you tradition have? (If you don't know, an internet search of church websites might help you with this)

If you are planning on being ordained, what is the process in your denomination? What boards and committees do you have to work with as you move towards ordination? What are the educational requirements for clergy in your tradition? And what schools do they frequently attend?

If you want to go somewhere outside your denomination, how well will that be received by your home church? By other members of your denomination? While stretching yourself is an admirable personal goal, it doesn't always go over as well with denominational hiring committees and the like. Not saying you shouldn't do it, but if you do, do it knowing what the consequences may be,

And finally, when you say conservative, how conservative are we talking? Have they suggested any places to you at all, or is it up to you to find your own school?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm in northern California, but I'm willing to go anywhere in the U.S. I would like to attend school full time and my church wants me to attend a conservative school. I'm looking for something that is academically rigorous.

 

I wouldn't mind the challenge of confronting different points of view. Is it possible to get challenged that way at a conservative school? 

 

By the way, I have an undergraduate degree in computer science. I haven't had a formal education in the Bible or theology. I teach Sunday School to adults at my church and I have spent considerable time mentoring new Christians in the faith. The leadership of my church has observed this volunteer work at the church and they asked me to consider being a college pastor.

 

Canis' suggestion is good, especially since those programs are funded, but given the requirements of your church, they're probably not going to be happy with any of those options. If you're at an evangelical church, you should seek advice from evangelicals (all due respect to you, Canis!) Not to knock the other folks on the forum here--they're great and have great advice. But the evangelical environment is somewhat unique and complex. Unless someone has experience in that environment, it's going to be tough for them to fully understand your situation. (And I say that with the utmost respect for everyone here.)

 

You definitely can get an academically rigorous education at more conservative evangelical seminaries. I'm a Fuller Theological Seminary grad myself, and I think that's probably the most versatile place you could go for what you're looking for. It's not going to be as rigorous as a top 10, but graduates do go on to good Ph.D programs, which means they must be doing something right!

 

Fuller has a Nor Cal campus, so you actually wouldn't have to move if you didn't want to, although you have to do a certain number of courses at the main campus in Pasadena--I think three quarters (that info is on the website.) I'm not sure I quite understand your situation though: You're beginning a job at your church as the college pastor, but you can move anywhere in the US? So they're willing to wait for you to finish? A Master of Divinity degree is 3-4 years of work.

 

I'll assume the timeline isn't a problem. Fuller is usually considered middle-of-the-road among evangelicals, but definitely conservative in the larger spectrum of places you can go for a theological education (i.e. seminaries, divinity schools, etc.) So I guess it depends on how conservative your church is, but Fuller is usually a safe place for the majority of evangelicals.

 

That said, it's really important to bear this in mind as you consider seminary: A seminary education is meant to tear down the presuppositions you've grown up with in the church, not to confirm what you already believe, even at a place like Fuller that is considered more conservative in the larger scheme. It does this so that you can very carefully and critically examine your faith and the pieces that make it up and be able to reassemble it in a way that is going to be fruitful for ministry. You need this process to be able to minister effectively. That's really crucial to understand. Only extremely conservative institutions (that usually aren't accredited) make it their business to affirm the [usually extreme] conservative status quo. So yes, Fuller can absolutely be challenging if you want it to be, and you should want it to be. There are professors, even at the Nor Cal campus (Daniel Kirk, for instance) who are doing great work that challenges more conventional evangelical presuppositions.

 

Your background won't be an issue. I had some training in philosophy and critical theory prior to entering seminary, but no formal theological or biblical training. I actually think it's better that way. I knew lots of folks who were former engineers or bio majors, etc. and I really appreciated their perspective in class. Seminaries do not assume any academic background in either theology or biblical studies.

 

It's great that your church has seen some potential for ministry in you. Continue having conversations about seminary and a future in ministry with any mentors you have. If you were to decide on Fuller, it might be a good idea to test the waters by beginning with an online class or a class at the Nor Cal campus before you pick up and move to Pasadena. Lots of people do that. That way you can see if seminary is something you really want to pursue.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I believe your preparation as a pastor should be at an institution that is of like faith as your own. Yes, you need to evaluate your faith fully. However, you do not need to be taught by people that are not even Christians. That sort of tearing down your faith is silly. If you are a conservative evangelical, I assume you believe the Bible is the word of God and salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone and that God is as described in the Bible: Father, Son and Holy Spirit - three persons - one God. I suggest you find a school that requires their professors to believe that. Now, I do not believe that a PhD student have the same criteria - the difference is that the PhD isn't pastoral preparation, and I would hope a seminary professor has a good grounding in their faith (likely from a conservative seminary) before going to the PhD program.

 

I would recommend to you Westminster Theological Seminary or Westminster Seminary California. Both are conservative and very academically rigorous. They are most respected among reformed circles - primarily Baptists and Presbyterians, however, you will find the degree to be widely accepted. Some alum you might know include Joel Beeke, Alistair Begg, R. Scott Clark, John Frame, Timothy Keller, Wayne Grudem, Vern Poythress, and Francis Schaeffer. You will notice the faculty is well trained. For example,  Sinclair Ferguson got his PhD from University of Aberdeen, John Frame went to Yale, etc.

 

The notion that you need to rule out SBC schools is nonsense too. SBTS is the best of them and is well respected among conservative evangelicals, academically rigorous, and conservative.

 

You might also consider Phoenix Seminary which gained notoriety because of Wayne Grudem being there. Master's Seminary and Reformed Theological Seminary are both possibilities as well.

 

You stated that you want to serve as a pastor, the M.Div program is designed for this. Many schools allow you to pick a sub-field to specialize. Pick the one that interests you, no church will ever care which one you pick (if any). Biblical Studies of course makes good sense if you are teaching from the Bible...

 

Fuller used to be conservative, but is not considered as such any more by most evangelicals.

 

FYI: My undergrad is in computer science and my first career was in IT before I became a pastor and got my M.Div.

 

Knowing your denomination would  be helpful. Feel free to contact me in private.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I believe your preparation as a pastor should be at an institution that is of like faith as your own. Yes, you need to evaluate your faith fully. However, you do not need to be taught by people that are not even Christians. That sort of tearing down your faith is silly. If you are a conservative evangelical, I assume you believe the Bible is the word of God and salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone and that God is as described in the Bible: Father, Son and Holy Spirit - three persons - one God. I suggest you find a school that requires their professors to believe that. Now, I do not believe that a PhD student have the same criteria - the difference is that the PhD isn't pastoral preparation, and I would hope a seminary professor has a good grounding in their faith (likely from a conservative seminary) before going to the PhD program.

 

Are you suggesting Fuller faculty don't believe in God or aren't Christians? Fuller faculty affirm everything you've listed here.  

 

Fuller used to be conservative, but is not considered as such any more by most evangelicals.

 

I'm curious what you're meaning here by "most evangelicals." I mean, if one thinks that Master's Seminary represents moderately conservative evangelicalism, then sure, Fuller might as well be HDS. But I don't think it's the case that most evangelicals are that conservative. You'd be hard pressed to find more conservative options than the ones listed.

 

In the end, it is up to the OP to decide what is going to best suit his/her needs and the requirements of the church and/or denomination. I just don't agree that Fuller isn't still seen as a conservative institution even among evangelicals.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll just throw out again that ShavedIce wrote:

 

"I would like to attend school full time and my church wants me to attend a conservative school.
 
I'm looking for something that is academically rigorous.
I wouldn't mind the challenge of confronting different points of view."
 
This last sentence should be ShavedIce's mantra - and ShavedIce should say this over and over again every day. It's the most christian thing said here so far. If Jesus hadn't thought that way, and considered the difference between what his 'church' wanted for him and what He wanted - well all the evangelicals would still be going to synagogue.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll just throw out again that ShavedIce wrote:

 

"I would like to attend school full time and my church wants me to attend a conservative school.

 

I'm looking for something that is academically rigorous.

I wouldn't mind the challenge of confronting different points of view."

 

This last sentence should be ShavedIce's mantra - and ShavedIce should say this over and over again every day. It's the most christian thing said here so far. If Jesus hadn't thought that way, and considered the difference between what his 'church' wanted for him and what He wanted - well all the evangelicals would still be going to synagogue.

Shavedice also says that the purpose of this degree is to do the work of a college pastor, as understood by their denomination. It's for a specific ministry/job/calling and they are starting this process specifically to take on this position. Therefore, working within denominational guidelines and constraints is tremendously important. Ministry requires discipline, and sometimes that means submitting to education and training choices that might not be exactly what you would choose if it was just up to you.

Shavedice, if you want to work as a college pastor in your denomination, your education needs to be acceptable to those who will employ you.

It is possible to find places that are both relatively conservative and somewhat rigorous. Start with your donomination's preferences and requirements and go from there.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree that one needs to be open to "confronting different points of view," but that can certainly still be done from within an evangelical institution. Evangelicalism is by no means monolithic, contrary to its popular caricatures. The difference is that HDS, e.g., will challenge you with viewpoints that you may not even recognize as "Christian," a more evangelical institution will challenge you with diverse viewpoints formed within the same fundamental framework (e.g., different views on interpreting a specific passage of scripture rather than whether or not scripture is the verbally inspired word of God).

As for schools, I'd second the recommendation to Fuller. MarXian is right that except for the *most* conservative evangelicals, it's still considered a conservative school by most. I'd also second the Westminster nod if you want to train in a more explicitly reformed environment. Phoenix does have Grudem, which is great. If you were already in Phoenix, I'd definitely keep it in mind, but I'm not sure I'd move to go there. Other places you might consider include Regent in Vancouver and Trinity in Deerfield. Trinity has Kevin Vanhoozer, who is doing, in my opinion, some of the more interesting work in theology from an evangelical perspective. Although, he is "research professor" now so I don't know how accessible he is to students. Same with Don Carson, another evangelical heavyweight at Trinity. If you're open to moving a little farther, you may also want to consider Gordon-Conwell. It's firmly in the evangelical tradition (founded by Billy Graham et al) and well respected academically. It also has the advantage of giving you access to classes at the other Boston-area Div Schools (HDS, BU, BC, etc.) through the BTI.

I was in a similar place as you two years ago, so if you have any other questions, feel free to ask/PM.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My two cents: also look at Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) and Duke Divinity.

 

PTS has a pretty strong academic reputation (among conservatives) and, as a bonus, has a decent amount of scholarship money to give (if I remember correctly). Take a look at the people there, though, because its brand of conservativism might be different than what you or your church is looking for.

 

Duke might be considered too liberal by people at your church (which is fine), but it's generally regarded as very conservative compared to the other big divinity schools. There are plenty of left-leaning people there, but some of there people are pretty well liked by conservatives (e.g., Richard Hays, Duke Div's dean, is a favorite of Christianity Today). There are conservatives there. If you're really looking for something that would push you, yet still might be acceptable to your church, I'd recommend Duke Div (and they have decent money for M.Divs). Then again, if you're somebody who would think that Fuller is liberal, Duke isn't an option (nor PTS or any other respectable school).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Liberalism is a vague term that, in this context, serves to mystify and confuse rather than explain. It needs to be given determinate content and distinguished from related concepts. Whatever one might mean by liberalism, liberalism in theology and doctrine needs to be distinguished from liberalism in politics. Some schools might be theologically conservative but politically liberal. Moreover, we need to get a hold of what liberalism of the theological variety means in this discussion and what its implications are. For instance, can one be theologically liberal but still fall within orthodox (little "o") Christianity broadly construed? Historically, I take it that theological liberalism meant that one assumed the truths propounded by science, the historical-critical study of the bible, and Kant's philosophy (in particular the Critique of Pure Reason) while trying to defend an orthodox Christian theology. In other words, liberal theology was an attempt to salvage Christian orthodoxy in light of modern advances in science, history, and philosophy. Of course, not everyone agreed about the verities of science, history, and philosophy nor how to proceed in light of them, so you had divisions between the modernists and fundamentalists. If this intellectual history is right, we need a reason justifying why a school like Fuller ought to be labeled theologically, as opposed to politically, liberal. I'm not taking a stance on whether it is or it isn't; I'm just saying concrete facts, details, and examples would help a lot more in figuring out where various schools stand on the theological spectrum than tossing around "isms." Also, to better help ShavedIce, we need to know something about his church's theological commitments and denomination.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The MDiv (master of divinity) is the typical degree for ordination at the more mainline seminaries and divinity schools. Whether or not it's right for you will depend on what your denomination requires for ministry formation.

Are you planning on being ordained? Or serving in lay ministries?

Is the position you are working towards common in your denomination? If so, what sorts of education and credentials do other college pastors in you tradition have? (If you don't know, an internet search of church websites might help you with this)

If you are planning on being ordained, what is the process in your denomination? What boards and committees do you have to work with as you move towards ordination? What are the educational requirements for clergy in your tradition? And what schools do they frequently attend?

If you want to go somewhere outside your denomination, how well will that be received by your home church? By other members of your denomination? While stretching yourself is an admirable personal goal, it doesn't always go over as well with denominational hiring committees and the like. Not saying you shouldn't do it, but if you do, do it knowing what the consequences may be,

And finally, when you say conservative, how conservative are we talking? Have they suggested any places to you at all, or is it up to you to find your own school?

 

 

I'm not going to be ordained.

 

I attend an evangelical, non-denominational church and my church suggested to get a graduate theological education. The leadership said that schools such as TEDS, Talbot, Gordon-Conwell, Wheaton, Reformed Theological Seminary, Westminster Theological Seminary, and Westminster California would be good places to go. 

 

How conservative? Schools that would teach the following:

 

The Bible is the inerrant, infallible word of God.

The Trinity

Incarnation 

Virgin birth of Christ

Bodily resurrection of Jesus

Justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone

 

 

Many evangelical, non-denominational churches require that a college pastor have at least a bachelor's degree with a theology major. 

Edited by ShavedIce

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Canis' suggestion is good, especially since those programs are funded, but given the requirements of your church, they're probably not going to be happy with any of those options. If you're at an evangelical church, you should seek advice from evangelicals (all due respect to you, Canis!) Not to knock the other folks on the forum here--they're great and have great advice. But the evangelical environment is somewhat unique and complex. Unless someone has experience in that environment, it's going to be tough for them to fully understand your situation. (And I say that with the utmost respect for everyone here.)

 

You definitely can get an academically rigorous education at more conservative evangelical seminaries. I'm a Fuller Theological Seminary grad myself, and I think that's probably the most versatile place you could go for what you're looking for. It's not going to be as rigorous as a top 10, but graduates do go on to good Ph.D programs, which means they must be doing something right!

 

Fuller has a Nor Cal campus, so you actually wouldn't have to move if you didn't want to, although you have to do a certain number of courses at the main campus in Pasadena--I think three quarters (that info is on the website.) I'm not sure I quite understand your situation though: You're beginning a job at your church as the college pastor, but you can move anywhere in the US? So they're willing to wait for you to finish? A Master of Divinity degree is 3-4 years of work.

 

I'll assume the timeline isn't a problem. Fuller is usually considered middle-of-the-road among evangelicals, but definitely conservative in the larger spectrum of places you can go for a theological education (i.e. seminaries, divinity schools, etc.) So I guess it depends on how conservative your church is, but Fuller is usually a safe place for the majority of evangelicals.

 

That said, it's really important to bear this in mind as you consider seminary: A seminary education is meant to tear down the presuppositions you've grown up with in the church, not to confirm what you already believe, even at a place like Fuller that is considered more conservative in the larger scheme. It does this so that you can very carefully and critically examine your faith and the pieces that make it up and be able to reassemble it in a way that is going to be fruitful for ministry. You need this process to be able to minister effectively. That's really crucial to understand. Only extremely conservative institutions (that usually aren't accredited) make it their business to affirm the [usually extreme] conservative status quo. So yes, Fuller can absolutely be challenging if you want it to be, and you should want it to be. There are professors, even at the Nor Cal campus (Daniel Kirk, for instance) who are doing great work that challenges more conventional evangelical presuppositions.

 

Your background won't be an issue. I had some training in philosophy and critical theory prior to entering seminary, but no formal theological or biblical training. I actually think it's better that way. I knew lots of folks who were former engineers or bio majors, etc. and I really appreciated their perspective in class. Seminaries do not assume any academic background in either theology or biblical studies.

 

It's great that your church has seen some potential for ministry in you. Continue having conversations about seminary and a future in ministry with any mentors you have. If you were to decide on Fuller, it might be a good idea to test the waters by beginning with an online class or a class at the Nor Cal campus before you pick up and move to Pasadena. Lots of people do that. That way you can see if seminary is something you really want to pursue.

 

 

Thank you for the feedback. I'll take a look at Fuller.

 

My church said that I can be the college pastor. I'll start working as the college pastor when I'm done with school.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not going to be ordained.

 

I attend an evangelical, non-denominational church and my church suggested to get a graduate theological education. The leadership said that schools such as TEDS, Talbot, Gordon-Conwell, Wheaton, Reformed Theological Seminary, Westminster Theological Seminary, and Westminster California would be good places to go. 

 

How conservative? Schools that would teach the following:

 

The Bible is the inerrant, infallible word of God.

The Trinity

Incarnation 

Virgin birth of Christ

Bodily resurrection of Jesus

Justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone

 

 

Many evangelical, non-denominational churches require that a college pastor have at least a bachelor's degree with a theology major. 

 

I can't think of an evangelical seminary that doesn't affirm points 2-5 on your list. In the first point, however, you have two different ways of looking at the Bible--inerrant and infallible--and the distinction tends to be the difference between more conservative schools and schools that are maybe a little more "progressive" within the evangelical world. But know that in the grand scheme of theological/biblical education, both terms are usually considered conservative.

 

Some of the schools on the list affirm inerrancy (TEDS, Wheaton, Talbot, RTS.) Both Westminster schools affirm infallibility. FWIW, Fuller affirms infallibility. Gordon-Conwell very confusingly says that scripture is both "free from error" and "the only infallible guide for faith and practice." It sounds like your church would be okay with either though, given their suggestions. Even if you went to a place like Duke Divinity, you would encounter profs who affirm the things on that list, or at least would have no problem with you affirming them.

Edited by marXian

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I guess the other thing to consider is that the school you choose will also be a factor for later jobs. You might stick with the church you're at forever, which is fine, but if, after a few years, something happens to you or to the church you're at (good or bad), you might want to do something else. Some jobs/people will love you if you go to Wheaton, for example, and others won't take you seriously. Same thing, of course, can be said about any theological education.

 

And, again, unless someone else is paying for this (or you are independently wealthy), I'd really encourage you to look at the financial aid packages these different schools offer. I think you could probably get out of some of them debt-free, or nearly debt-free, while others, although perhaps great schools, will sink you tens of thousands of dollars into debt.

 

For both of those reasons, that's while I'll again, push Duke or PTS. I think both have great financial aid for MDivs, and while Duke might be considered too liberal for some, conservatives will generally love you if you make it out of a prestigious school like that and are still conservative. In other words, if you keep your conservative bona fides, an education from Duke (or, to a lesser extent, PTS) will open a lot of doors.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not going to be ordained.

 

I attend an evangelical, non-denominational church and my church suggested to get a graduate theological education. The leadership said that schools such as TEDS, Talbot, Gordon-Conwell, Wheaton, Reformed Theological Seminary, Westminster Theological Seminary, and Westminster California would be good places to go. 

 

How conservative? Schools that would teach the following:

 

The Bible is the inerrant, infallible word of God.

The Trinity

Incarnation 

Virgin birth of Christ

Bodily resurrection of Jesus

Justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone

 

 

Many evangelical, non-denominational churches require that a college pastor have at least a bachelor's degree with a theology major. 

 

From these criteria, I think that the schools you mentioned all sound like they could work well.  If you are committed to working in a non-denominational church, then it would probably be prudent not to attend one of the Southern Baptist seminaries.  You may also want to avoid the two Westminster schools, since the education you receive there would undoubtedly be couched in the particular doctrinal disputes and theological grammar of confessional American Presbyterianism and may sound rather foreign to your own non-denominational context.  My advice would be to consider the more broadly evangelical schools you listed, especially TEDS, Gordon-Conwell, and Fuller.  To that list, you may also want to add Regent College in Vancouver and Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham.  

 

It seems clear enough that you are interested in being trained for ministry and not for academic research.  If that is the case, I think that you should be less concerned about attending any specific school (since you could find a good education and ministerial training in a variety of schools), and more on some other, practical concerns.  Being a college pastor will not pay well, so you should avoid going to any school that will require you to go into significant financial debt.  Think about other questions, such as: where would you prefer living for the next several years?  Will you want to attend school full-time or will you want to attend part-time (some schools, such as Beeson Divinity, do not allow part-time study)?  As to what you should study, I would recommend getting an M.Div. degree.  It may seem arduously long for a master's degree, but it is the one designed for those who wish to pursue pastoral ministry as a vocation.  The more focused MA and MTS degrees are generally intended for students who wish to pursue academic study in a certain field and they have no practical ministry courses built into their curricula.  

 

There is some truth in what other commenters have implied regarding the lack of academic rigor and respectability in conservative evangelical schools, but you need to understand the criteria that most of us (who are interested in the academic study of religion/theology) are using when we make such evaluations.  Few evangelical seminaries would train you in critical analysis of primary religious texts (at least, outside the Bible), would provide opportunities for language training other than biblical Greek and Hebrew, or would assign you any reading by important thinkers in religious theory (e.g., Weber, Durkheim, Eliade, Geertz, Girard) or major figures in contemporary philosophy and theology (of course, some seminaries would be better at this than others).  This is not to say that evangelical schools are monolithic, as Theophilos has already pointed out, but that the conversations that take place at many of these evangelical schools are disagreements among evangelicals, not serious and critical engagement with non-evangelical scholarship.  This does not mean that the workload for such schools is fluffy compared to other schools, but it does mean that the same scholarly preparation and rigor in engaging academic conversations is not taking place.  

 

As to the criterion of respectability, it is also true that none of the above mentioned schools would be considered prestigious by any competitive PhD program.  If you wanted to go on for further academic work, I would recommend that you take Joseph45's recommendation and look at schools such as PTS or Duke, or Yale, Notre Dame, HDS, etc.  Students from evangelical seminaries are occasionally accepted into top tier doctoral programs, but this is very rare and is undoubtedly the exception that proves the norm.  I disagree, however, that this means that the evangelical seminaries are therefore somehow not respectable.  Respectability is a subjective category and is conferred differently by different communities.  If you want to work in evangelical churches such as the one you belong to now, then a degree from TEDS or Gordon-Conwell will be more respectable than a degree from one of the more prestigious schools (even the more conservative PTS and Duke), which will likely be viewed with suspicion.  

 

All this to say, you may be asking the wrong people for advice.  Gradcafe is an excellent resource for people who are interested in getting graduate degrees for the purpose of academic study, but a bunch of aspiring scholars may not be the best people to consult regarding which evangelical seminary to attend in order to prepare for college pastoral ministry.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just want to clarify, I certainly did not say to "look at schools such as PTS or Duke, or Yale, Notre Dame, HDS, etc. "

I do very much not think he should look at Yale, ND, or HDS, or etc., given his goals. They just won't be a good fit for someone wanting an education that will serve being conservative, evangelical pastor.

 

I also strenously disagree that Duke and PTS are really only good for people looking to do further academic work. I don't know the exact numbers, but I'm very confident that the large majority of M.Div students at both schools do not go on for further academic work.  There are a lot of people that want to be pastors at those schools.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The overwhelming majority of Duke MDiv's that I know are planning on ordination or working with a church. While some MDiv's prepare their students more for academic work, I don't think it's as easy at Duke, perhaps because of their very strict requirements for the MDiv. Hell, even their MTS is insanely structured, which may be a good thing depending on one's goals. 

 

I wouldn't apply to any of the big names discussed above. If you are indeed conservative, you likely would have a terrible time at any such schools, and if you didn't, I think you would come out of such an MDiv having a wildly different take on the above list. 

 

If you can visit any of the above schools that would be the best way to know. Or next best, have a detailed conversation with a current MDiv student or a recent graduate. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd like to second Joseph45 here. I know a number of current/former students at PTS and Duke who are evangelicals looking to go into ministry. That seems fairly common. Duke and PTS won't preclude one from evangelical pastoral positions even at some more conservative churches.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I apologize for misconstruing your comment, Joseph45.  I admit that PTS and Duke are amenable to evangelical students and include faculty who are well-liked in some evangelical circles, and I meant to indicate by my punctuation ("such as PTS or Duke, or Yale, Notre Dame, HDS, etc") that the latter three were additions to the two schools that you recommended.  Furthermore, if I implied that schools other than the evangelical seminaries mentioned by the poster are unconcerned with ministerial formation, then I miscommunicated.  Of course many of the students at PTS and Duke, as well as Yale, Candler, HDS, etc, are preparing for lives of church ministry and some of them will even work in evangelical churches (I even know some HDS and YDS students of who worship and minister in evangelical churches).  The point is that many evangelical churches would still be suspicious of PTS and Duke and would more quickly hire a TEDS grad than someone from one of these schools, a fact that is even more often the case with churches that refer to themselves by the nondescript-yet-sociologically-descriptive-evangelical nomenclature "non-denominational".  If the poster's leadership recommended TEDS, Biola, Wheaton, Westminster, etc., does it not seem reasonable that this same leadership, which may very well be representative of his/her ecclesial circles, would be more reticent to hire a college pastor from PTS or Duke?  To deny that any such suspicion (justified or not) would exist indicates a lack of awareness of conservative evangelical circles.  I, for one, simply think that the poster would do well to listen to his/her own church leaders and to attend a school similar to the ones recommended by them. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.