My blog posts revolve around my interests and vocation as a historian: the intersection of history and contemporary church life, the intersection of history and contemporary politics, serendipitous discoveries in archives or on research trips, publications and research projects, upcoming conferences, and speaking engagements.
I sometimes blog for two other organizations, the Canadian Baptist Historical Society and the Centre for Post-Christendom Studies.
The views expressed in these blogs represent the views of the authors, and not necessarily those of any organizations with which they are associated.
“They didn’t teach me that at seminary!” is often a complaint of seminary graduates in the years following convocation. But is it a fair criticism? Can seminary really prepare people for literally every possible circumstance in life and ministry? And if they can’t, what was the point of all the books and papers?
The quick answer can be encapsulated in the aphorism “give people a fish, feed them for a day - teach people how to fish, feed them for life.”
Seminaries do disseminate knowledge, a lot of it, and rightly so. The history of theological education is rich and varied, but at the heart of much of what seminary life is about is the passing on the apostolic faith encapsulated in the biblical texts, ancient traditions, and ecumenical creeds. And the writing of papers and the reading of books will help in that process.
Yet another part of the education is to prepare people to actually be able to think about the faith in more complicated and theologically responsible ways. And so the writing of papers and reading of books does more than just disseminate knowledge – the process itself is actually critical, for it creates patterns and disciplines and abilities that will allow for a lifetime of exploring deep and unexpected issues.
Stated simply, every book read, every topic researched, every paper written, and every class presentation made is part of a process of learning how to think about and work through complicated matters.
And that means that when you face the most vexing and perplexing issues, you should have developed the ability to face the situation with a degree of confidence knowing that if you apply the skills you learned in seminary you should be able to sort things out.
Of course, some things are so complex and messed up that there seems to be no clear or certain answers, despite how good your seminary training. But even then, your skills developed should help you know what are core issues that need to be affirmed and what are peripheral issues that can be held to more loosely.
Finally, remember that even those who have been taught well how to fish don’t catch fish every day. But at least the fault on that unfortunate day was not their inability to fish.