Every month I’m going to sum up what I’m learning and my experience at seminary. So far I’ve been delighted with Covenant Theological Seminary. I came to the seminary blindly. It was accredited. It was close to home. It had financial aid. My Bible class so far has focused on how to read the Bible (my other two classes are languages). Their approach is exactly right, in my opinion. Learning how to approach and read the Bible is a very important topic most Christians don’t learn anything about. If you don’t know how to approach the Bible correctly there’s little chance of getting it right. Covenant hammers home over and over that we aren’t perfectly objective. That we bring our own experiences, prejudices and plain ignorance to the Bible. This is a breath of fresh air for me as so many Bible teachers seem to be somewhat arrogant. Covenant says we can’t separate reason from faith, humility, community, etc in our learning. The focus is on reading the Bible holistically, in context, instead of pulling verses out of context to support our beliefs.
We’ve had one lecture on biblical theology and systematic theology. What I really want to know is how to do systematic theology properly. I asked one of our professors about a certain systematic theology book that everyone reads. He told me to stay away from it, because the author was trained as an exegete, not as a systematition. I see his point, but he wouldn’t tell me what the right way is until they talk about it in class, and that lecture is the last one of the class in May. Watch this space.
The most surprising thing for me so far has been the pastors’ program. When our current seminary model was set up all students knew Greek coming in. Now almost no one does, but the same material is still covered in the same time as well as teaching students Greek. It’s too much. They can’t learn to be Bible scholars, public speakers, and counselors in three years. Many have jobs. Many have families. These guys don’t seem to have time to really learn any of it. I’m not in their shoes, being in a different program, but I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they are trying. It seems that they are scratching the surface of the classes just to keep their heads above water, instead of really understanding and wrestling with what they are learning.
I wonder, should seminaries spend their time giving the pastors tools – languages, public speaking, how to read the Bible, principles of counseling – and leave it to them to implement what they’ve learned after school? Or should seminaries ignore the languages and simply tell students what to think and how to go about ministry? Or should they simply lengthen the degree from 3 to 4 years?