February 04, 2008 -Politickin' What a Week! And what a night on Tuesday!

We had 80 mile per hour winds here last night and there was no point truying to sleep. We stayed up and watched Super Tuesday results till 2 AM. The weather band radio couldn't pick up anything but a woman saying" we are trying to get the sirens to come on in bullitt County but they may be down." I tracked with the warnings via the net using the NOAA site.

Union university got hit again by a tornado- the third time in several years. I know people there and am so grateful that there were no deaths. The damage was devastating. this morning their website is down

Michael Card will be coming to SBTS on March 31, but I have no other info now. Guess where I'll be going on my birthday. i've been to several concerts and have followed his career from the very beginning. It is good to see him in his mature phase as an artist. Not nearly so prolific, but still edifying, It was pretty cool as I was watching the Scribbling in the Sand DVD and saw Earnie and Myself in the crowd, Not a big deal, but it is funny how you react when you see yourself on video unexpectedly. Listen to the CD here.

First, a belated birthday recognition to this blog which is 5 years old! It's VERY hard to believe all that has transpired since I started blogging...

Thanks to all who give me feedback and to those who don't the blog goes on...i plan to move this to a blogspot with comments and permalinks later when the concept of "free time" gets resurrected... I am starting to get spammed via my response form...

Resent Posts

Anthony Foster - Feb 1, 2008 8:13 pm (#222 Total: 236)

Is the Seminary Model Viable?

Question: The Forgotten Ways (by Alan Hirsch) makes a strong argument for seminary training to go away and for the church to take on this role. He says formal institutions (Bible institutes/colleges/seminaries) are full of people who don't know how to do what they teach so it stands to reason that only pastors (i.e. those who are doing the work of the ministry) are the best people to train ministry candidates. After all, that's how the early church did it ... that's how the underground church in China did it too.

I ask you "Is Hirsch realistic to think the average church can train a candidate for ministry far better than a Christian college or seminary?" What are the advantgaes and/or disadvantages of having a church do it?

My answer: I was introduced to Hirsch during the three or so years I was tracking with Emergent on a daily basis. I was mentoring a pastor of an emergent church at the time and gave a good effort at trying to wrap my mind around the heart of the movement. From what I have read, I think Hirsch has a propensity for diminishing anything good in the twentieth century church. His radical missional approach biases him that way. Here's a review from an emergent blog i follow at jordancooper.com.

I’m not opposed to multiple alternate ways of discipling leaders for the church, but I get aggravated at all encompassing generalizations like "formal institutions (Bible institutes/colleges/seminaries) are full of people who don't know how to do what they teach so it stands to reason that only pastors (i.e. those who are doing the work of the ministry) are the best people to train ministry candidates." At the same time I tend to like any Christian who has a radical bent....even if I don't agree with their stances. Last time I checked, most of the people I have had as teachers in seminary were teacher –practitioners, or had long years of experience in the trenches, which pretty much blows his basic premise out of the water.

By the same token, there are great disciplers in the church who are about this kind of training every day. I fear that Baptists have become spoiled and have compromised that ability and effort in the context of the local church; maybe it has been because of the idea that the "professionals" are better equipped to train leaders. A recent example comes to mind that I'll commend to you-Mark Eckel's church in Indiana, which does it right in my view. Their approach is to disciple men who will look different than the culture around them both in their abilities in the Scriptures and in street level ministry. And yes they are a pretty big church. So size of church and human resources probably is the watershed issue.
{As an aside, I have recently been looking at some of the minutes of the Long Run Association in the late 1800’s (I know, I need to get a life) and I was enlightened to see how involved many of the founders of SBTS – men who are sort of heroes to me- were in local church matters. From my perspective, that historical precedent still exists today.}

As long as the seminaries don’t forget their purpose- to serve the local church in ways that enhances the Kingdom, they will play an important role. The reality is that the seminaries must, as an institution, approach discipleship in the same way individuals must- not to make those they relate to become dependent upon them, but to edify , exhort, and equip so that reproduction takes place and ministry to the Lord is maximized. Seminaries are made up of individuals who are in relationship with other individuals-whether they be students, teachers, or administrators. I might add a caveat that I do think the ministry of the Word is enchanced by an understanding of the Languages and history of the church that specialists can give, and not many local churches have that training to offer- though I know of exceptions to this. Most of 'em are struggling to simply find or raise up biblically qualified leaders within their rank and file.

Anthony Foster - Feb 2, 2008 12:30 pm (#225 Total: 236)

Let me tell you what I think...and not quite fit the word limit

While there are multiple logical fallacies evidenced by Hirsch’s contention, the main point- that of the viability of the seminary model for the future, is still a real issue. So I see that I didn't address the REAL question. The larger issue is not whether the people who make up seminaries are qualified, but rather, does the seminary structure best serve its stated purposes. I propose that is does not. It serves a 19th century mindset and culture, as well as finding its basic premises in the understanding of how people learn that predates research on the subject- it is an anachronism. The many good comments that I am reading from the cohort tend to take issue with these structural components, not the quality and experience of the teacher/practitioners, which was at issue with the characterization of Hisrch in the preceding question.

Theological colleges and seminaries are rooted in the university tradition, which is at best, an antiquated model in my opinion. I do see some evidence of and for change at the doctoral level, but up to that point, the model has become an intellectual idol. Most problematically, the model drives the style of teaching, which is predominately lecture, binge, test, and purge. Then the seminary cuts short the class time to require chapel which is grafted onto the broken model. While this may be seen as being saved by the bell, if the model is broken, you cannot baptize it into functionality.

Seminaries have followed the university pattern for historical reasons mainly, but they are perpetuated by faculty and administrators who are locked into the patterns they themselves were educated by. Many seminaries are associated with universities or colleges and the processes are transferred accordingly. So I see that it is the model that has to change for the future, and I do not just mean adding distance to the mix and extension sites wherein the teaching styles that are endemic to the university model are baptized. Change will come and it will be from within when it does, and those who are in positions to make the changes need to listen to the viable heart and part of what radicals like Hirsch has to say. They have ideas that have the ring of truth, but they only know how to throw the baby out with the bathwater. We must sing with the understanding and we must sing with the Spirit.

I don't have the answers. I might propose that a great final project for a future iteration of this course might be to brainstorm as a class a potential alternative to the organizational structure that underlies the current milieu, one that would be viable and beneficial to the body of Christ. We should be dreaming big. I don't want to degrade into cliche mode here, and I realize getting such a program, accredited is the major hurdle, but smart people working together may be able to buld a better model that could vanguard change. That would get us thinking. The seminary has the potential for becoming a place where the best of what we have learned about how people learn can be maximized, but in my opinion, a radical change in the curriculum is required. Experiential and transformative learning, along with self directed learning and field based learning activities where research is done in a living, working environment is in order. An attitude of : "We don’t care what you think, what does the literature say?" does not to justice to the image of God in the learner and does nothing to edify and disciple the believer and give glory to God, which is seminary’s raison d’etre. The focus should be on building critical thinking skills, transcending theory into praxis, and transformation of the learner, not building roboscholars to perpetuate the status quo. That’s my considered opinion. The university model is not interested in building transformed people of character. The suffering and disciplines imposed by the university model is no substitute for the school of hard knocks that James 1 refers to. "Consider it all joy my brothers…"

Before I forget it...and for what it's worth.

Wasn't that an old Buffalo Springfield song? Ahh, 1967.. those were simpler times...it was the the year I was saved...

... but I digress... this was my introduction to Hirsch. It's an important read, I think...

Comments? Questions? Respond on the form below.

When you hit submit your browser will display a message that requires approval
for the e-mail being sent. It's OK. Really.


E-mail address:



From the personal weblog of Anthony Foster @http://anthonyfoster.com/blog/