Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Every church a seminary

"Every church was then a seminary, in which provision and preparation was made, not only for the continuation of Gospel preaching, but for the calling and gathering, and teaching of our churches." -- John Owen, Commentary on Hebrews, Vol. 3, p. 568. (p. 131 in the Crossway Edition edited by McGrath & Packer, 1998)

The local assembly of gathered believers is the primary and best educational institution for BELIEVERS in spiritual and religious matters.* The "church-based education" model derives from the New Testament, and is for all the people of the church. The seminarian model developed from the university's scholastic paradigm, and seems geared to train a "professionally qualified" minister. I have certain presuppositions that undergird and sustain what I am about to write. I will call attention to them, but not go into great detail. Many will agree with most of them, though not all. They are: (1). The Inspiration of Scripture -- all scripture is given by God and is therefore the place we find our instructions for education. (2). The command of Matthew 28:18-20 -- preach, baptize, teach -- is a command to be fulfilled by local assemblies of believers. (3). The local church is by nature and purpose a gathering of baptized saints committed to carrying out the work of Christ. (4). Consistent New Testament practices are authoritative, including that churches should be served by a plurality of elders. Jesus commanded the apostles to teach all things He had commanded them, and they taught the disciples in the churches to follow the commands and traditions they handed down.

Studying the scriptures exhibits nobility (Acts 17:11) and approves us unto God (II Tim. 2:15). This is not and should not be limited to one class of believers. The purpose of religious education is maturation of the saints that they might engage in ministry, be built up as a body with the goal of unity of the faith and knowledge of Christ (Eph. 4:7-16).

"Church-based education" utilizes the institution Jesus built and follows the example of the apostles. In New Testament times, elders received training in and by the local church, the apostles came to the local church, or they traveled with the apostles and assisted them (Acts 11:22-26; 13:1ff.; 14:21-23; 18:2,5,18; 19:8-10; II Tim 4:20; Heb. 6:1,2). All of these examples relate more to mentoring, apprenticeship, or on-the-job training models rather than a classroom model.

"Church-based education" recognizes the giftedness of ALL the body. Some models of education are designed with preachers (that is, ministers as professionals) in mind. Yet the New Testament teaches that all of the body should be trained and equipped for the ministry, and that all the body has gifts for ministry. Training for "the ministry" is not of greater importance than training for "ministry". A sincere effort to equip all the body begins and ends on the local church level.

"Church-based education" offers the best system of "integrated" education with the Lord's basic institution –- the home. In the church, discipleship, ministry experience, and scholarship are integrated -- not only with one another, but with marriage, home life, child rearing, and in a body that is vitally consumed (or at least should be) with the "whole man" minister.

"Church-based education" does not remove the gift of the "preacher-in-training" from benefiting his church, and it does not remove the church from blessing the "preacher-in-training". The young elder/novice remains involved with the congregation and families where God has placed him. Further, the plurality of elders assures he is not thrown into pastoring alone without the skills to do so, and he is not expected to be THE ONE MAN who knows all and does all.

"Church-based education" recognizes the New Testament assumption that churches are equipped to train their ministers. If they are not, they should be. If churches are not fully equipped to train their ministers, and if seminaries are sincere in their desire to best promote the work of God, let them work themselves out of a job by equipping churches to become able to educate their own people, rather than keeping churches dependent upon them.

In the local congregation of believers, we never finish our education and never receive a degree. In addition to theology, hermeneutics, or homiletics, we learn necessary lessons of interdependence, relations, service, self-denial, longsuffering, meekness, kindness, and love. Instead of pre-designed degrees from which to choose, each "course" can be specially adapted with the particular individual student in mind.

According to R. Paul Stevens (Liberating the Laity: Equipping All the Saints for Ministry, Regent College, 2002, p. 46), "The best structure for equipping every Christian is already in place. It predates the seminary and the weekend seminar and will outlast both. In the New Testament no other nurturing and equipping is offered than the local church. In the New Testament church, as in the ministry of Jesus, people learned in the furnace of life, in a relational, living, working and ministering context." I agree.

* The home is also a God-ordained primary educational institution. But it serves all persons in the home and is not restricted solely to believers or spiritual issues.


clinch64 said...

I agree wholeheartedly with this summary. I suppose an individual could spend their entire existence in a seminary and be none the better.

I recall a sermon by a minister on the radio some years back on the subject. The minister said just by listening to other fellow ministers, he could figure out which seminary they attended. Sounds like a form of assembly line theology.

Stephen Garrett said...

I too agree with 99% of what you wrote!

I would caution against having a plurality of elders after the order of the Presbyterian model, however. A church can have lots of pastors (elders) and even have one as the "leading pastor," but all pastors should be involved strictly in spiritual education, and not act as a board of deacons or as a group between the deaconship and the episcopate.

Also, churches may cooperate together in this, but they should be churches close by to one another, perhaps associational schools.

Good article!

God bless


R. L. Vaughn said...

Bro. Garrett, here is a link to something I wrote on plurality of elders. This may help in understanding what I mean. I am not that familiar with the Presbyterian system. But in my thinking elders are preachers. I would be opposed to plurality of elders being like a board of deacons who run the church.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Neil, that is interesting about figuring out what seminary a preacher attended by listening to them preach.

R. L. Vaughn said...

I want to add a couple of things that I didn't mention in the initial post.

1. When I use the term "church-based education", it may conjure up the idea of "church-sponsored". For many Baptists with the same or similar background as I, the idea is that if a seminary is owned and operated by a local church, that "baptizes" it into a scriptural practice. Just want to be clear that is not how I am using the term in this post. 2. I try to look at how the New Testament Christians fulfilled the commands given to them. For example, the command of Matthew 28:18-20 -- preach, baptize, teach. When we look through the New Testament we can find the apostles and early Christians obeying the command to teach what was commanded. We also see the ways they fulfilled it. This is partially addressed in the fourth paragraph of the initial post.

R. L. Vaughn said...

I heard a comment by Larry Bates on "Point of View" radio program. He said we often pick up an idea from the world system, "slap a fish and a cross on it and call it Christian." I feel that statement could well apply to this.

JamesCharles said...

Mr. Clinch, you COULD spend your life in seminary and be none the better, but this is up to you. I spent five years in seminary, and God has used it to teach me a great many methods of study. I won't mention his name, and I hope he grows close to the LORD and learns, but my pastor at that time knew less than I did after a year of seminary training. He didn't know how to study or preach in context, he never taught anything outside of salvation, baptism and working (physically and financially) at the church. His life was miserable, his children all went out into the world hating the office of pastorate and his wife hated church. She was always on anti-depressants (illegally). He refused to offer ANY counseling, stating every time he counseled, things got worse. The majority of the church wished for someone else as pastor, but since they were all new converts and he never explained what vacating the pulpit is, they didn't even know they had authority to vote for a new pastor. He's run off all the dedicated church workers, and offered the position of deacon ONLY to those who will do as he asks in business meeting. He basically controls the church (being a dictator behind closed doors.) The church can not keep a steady congregation, as those who stay long get fed up and move to another church. Very few stay, and those are the ones who are blind to his acts b/c of his deceptive, lovable personality and charisma.

This man was my pastor. I hurt for the church of such wonderful people. I love the church so much. Yet this man was my pastor. At church camp, I answered the call to preach by making it public to my youth pastor (whom the pastor also ran off a couple of years later.) I was twelve years old. From age 12 - 17, I sat under the pastor's teachings and preachings, and found myself very undernourished.

It wasn't until I attended the seminary that I learned there is such a thing as context. I didn't know anything about how to behave properly as a preacher, or how to teach. I didn't know what an outline was. I didn't even have a firm grasp of the English language. I had no clue about counseling, or anything of this nature.

I, therefore, voluntarily asked wise preachers to instruct me by attending seminary. The seminary at LMBIS is now free to all who attend. If a student has a church member who needs attention, they understand and work around this. The seminary professors do not all agree with one another on every subject, thus giving the students an understanding they must study the Scriptures for themselves and find what God's Word teachers, not a man. Every instructor emphasizes the importance of studying Scripture for one's self.

On top of this, MANY ministerial practicalities are learned over the course of five years. How to properly conduct one's self as a minister at funerals, weddings, etc. Things that a person's pastor, or even plurality of pastors, may not know on their own.

I agree with a plurality of pastors (as I am a youth pastor myself). So I ask, with a preacher in a situation similar to that in which I was raised, what do you suggest? He stay and sit under the same man? The entire church, myself included, had never heard the phrase "vacate the pulpit." What do you do without a seminary? I was even told that I wasn't supposed to leave the church at which I was a member. As far as I knew, the pastor ALWAYS spoke truth. I knew no different. What else was I supposed to do but go to seminary, and what are the MANY preachers in this same situation to do?

Besides all this, what about VERY small churches, (say 3-10) who cannot afford to support more than one pastor? What then?

R. L. Vaughn said...

Brother James, I am very sorry for the bad experience that you had. But we cannot base scriptural faith and practice on our experiences, good or bad. The fact of a church out of order is evidence that it needs to be in order, not evidence that we should invent a new method to take up the slack. This is like saying that churches are failing to preach the gospel, so we need to create a new organization that will. No, the churches need to start doing what they are supposed to.

You seem to be getting balled up on the plurality of pastors thing. For example, why is it that a plurality of pastors may not know how to properly conduct funerals, weddings, etc. but if we get a plurality of pastors and put them together in something called a seminary, suddenly they know how? Doesn't make sense to me.

Though you say you believe in a plurality of pastors (and I'm not denying that you believe you do), you are not making a true comparison between your plurality of pastors -- which almost always consists of one teaching pastor and a bunch of subordinates -- and the plurality in the seminary, who are all teachers. A plurality of pastors should consist of a plurality of teachers.

As to a small church affording a plurality, certainly that can be an issue with the way most churches operate. But who says a plurality of pastors has to be paid? And no one is denying (at least I am not) that it seems likely that God will raise up more pastors in a larger congregation than in a small one.

Ultimately it seems to me that your argument for seminaries is based on a felt need, rather than something you found in the Bible.

JamesCharles said...

Actually, my basis for seminaries is based on Scripture, not experiences. We've just already been round and round the Bible and none have addressed the obvious truth I've stated in a satisfactory way to persuade me differently. That is, Paul trained young Timothy, Titus and who knows how many others. They were not members of Paul's church. He was not their pastor. Yet he trained them. This is ALL a seminary is. I've held "seminary" classes at our church with younger preachers. Also, the counsel at Jerusalem were members of many churches. They all discussed the scriptures, and cleared up the circumcision question churches were having. If many preachers from many churches get together today in a seminary, what is the difference? It is to help one another. I honestly believe our teachers learned just as much as the students, since EVERYONE has an equal input.

Concerning the personal experience, I agree 100% we should try our experience by the Bible, not try the Bible by our experience. But since there is not one scripture that teaches against seminaries, and there are those which teach for it (so it appears to me), the issue isn't a Bible question. It is a question that reaches beyond the scope of the Bible.

As I said, we teach one another on blogspot, and learn from one another, so what is the difference between this "free seminary" online and other free seminaries in a building?

JamesCharles said...

BTW, concerning my experience, I was asking what else you'd have had me to do. Just say "Oh well, he's in a bad church with a bad pastor, so he shouldn't be afforded the opportunity to learn anything." Saying that there is a problem that needs to be fixed doesn't solve it. Had we just continued on, I'd have never known the pastor was wrong, or that there was more to learning Scriptures. I'd have gone on in life ignorantly. If I'd learned from him only, I'd never use the internet (as he sees it to be evil) and never have read (as he said it was a waste of time.) My question here isn't about what is right and wrong, my question is what would you have a person who is in the same situation I faced do? And how would you advise them? I suppose you'd have to join their church, since they don't even know they can join another church, right?

JamesCharles said...

Finally, you asked, "who says a plurality of pastors has to be paid?" It is a scriptural teaching that those who preach the gospel should live of the gospel, and that an elder is worthy of double honor with reference to food (or financial support.)

R. L. Vaughn said...

To your last comment first. We must be careful to not read our own practice back into the New Testament. The use of certain verses to support the salary system does not take into account the total view of the subject in the NT -- the commonality of things in the church at Jerusalem; the poverty common to the early churches; the plurality of pastors in these churches; the self-support not only practiced by Paul and others, but also given as a model to the elders; the fact that Paul's self-support was not an isolated incident; the difference between the function of apostles & itinerants and elders; and the pattern of local elders being raised up within the churches to serve those churches. It is unlikely that any support mentioned in the scriptures that was received by the apostles and evangelists would approach anything which we would recognize as a salary.

Though Paul proves the right of apostles and other traveling ministers to be supported by the churches, he himself chose not to use this right (I Cor. 9). Paul chose to set a pattern for the elders to follow in their ministry (Acts 20:33-35) -- not only to support themselves, but others as well. Paul was setting patterns and examples that he expected others to follow (I Cor. 4:16, 11:1 cf. with Acts 20:35).

R. L. Vaughn said...

Concerning your experience, I do not mean to indicate it is unimportant in your life or that I don’t care. But I did say elsewhere that, based on what little I know about it, I would have recommended that you leave that church. Since it is all in the past, I didn't think it necessary to go into details, but if you have specific questions I will be glad to address them beyond that general recommendation. I am not sure I understand exactly what you're getting at. At some point you evidently did question the reliability of this pastor and went to LMBIS. So you must have been getting some advice from someone other than the pastor? A person wouldn't have to join my church for me to give them advice, but I would have to know them and know they had a problem.

Concerning ways we teach one another -- whether sitting down face to face, on a discussion forum, blog-spot, telephone or whatever, I see a difference between this and seminary. These seem to be tools that we use, not organizations that we create. As far as free seminaries online or free seminaries in a building, I would have the same objections to one as the other. Are they simply studying the Bible, or are they organizations, etc. I don't think that working together to study the Bible in a seminary is evil. But I think that we ought to the best of our abilities try to follow the patterns laid down in the Bible, believing that they are better than any of our own devising. If you learned something in the seminary, I am glad for it. If you heard the gospel by a missionary sent out by the SBC's North American Mission Board, I would be glad that you heard the gospel. But that doesn't mean I am ready to trade the better pattern of the Bible for a mission plan of man's devising. I believe the Biblical way is normative and the better way to do a thing.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Brother, in case it didn’t sound like it, I acknowledge that you believe your position to be based on Scripture rather than experiences. But our discussions elsewhere likely have not been read by my readers, so all they would have seen is your appeal to your experience. Though we have discussed this elsewhere, I'd hardly say that we've been "round and round the Bible". If I recall correctly you're two positive assertions in favor of seminary are that Paul taught Timothy, Titus & others outside of the local church, and that the sons of the prophets was very similar to a seminary. If I have missed something, feel free to point that out.

I would differ with the suggestion that none have addressed the obvious truth you've stated. Perhaps we have not addressed it in a way to persuade you differently, but it has been addressed. I agree that Paul trained Timothy, Titus and others. I do not know whether they members of Paul's church, but for the sake of your argument we will assume none of them were. To extrapolate from those facts and conclude we should have seminaries and that young preachers should attend them is to ignore at least one important fact. That fact is that Paul did all that WITHOUT any attempt to organize on any level. He was sent out by God and a church. He preached the gospel, baptized and taught -- all with no attempt to create another entity to fulfill the thing that he (and others) was doing. He simply did it. That is not all a seminary is. A seminary is an organization. It has administrators, faculty and staff. It requires tuition and fees (or if not, gets support from somewhere), devises curriculum, meets standards, pays salaries, and offers degrees, among other things. Another thing with such an extrapolation is that it opens the doors to all kinds of similar ones. We would be inconsistent to say that Paul's teaching of others outside the local church lets us organize a seminary but doesn't let us organize a mission board. If not, why not? The Biblical way is normative and the better way to do a thing.

If preachers from many churches want get together to help one another, let them do so. But let’s ask the question, why create all the trappings of the seminary in order to do that? Why give out degrees? By whose authority do we give out degrees and where did we get the idea in the first place? Why not just do it? Why not just get together and help one another and study the Bible?

I am not sure what you mean by saying this is a question that reaches beyond the scope of the Bible? The Bible is our all sufficient rule of faith and practice, and we are talking about an issue of faith and practice in the Lord's churches.

JamesCharles said...

Okay, I'll address one issue here. You misunderstand the way I use the term "seminary." Brother Richard Methvin and myself began offering Bible classes, in which we gathered the young preachers from our two churches together, and taught on different subjects. It was free, no degrees, no faculty or staff or administration. The only "organization" is that he taught the subjects he was more studied in, and I taught the subjects I was more studied in. We called this "seminary." It was available to all in our churches, though only the preachers showed up.

I currently offer "seminary" on Tuesdays to the two young preachers in my church (also available to all.)

What is wrong with "seminary"? You have a problem with a very specific type of organization, which to me, I don't understand. Where does it cross the line? When there are appointed faculty? When there are fees? When degrees are handed out? If I give out a piece of paper to these young preachers at the end of every course as a certificate of completion, is this now wrong?

What if our churches held their own seminaries within their own churches only, and gave out degrees to help young preachers be able to be chaplains? Is it wrong then?

What if our churches still teach and the seminary is NOT replacing, but complimenting that? Just as witnessing on facebook or blogger compliments our word-of-mouth witnessing. What if we set up a "facebook group" to compliment witnessing.

The thing is, I don't know where you are drawing the line, and how you find that in the Bible.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Brother Snyder, I have several thoughts but only time to jot down a couple of general things before leaving the house. I will hope to get back to you in the morning, Lord willing.

Just knowing what I know from what you write, I feel that what you mention about getting together to study the word on Tuesday nights sounds fairly agreeable to me. I'm not sure why you call it seminary. That may appeal to preachers, but might be a negative to others who are not preachers. Why not just say we're studying the Bible, theology, languages or whatever?

I think that seminary can have a broader meaning in our language, but to most people it means a special type of school -- one that provides theological education to prepare students for the ministry, pastorate, priesthood, etc.

I know this doesn't address some of your questions, but I will hope to do that tomorrow.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Those who have the time to do so should get together to study. Most churches seem to find time to socialize and play at extras time during the week! Why not study? It should be open to all. There is a fundamental misconception among many that in-depth study should only be for preachers, or that they are the only ones who should worry about such.

I do wonder what would be the motivation to call it "seminary". Have you considered whether there any correlation between that and only preachers showing up? Some laity may get an impression from that name that it isn't really for them, even if they are told it is.

You ask "What if our churches held their own seminaries within their own churches only…". Yes, and no. If it is a simple getting together to study in-depth, yes. But why do we give out degrees? What is the motivation? By what biblical authority do churches give out degrees? Why don't we give out degrees to church members? Why not a certificate of completion after they complete the study of a book of the Bible in Sunday School? What is the reasoning going on here? I don't understand what we're trying to do with this.

I guess I can understand your argument about chaplaincy, but why in other cases? I did some research online and it appears you are correct about military chaplaincy in the US. It looks like the general trend (I didn't find all of them) is to require that one hold a bachelor's degree with not less than 120 semester hours; and hold a post-graduate degree, which includes at least 72 semester hours of graduate-level course work in theological studies. There might be some concern for issuing a degree in the type of church setting you describe above. I think there requirement that it be from an accredited institution would knock that out. I also wonder how they deal with schools like TBI, LMBIS, etc. I don't think they're accredited. I would be a little nervous about the "sensitive to religious pluralism".

I sent an e-mail to the Military Chaplains Association of the United States of America asking why this is not considered discrimination against religious denominations that do not believe in seminary education.

You ask where I am drawing the line, and I can understand why that is not clear. I want to go as far as I can in promoting education and not discouraging it, while at the same time follow the apostolic New Testament church example. So I have what I see as an ideal, and then I have what I might call the "I'm glad that helped you while I still recommend we do it the NT way instead." This way doesn't condemn all the good that might be sincerely done, while still holding the most beneficial way of carrying on the work of the church is the way the apostles did it.

Where do I find the line in the Bible? The apostles set patterns and examples that they expected others to follow (1 Cor. 4:16; 11:1-2; cf. v.16; 14:33; Phil. 3:17; 4:9; 1 Thess. 1:6-7; 2 Thess. 2:15; 2 Tim. 2:2). It is my simple belief that the way they did things is better than the improvements we make on them. Accepting New Testament or early church practice as normative means that it lays down a model or standard. A popular modern approach to Biblical practice seems to be that if the Bible doesn't command us to not do something, then we can't say it's unbiblical. I prefer that we find what God commands us to do, and then look at the way the apostles did it as our example. Paul taught Timothy, Titus and others "outside the church". He taught them consistently, intensely and intently. But he never organized any institution other than the local church in order to do so.

JamesCharles said...

So basically, if I understand your last few sentences correctly, you draw the line with church members starting an institution that isn't a church which does the work God commanded for church members to do?

Would this include the institution of a charity? A private school? A free-lunch clinic?

JamesCharles said...

Also, you asked why I labeled my teaching classes a seminary. I suppose it is the same reason you gave the title of this post one, and the definition of seminary you gave.

A special type of school which trains people in the Bible.

(Also, I've held "Bible studies" labeled as such, and we get the same people coming - preachers. I don't think the name has anything to do with it.)

Concerning the military, there are ways to allow schools such as TBI and LMBIS to get honorary status to allow its members to enter the chaplaincy (at least in the Air Force and other schools)

R. L. Vaughn said...

Bro. Snyder, I am leaving this morning to go out of town for the weekend. Will respond when I get back, Lord willing.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Brother Snyder, I will first give some replies to Bro. Merritt, who replied to this thread on your blog rather than here.

It is a fact of the very nature of seminary that it IS for one class of believers -- ministers as professionals. Yes, most of them will allow others to attend, but that is not the reason they exist.

Some purpose statements of some missionary Baptist seminaries. MBIS in Little Rock is the most liberal/open in its statement.

TBI: "The primary purpose of the Texas Baptist Institute-Seminary is to train pastors, missionaries, Bible teachers, church music leaders, youth ministers and Christian education leaders..."

WFBI: "The purpose is not to make preachers, but to train people as ministers, missionaries, and Christian workers."

WTBI: " a school established to train and qualify Christian workers -- pastors, missionaries, teachers, music directors, and educational directors." The president says "Our primary purpose is training for God-called preachers" though he adds that courses for "any one else interested in learning more about the Bible is offered."

DTBI (Independent Baptist, local church sponsored): "Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary has been called into existence for the express purpose of preparing men for the New Testament Gospel ministry."

"The Missionary Baptist Seminary exists to train workers for the cause of Christ through His churches."

Being "sponsored" by a local church probably makes anything in a sense "church-based". That does not mean it follows a scriptural example. A local church owning a junior college would be a "church-based education", but should a church own and operate a junior college? A local church owning a hospital would be "church-based health care", but should a church own and operate a hospital?

Seminaries to a degree may encourage being active in a local church. But to assert that they encourage remaining involved with the congregation of one's membership while at the same time they are encouraging that person to move away from the congregation of one's membership to attend seminary flies in the face of reason. The only time they could truly encourage that is if they already live near the seminary.

Seminary has become a tradition for equipping Christian workers.
While not specifically authorized by God, some traditions may be OK because they do not interfere with anything else. Creating a teaching institution (seminary) when God has already established a teaching institution (church) seems like a very bad tradition to me.

Now Bro. Snyder, you ask, "if I understand your last few sentences correctly, you draw the line with church members starting an institution that isn't a church which does the work God commanded for church members to do?"

Not exactly. I differentiate between that which churches are commissioned to do as churches -- evangelize, baptize, and teach -- and some things which church members do in living out their lives as Christians, such as a providing a private school or a free-lunch clinic or a hospital.

JamesCharles said...

To refute a few things you said (the others I've already covered)...

"Seminaries to a degree may encourage being active in a local church. But to assert that they encourage remaining involved with the congregation of one's membership while at the same time they are encouraging that person to move away from the congregation of one's membership to attend seminary flies in the face of reason. The only time they could truly encourage that is if they already live near the seminary."

You are exactly right. LMBIS does not, never has and never will encourage someone to move away from their local congregation to attend. It hopes people already live close by, and if they don't, they offer apartments they can stay overnight, but most pastors drive back and forth (since it is only 1 night a week between the two class days). By personal experience, I can honestly say it does not take away from church time, and if ANY member needs a seminary student, the seminary excuses the absence. Let's be honest, what can't you do Wed-Sun that you can do Mon and Tues (excluding sick church members, visits, etc. that the seminary already lets you off for)? Nothing.

"Seminary has become a tradition for equipping Christian workers. While not specifically authorized by God, some traditions may be OK because they do not interfere with anything else. Creating a teaching institution (seminary) when God has already established a teaching institution (church) seems like a very bad tradition to me."

Very opinion-oriented. While your logic SOUNDS good, it is slanted in its wording. First, some non-directly-authorized-by-God traditions may be GREAT. For example, God never directly authorizes brushing teeth. But as science tells us, it is a phenomenal health plus. God said "take care of your body" and included in His Word eating, drinking and washing the flesh. Yet we can take the principle and apply it to brushing of teeth. I feel this is the same with the principle of Paul and Timothy. Perhaps the reason you can't see this (and just a guess on my part) is b/c you've never experienced LMBIS. Much of your statements seem to be over generalizing which do not apply to LMBIS. In other words, if a seminary can avoid these pitfalls you mention (which LMBIS does), then it is good. The ONLY con you'd then have is that it isn't directly authorized by God, but since it works hand in and, by, and FOR the church sponsor which is authorized by God, and since it follows the Paul/Timothy pattern, it cannot be directly forbidden by scriptures.

JamesCharles said...

"Not exactly. I differentiate between that which churches are commissioned to do as churches -- evangelize, baptize, and teach -- and some things which church members do in living out their lives as Christians, such as a providing a private school or a free-lunch clinic or a hospital."

I'm glad you mentioned this. We find evangelizing and teaching also in the every-day life of a church member. Again, to beat the dead horse, Paul's teaching Timothy was not local church, but in addition to it. I am not ignorant enough to believe it was ONLY Paul and Timothy either. Timothy learned probably daily in His church, and taught daily in His church. He grew close to God in His church. Yet he still had questions and needed help from an older preacher to learn things (much like we do on this blog). This is ALL LMBIS is. I think we've dispelled all the other myths of overgeneralizing, so let that statement stand unless there are more questions. Also, I don't know the "mission statement" of LMBIS, but if I'm correct, we probably have had 25% or more non-pastors / non-preachers attend, perhaps even more than 50% through Calvary MBC and "correspondence". She is not just to train "ministers". She stands as, and when I think of her, I think of her as an institution open to all to help understand the Word of God better. I even recommend to (and I believe most students recommend to) all church members I know that if they ever get the chance to attend, it is most beneficial.

Again, she is free of charge to her students, she is completely voluntary, she teaches how to study (not what to believe) and she has given to me a great deal of God's blessings. She does not take away from churches or their duties, but is added in addition to them. Just like all association work, she is there to aid the churches, not to take away from or make demands on them.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Brother, let me first go back to something I mentioned awhile back. I wrote the Military Chaplains Association of the USA, who forwarded my e-mail and I in turn received a response from a representative of the Armed Forces Chaplains Board. Included was three attachments to wade through with very detailed info about the "complicated process". I think the following sums up at least quickly: "The requirement is that the eduational credits be earned in an educational institution listed with the ACE , and or that it meet conditions associated with the stated waiver policies." I think in this and some other comments made, basically there are waivers in place for schools like TBI, LMBIS, MBS, etc. -- if they meet the conditions of the waivers. Neither the Military Chaplains Association nor the representative of the Armed Forces Chaplains Board responded directly to my pointed question why this is not considered discrimination against religious denominations that do not believe in seminary education.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Now to your more recent posts.

You say I am "over generalizing". If so, you go to the other extreme of "under generalizing". I am not discussing LMBIS only or ABA seminaries only, but seminaries in general. So obviously some generalizing is necessary. We could talk specifically about some seminaries that are nothing more than diploma mills. But I have chosen not to, because that is not the standard (generalization) of what a seminary really is. We have been talking about LMBIS because that is your alma mater and you have chosen to hold it up as the way you believe it ought to be. I may be wrong, having no direct experience with seminaries for awhile, but I wonder if LMBIS isn't something of an exception even among ABA seminaries (especially the major ones)?

It is interesting that many of the pluses you give for LMBIS are things in which they deviate from the standard seminary model -- free, for all, isn't trying to get students to move away from their churches, completely voluntary (not exactly sure what you mean there?), etc. This seems to be a tacit admission that the opposite of those things -- tuition, for preparation for ministry, seeking students from around the country to attend, etc. -- are in fact some things that are wrong with the standard seminary model? Would you agree? If all the things you say about LMBIS are true,* then about all that is left is to do away with enrolling, graduating & giving degrees and we are about on the same page.

The tooth brushing illustration comes up short of being parallel to the situation we are discussing. They share the common element of extrapolating from the broader principle to the specific application. But where your illustration differs is that it accounts for no examples of tooth brushing. In the situation of teaching, we do have biblical examples and instructions. With tooth brushing you are saying that we have a command to "take care of your body" and can logically assume that tooth brushing well fits into that. But, again, there is neither positive nor negative teaching or example of tooth brushing. In the New Testament, we have NOT ONLY the command to teach, BUT ALSO examples of how it was done. You keep turning to Paul teaching Timothy as a positive example of the seminary. This is like saying that we have a positive example of brushing teeth up and down, and we can assume it is also fine to brush them side to side.

When you feel you have dismissed all other objections, you write that "the ONLY con you'd then have is that it isn't directly authorized by God." Even if that were the only "con", it is the big one for me and belies a very different approach to New Testament faith and practice. I am not looking to see what I can find to do in church that isn't directly forbidden by scriptures. I'm trying to find what is directly taught by command, precept and example. I realize you think that you have found the example. But the example is that Paul COULD and DID teach Timothy and whoever else WITHOUT creating another institution to do so.

I've passed over this several times in our various conversations, but you have mentioned this several times: LMBIS teaches one how to study, not what to believe. Would you say that a church-owned seminary is or is not part of a church's fulfilling of the command to teach in the Great Commission? Were churches commanded to just teach how to study, or would all things whatsoever I have commanded you include what to believe and practice? When Paul told Timothy to teach other faithful men and commit to them the things he had heard from Paul, was this simply how to study or did it include what to believe?

*Not questioning your truthfulness, but just making an if...then statement.

JamesCharles said...

Yes LMBIS is an exception, but I believe it ought to be the common. It's just like you say about your view of church only teaching is the exception in "churches" today and seminary is common, but the exception (in your view) is the right way. I believe LMBIS is the correct exception.

Of course in teaching how to study, we cover the all things commanded by Christ (or at least many of them).

The reason I make a point that LMBIS is the exception and say your overgeneralizing is important, is because if just one seminary is good, then the argument that all seminaries outside of church are wrong becomes mute.

Concerning the tooth/teeth brushing illustration, we are indeed given ways to take care of our body in the Bible. We are commanded not to be gluttonous, not to be lazy and sleep all the time, not to stop working, etc. So teeth brushing is just ANOTHER way we can take care of our bodies.

In like manner, we are commanded to study the Word. The Bible mentions study, fellowship with brethren, teaching one another, preaching, etc. Seminary (in my view) falls in addition to these things, but inside the same principle, just as brushing teeth does.

JamesCharles said...

By the way brother Vaughn, isn't it amazing how we disagree, and still maintain Christian brotherhood? Only Christ has a tie that strong. Families don't (in my experience), Friends don't, Companies and psychology groups don't. The only group who can disagree so much about their particular tie (in our case, belief in literal interpretation of the Bible ties us together), are those like us.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Amen. Ultimately it is love that must tie us together, not agreement in all the particulars. "By this shall all men know..."

Brother James, you make a point that LMBIS is an exception to the rule. I would agree with this, given what you have said specifically about LMBIS and what I know about seminaries in general. In doing so you prove that even you believe that getting rid of many things that are standard in seminary organization is for the better. So in some ways we are not as far apart as might appear. Again, the main point of this thread was not LMBIS (or any specific seminary), but more about how every church ought to be actively involved in teaching her saints (and how many are leaving it for someone else to do). The seminary system in general tends to militate against that, IMO, whether there are some exceptions like LMBIS or not. You write, "if just one seminary is good, then the argument that all seminaries outside of church are wrong becomes mute." I think here you miss my point, or perhaps I do not understand your use of "good". For example, I believe one could get a very good education at Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth. In that sense I believe it is a "good seminary". But I would nevertheless still argue that as an institution it is not Scriptural. I have a feeling you might agree. As I noted in my previous post, LMBIS seems to have discarded most of the true seminary model and seems to still follow it only in enrolling, graduating & giving degrees (maybe a few other things?).

I realize that you are satisfied with your belief in this matter. I am as well with mine. In my current understanding of the scriptures and seminaries, no matter how good or great any particular seminary might be I will still consider it wrong as long as it is a seminary, a separate organized institution. That does not keep me from preferring how one seminary -- such as LMBIS -- is doing with her work, over the way some other seminary is doing hers with the complete trappings from the secular model of education.