Distance Ed and Accreditation

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R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
I'm aware that there have been recent discussions on these topics on this board. I understand too that feelings run high on both.

I also understand that, because I work at a seminary I might seem unduly self-interested in the outcome of this discussion. To this objection I can only say that I reached my present conclusions, in principle, before I had any professional stake in the outcome.

I understand too that there are folks who want an education who do not believe that they are able to get one in the ordinary way or who are presently prevented by circumstances beyond their control. There are, however, some who simply refuse to get proper training, who believe the very process of education is corrupting.

I also understand that there is a general suspicion among conservative Christians about accreditation and that sometimes distance ed is seen as a way to avoid both the liabilities of traditional programs and the supposed liberal bias of accreditation agencies.

With those caveats, I offer some thoughts as one who works in the education field and has served as the accreditation liaison (1997-2001) officer for an accredited school and as one who has evaluated both non-accredited programs and distance ed programs.

1. As tempting a distance ed is for those who are in difficult circumstances (e.g., father of 4, has a job, difficult to relocate etc) a man who intends to present himself as a ministerial candidate to a confessional Reformed/Presbyterian denomination who is presently unable to earn a traditional, seminary degree from a confessional Reformed seminary should not pursue the pastoral ministry until he is able to earn a degree from an educationally and theologically sound seminary.

This is even truer of one who will not submit himself to the normal process of seminary training. I will try to substantiate this claim below.

I know this view may seem harsh and unreasonable to some. I am not without sympathy for those who want an education but are prevented by circumstances. The distance ed answer, however, assumes that everyone is entitled to "œeducation" NOW. Perhaps, in the providence of God, if one can´t get a proper education now, then one should wait until it is possible?

We need to question some of the cultural assumptions we bring to this question. As Americans we tend to assume that we have a God-given right to do what we want, the way we want. Is this a biblical assumption? Is it consonant with historic Reformed theology and practice?

The Confessional Reformed churches have a long history of theological education in our tradition. Ministerial education did not come into existence from nothing in the 19th and 20th centuries. In the 16th and 17th centuries our ministers went to great personal expense to get a traditional liberal arts and theological education. We're not the first generation to face those challenges. We are, however, perhaps the first generation to face those challenges with the temptation of internet/video education as a plausible solution.

There are remedies before distance ed. In American churches tend to pay for the education after seminary, rather than before. That is, churches don´t seem to mind paying for the education of their minister, but they are more reluctant to pay for the training of the ministers of other congregations.

This is a very unhappy short-sightedness. A man who is someone else´s minister today may well become your minister tomorrow. Is it not in everyone´s interests to have a well-educated ministry?

If a man is gifted for ministry, then his congregation or presbytery or classis or Synod or GA has a duty to see to it that he has the means to fulfill that calling.

Whatever the difficulties of getting a man to seminary (and they do exist), there are good reasons for thinking that distance education is not proper preparation for pastoral ministry. I've detailed some of them here: http://public.csusm.edu/public/guests/rsclark/Seminary.html


In brief, put the question this way: A potential candidate for ministry says: "I want to be a physician. I believe I have a calling and the gifts, but I just don't have the freedom to attend a traditional medical school. Therefore, I think I should have a right to prepare to practice medicine through a distance program in conjunction with a local mentor." Would you trust your health or your children's health to a physician trained this way?

Further, would you trust your health to someone who had the opportunity and means to attend a first class medical school but who refused because he thought that the sort of training he would gain there would actually corrupt his practice of medicine? In my experience, those who are most unwilling to undergo the tests of a traditional education are those who need that discipline the most. More than technical skills are learned in seminary. Students learn the virtues of patience and humility, virtues on which faithful pastors call every day for strength.

If it is obviously inappropriate for a physician to be trained by distance or to be untrained, why are we willing to consider it for pastoral training? Is pastoral training less rigorous? Is it less academic? Is it less practical? Is it less technical? Is the demand for excellence in training made by the practice of ministry less than in medicine? The answer to all these question is no.

As a former academic dean, I can testify that there is a real difference in the quality of education done by distance and done locally in a proper setting. I have seen the fruit of well-intentioned distance education for both pastors and those in MA programs. That fruit is one of the reasons I am not enthusiastic about distance education. For more on this, see the web article linked above.

2. On accreditation. The basic function of accrediting agencies (we have two, Western Association of Schools and Colleges, WASC and the Association of Theological Schools or ATS) is to see that we fulfill the promises that we make to our students, their churches, and those we make to prospective students. These are private agencies, by the way, not governmental. They are composed of academics from private and public, secular and religious, colleges and universities.

Accrediting agencies do not and cannot make us do anything contrary to our stated theological principles. For example, at Westminster Seminary California, as a matter of conviction, we do not admit females to our MDiv program (unlike many other seminaries, even some Reformed seminaries). We do not have female board members, since our board members must be ordained elders or ministers. Indeed, all our voting faculty members are ministers in Reformed confessional denominations (OPC, PCA, URCNA).

Our accrediting agencies may not like our view, but they respect our conviction. They only ask that we act consistently with our stated principles.

The ugly truth is that non-accredited schools (or schools with phony accreditation) are often diploma mills. They often have poor standards or none. Their faculty members are not always well educated and thus are ill prepared to educate others. I recognize that there are poor accredited schools, but at least with the accreditation process, a school has an incentive to improve.

Some of the criticism of accreditation in Reformed circles seems to assume that everyone knows how to "do education" better than the educated and educators. This is a strange assumption.

If you want to evaulate a plumber, don't you ask another plumber? Do you ask a fry-cook? Why should it be any different with education?

The truth is that it takes a long time, much hard work and sacrifice to teach at an accredited seminary such as WSC. We all have not only BA degrees but masters (MDiv and MA) and PhD´s. The average PhD takes 5 years to earn.

In theological terms, education is a covenant of works, not a covenant of grace. It takes about 12 years to earn those degrees. This has been the pattern for most of the last 1000 years. It is the pattern Martin Luther followed and it is the pattern that virtually all of the orthodox Reformed theologians followed in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Accreditation is performed by fellow educators who are best prepared to make the sorts of judgments necessary.

Accreditation does not elminate or reduce the need for ecclesiastical oversight. All our MDiv graduates must sustain presbytery or classical trials and we meet frequently with committees from our various consituent denominations. Indeed, we have made many currciular changes over the years in response to the needs of the Reformed and Presbyterian churches.

In contrast, because non-accredited schools are not accountable to overseeing agencies staffed by trained professionals, they do not have to meet minimum standards for libraries, classrooms, the quality of the faculty and other basic standards that must be met by an accredited school.

When you go into a restaurant, do you look for the health dept sign that says "œA"? Why? Because it signifies that the establishment has met some basic standards. The staff washes their hands before they handle food. They store food at the proper temperature. They take proper care for the well being of their patrons. So it is for students and schools. Students need not only ecclesiastical assurance that a school is confessionally orthodox (this is essential), but also the assurance from other educational professionals (i.e., those who work in the field and know what a good education is) that a school is not fraudulent, that the educational product, as to were (to stretch the metaphor), is handled properly and is safe for consumption.

I haven´t addressed thus far the inadequacy of distance ed for the MA degree, but I do not have space or time. Suffice it to say that if one intends to earn an advanced degree, an MA earned by distance ed will not help him much toward academic progress. Those who have made the sacrifice to earn a traditional degree may not look kindly on those who did not.

Not everyone will be happy with these arguments and views, but I do hope that they give pause to those who argue for distance ed and to those who are encouraging students to consider unaccredited schools.

In our tradition we have always upheld the highest educational standards AND devout piety. We have never set them against each other.

At WSC we are strongly committed to the model of Old Princeton (and behind them, Leiden, Franecker, Utrecht, Heidelberg and Geneva) of praying while we study and studying while we pray.

I hope all our ministerial candidates are also committed to these ideals.

rsc

[Edited on 5-12-2005 by R. Scott Clark]
 

Presbyrino

Puritan Board Freshman
Scott,

What would your opinion be of distance education programs for church officers (Elders/Deacons) who want to further their theological training?

Also, what would your opinion be of aquiring additional training through programs like MTIOPC etc?

[Edited on 5-11-2005 by sntijerina]
 

kceaster

Puritan Board Junior
Dr. Clark...

There is a presupposition you've come with and I have no doubt that yours is an informed opinion. Your presupposition is that seminary training is most necessary in order for a minister to be well equipped to serve God. On the whole I would say that you are correct. I do not disagree with many of your statements.

However, I did not see anything regarding the Holy Spirit training the man of God. I did not see anything regarding the Scriptures as the approver and measure of the man. I did not see anything regarding the practical aspect of a man putting into practice what he has learned in the classroom. Perhaps you mention all of these things in the web article you pointed us to. I am sorry that I have not taken the time to read it.

I did want to point out your presupposition, though. The sovereign God that we serve prepares men in the way they are to walk. As for my pastor, he came to the reformed faith through a winding valley. He went from flaming Arminian/Dispensationalist, to Calvinistic/Reformed just through reading and studying with his fellow elders. He began his seminary career at 50, after teaching in the pulpit for 15 years. He is a great pastor. He is one of the best preachers I have heard, and he is slowly making his way through seminary even now.

Now, I realize that you have probably heard something very similar to this before. Yes, there are isolated cases where a man is gifted and does a yeoman's work in his pastorate without "proper" training as you have defined. Yes, I realize that this does not a blanket case make. We can't all be that gifted, we can't all take that road. I agree.

However, you have made some blanket statements yourself. I think you need to allow for some anomalies. I think you need to back off your statements a bit. You have claimed that brick and mortar seminaries are for everyone. But in so doing, you have ignored those whom our sovereign God has trained without "proper" training.

At the risk of boring you, please allow me to share my situation. I am enrolled at GPTS in the distance program. I am an open book. You may speak to Dr. Pipa, Dr. Willborn, Dr. Shaw, Dr. Dyer, and Dr. Crick about my academic discipline. I am doing well. Not because I am allowed to do so from a distance, not because the requirements are relaxed for me, but because I am where God needs me to be right now. I do have a 40 hour a week job. I do provide for my wife and two boys. I do homeschool. I do exhort at my church once a month. I do read the Scriptures almost every Lord's Day evening. I do participate in the worship services every Lord's Day in some capacity. I do participate in other ministerial things as they are afforded me. I am under care of the Presbytery of Ohio. They are charged with ensuring that I be trained in the gospel ministry.

Now, while I will tell you that I am making plans to attend locally at GPTS, I will also tell you that I am getting excellent oversight and good mentoring here in Indiana. I am not kidding myself. I will have very limited opportunities in SC to minister as I am ministering here. So I am torn. It is a catch 22, really. I will have to sacrifice practical application if I move there, or I will have to sacrifice the experience of local oversight if I stay here.

But, we serve a sovereign God. If what you're saying is true, then it is not God's will that I be a minister of the gospel until I can be trained "properly." No offense, but God has me here for a reason. And I would argue until I am blue in the face that I am being prepared for the work God has for me to do, even if it does not measure up to your definitions.

Dr. Clark, in the final analysis, your arguments are well formed and do have validity. But, you need to recall that ministers are made by a process the Scriptures define as discipleship. That mandate to make disciples and to prove men who seek to be elders is given to the church. That mandate may well be helped along by brick and mortar seminaries, but they have no oversight in this process whatsoever. They are entrusted to teach, but they do not have the keys of the kingdom. If you can form your arguments from the Scriptures, you would go a long way to convincing me that I need to do everything I can to move to Greenville. But the mandate from the Scriptures is for the church and her elders. Your position puts you above and makes it sound like unless men are approved by seminaries, they are not fit to be teaching elders in Christ's church. And because of that, I say you are mistaken, sir.

I apologize if this is out of line. I have the utmost respect for you and have gained much by your writings on the covenant. Please accept this argument not as combative, but in the love of Christ. We are on the same side and we both see the equipping of the man as the chief concern.

In Christ,

KC
 

WrittenFromUtopia

Puritan Board Graduate
I do think it is important for a person to get their M.Div. at an actual Seminary, physically being there to take the courses and be mentored by professors, etc. However, what about other degrees, such as a Th.D., Th.M., Ph.D., D.Min., M.A., etc.?
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
In regard to Kevin's point, "I did not see anything regarding the Holy Spirit training the man of God," there is no question that only God the Spirit can qualify a man for ministry. That formation is a sine qua non.

The question remains, however, HOW does the Spirit form men for ministry? Certainly, it begins in the local congregation and at home. It begins with prayer, worship, and catechism.

Further, all our seminarians are educated in conjunction with local congregations. We require 700 clock hours of internship. Most of our MDiv students preach regularly after their first year. They are all members of congregations and under the oversight of sessions/consistories as well as presbyteries and classes.

That was not the question at hand, however. My post focused on what we might call the "ordinary means," or what we often call "proximate causes" or "ordinary providence." In the ordinary providence of God, men need seminary training.

Concerning forming arguments from Scripture: I quite agree that Jesus gave the keys of the kingdom to the visible, institutional church and the church orders of Reformed churches (key holders, if you will) have virtually always required formal theological training. We have typically gone to great lengths to accomplish this.

If by biblical proof, one demands an express command: "Go to seminary," then my argument fails, but of course, this is an unreasonable standard and a poor hermeneutic. We do not read the Scriptures this way. This hermeneutic is usually called "biblicism." It is the hermeneutic by which the Socinians and the Anabaptists denied the Trinity and justification sola gratia, sola fide respectively.

I mean no disrespect to my friend and former colleague Joey Pipa and the others at Greenville, for whom I have great respect, but we simply disagree about the propriety of distance ed in training men for ministry. Most all the faculty seems to have agreed with me in practice. They have most all of them earned PhD's or at least a DMin (one of their faculty earned their DMin at WSC in recent years so he could teach at GPTS). Clearly, they did not agree with the argument that, if the Holy Spirit has qualified a man, then seminary training (or PhD's) is irrelevant.

It is not good theology to juxtapose the work of the Holy Spirit with ordinary means. Both Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 88 and Heidelberg Catechism Q. 65 teach that it is through ordinary means of grace (preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments and, for the WSC, prayer) by which God the Spirit brings sinners to faith and confirms them in that faith respectively. See http://public.csusm.edu/guests/rsclark/predestination.htm See also my essay "œJanus, the Well-Meant Offer of the Gospel and Westminster Theology," in David VanDrunen, ed., The Pattern of Sound Words: A Festschrift for Robert B. Strimple (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2004).

Now, to be sure, Reformed churches have always acknowledged that in extraordinary circumstances things could be different. For example, there was a provision in the original church order of Dort that, in times of extreme persecution, a minister might be ordained without the usual training. We are not in those circumstances.

I am not arguing that a man cannot prepare himself for seminary by distance, after his BA. Distance ed, in answer to Steve's question, is perfectly appropriate for elder/deacon training. For most in the OPC and for all in the Dutch Reformed traditions, three are three offices: minister, elder, and deacon. Thus, it is equitable that elders (rulers) and deacons should receive some supplementary training by distance. Elders and deacons are not properly charged with the administration of the Gospel and the means of grace. The question is more complex in the PCA with its two-office structure (elders - ruling and teaching) and deacons. In practice most PCA's I have observed function like three-office folk, so in practice the same things are true. If a ruling elder is regularly in the pulpit, then he should be fully trained. The pulpit is no place for amateurs.

After all, here I am posting to a discussion list. This is a form of distance ed, Continuing ed for some and preparatory training for others. Obviously, I recognize the value of the web. I run an ugly but large site. I simply want us all to recognize the limitations inherent in the technology. Just because we "can" does not mean we "should."

As to Gabriel's question, it is mostly moot. Yes, one can earn an MA by distance, but no reputable PhD program is going to accept it. They will likely require the candidate to earn another MA as part of the process toward a PhD. A distance ThM is an interesting question. It depends upon how it is used. If a ThM is a fourth year at sem (or fifth), a sort of finishing program allowing a man with an MDiv to gain some polish and expertise in a particular area, I have less difficulty since its a sort of continuing ed. The matter of distance courses is problematic, but if a man already has the foundation of a good MDiv, it might be possible. If a program has seminars, well, then it is out of the question. It might depend on the program. If it is a prelude to a PhD, then, again its a moot question, since most PhD programs won't accept a distance ed degree.

The same is true for ThD and PhD. These are meant as "terminal degrees." No reputable school would offer a serious terminal degree by distance. No such degree offered by distance should be regarded as credible. At WSC, we have refused to recognize such degrees.

The truth is, however, that the American educational system is so poor, the classical model having been abandoned long ago, that few students can do without a rigorous "brick and mortar" education.

Our curriculum was established in 1929 and was modeled on old Princeton's. Thus it was assumed that students would have Greek BEFORE seminary. Of course they would have Latin and it was preferable to have Hebrew before coming. It was assumed that they would have memorized the shorter catechism as a child.

Latin is gone (I teach it to two or three students a year). Now we are concerned whether (Anglo) students have ENGLISH before coming to seminary. See http://public.csusm.edu/guests/rsclark/Essays.html

Perhaps two or three incoming students (maybe a few more) have some serious Greek training before seminary. Hebrew training before seminary is virtually out of the question and even students coming from confessional Reformed churches do not always have a strong catechetical background.

At WSC we have had to compensate for the declining quality of university education by offering remedial classes. Most of our students come to us thinking that they are reasonably well educated. By the end of their first year, they usually say something like, "I thought I was well educated, but now I see that I was not very well prepared at all" or something to that effect.

We do our best and by God's grace students emerge well-trained, but were students better prepared coming in, we could do more.

This is not the time to lower standards. It might have been possible in the 19th century for pastors (who read Latin, Greek and Hebrew fluently) to train other pastors, but the age of specialization and falling standards in preparatory education have made that impossible. Even in the 19th century, the model of pastors training ministerial candidates did not work well. The Log Cabin gave way to Princeton for a reason. The German Reformed churches discovered early in the 19th century that it did not work and formed a seminary. Only the revivalist evangelicals, who did not value an educated ministry, did without. Yes, they spread west faster. Pragmatism, however, has reaped a bitter harvest. Many of the students we train today are the great grandchildren, as it were, of that pragmatism. The state of the revivalist churches is not an endorsement of their approach.

Blessings.

[Edited on 5-12-2005 by R. Scott Clark]
 

Presbyrino

Puritan Board Freshman
Gabe,

I don't think Dr. Clark is saying anything here that warrants a response that would necissate comments that would disrupt christian unity. I believe he is stating his point of view as an educator and one who cares deeply about the Church and the quality of education that our future shepards are recieving.
 

WrittenFromUtopia

Puritan Board Graduate
His broad generalizations are insulting, that is the bottom line. Great men of the faith, whom I have read and also have a great deal of respect for, have received degrees via correspondance, thus making their education - according to this brother - worthless and "not credible." :um:
 

kceaster

Puritan Board Junior
Dr. Clark...

In regard to Kevin's point, "I did not see anything regarding the Holy Spirit training the man of God," there is no question that only God the Spirit can qualify a man for ministry. That formation is a sine qua non.

I believe it is a bit more than that, and perhaps you meant it that way. We should say that the Spirit does more than just qualify, should we not? A man may learn every piece of information you teach him, but he will be unable to apply it, and really know it, unless the Holy Spirit through the Scriptures instructs him. Would you not agree?

The question remains, however, HOW does the Spirit form men for ministry? Certainly, it begins in the local congregation and at home. It begins with prayer, worship, and catechism.

Further, all our seminarians are educated in conjunction with local congregations. We require 700 clock hours of internship. Most of our MDiv students preach regularly after their first year. They are all members of congregations and under the oversight of sessions/consistories as well as presbyteries and classes.

That was not the question at hand, however. My post focused on what we might call the "ordinary means," or what we often call "proximate causes" or "ordinary providence." In the ordinary providence of God, men need seminary training.

There is no dispute from me in this. The question is how does ministerial training have to be done? That is where you have claimed only brick and mortar, and I have claimed that we should see the value in distance education.

Along those lines, though, I would add that there is only one OPC particular congregation in SC. But I believe that even this church has been made a mission work. The opportunities for me to exhort and minister in other ways are far more numerous between the two churches here, than I would have in SC.

Concerning forming arguments from Scripture: I quite agree that Jesus gave the keys of the kingdom to the visible, institutional church and the church orders of Reformed churches (key holders, if you will) have virtually always required formal theological training. We have typically gone to great lengths to accomplish this.

If by biblical proof, one demands an express command: "Go to seminary," then my argument fails, but of course, this is an unreasonable standard and a poor hermeneutic. We do not read the Scriptures this way. This hermeneutic is usually called "biblicism." It is the hermeneutic by which the Socinians and the Anabaptists denied the Trinity and justification sola gratia, sola fide respectively.

I'm sorry for the misunderstanding. I was not looking for chapter and verse on going to brick and mortar seminaries. What I was looking for was the concept of training an elder for ministry outside the bounds of his local church. If I move to Greenville, I will be taken out of the life of my local church where I currently teach and with whom I am membered, and with whom I live and have close ties, and be forced to be away from that setting, which is right where I'm going back to after I finish, Lord willing. I just do not see this as something that Paul would have suggested to Timothy. I am not saying that I am Timothy, but it is our pattern after all.

To me this is much like learning to be a parent by going off to a different place, all the while, your children are growing and getting used to you not being there. It just does not make covenantal sense to me, either in this analogy, or in the setting of seminary.

I mean no disrespect to my friend and former colleague Joey Pipa and the others at Greenville, for whom I have great respect, but we simply disagree about the propriety of distance ed in training men for ministry. Most all the faculty seems to have agreed with me in practice. They have most all of them earned PhD's or at least a DMin (one of their faculty earned their DMin at WSC in recent years so he could teach at GPTS). Clearly, they did not agree with the argument that, if the Holy Spirit has qualified a man, then seminary training (or PhD's) is irrelevant.

Two things: 1) I realize that much of the faculty agrees with you, not only in practice but in theory, and 2) I was not saying that seminary training is irrelevant. Believe or not, I am being seminary trained right now. It would seem you would not agree because I am not local.

It is not good theology to juxtapose the work of the Holy Spirit with ordinary means. Both Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 88 and Heidelberg Catechism Q. 65 teach that it is through ordinary means of grace (preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments and, for the WSC, prayer) by which God the Spirit brings sinners to faith and confirms them in that faith respectively. See http://public.csusm.edu/guests/rsclark/predestination.htm See also my essay "œJanus, the Well-Meant Offer of the Gospel and Westminster Theology," in David VanDrunen, ed., The Pattern of Sound Words: A Festschrift for Robert B. Strimple (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2004).

I most heartily agree that the Spirit has means. I am simply not going to disqualify distance education as one of them. And as you say, it may not even be ordinary. Just as brick and mortar may not be for everyone, distance education is surely not for everyone.

My pastor started out at GPTS. Should he be expected to abandon his flock in order to attend seminary for four years? Should he stop being a pastor because he has not finished his training? Thankfully, he found that going to MARS was a better option for him. But what if MARS was not an option. Does he quit being a pastor? The Presbytery of Ohio did not think so, and they rightly ordained him after a rigorous and needful examination.

Now, to be sure, Reformed churches have always acknowledged that in extraordinary circumstances things could be different. For example, there was a provision in the original church order of Dort that, in times of extreme persecution, a minister might be ordained without the usual training. We are not in those circumstances.

Again, I wholeheartedly agree. But you're still laboring under the assumption that a distance education under a mentor, under care, in a local church, is not proper training.

I am not arguing that a man cannot prepare himself for seminary by distance, after his BA. Distance ed, in answer to Steve's question, is perfectly appropriate for elder/deacon training. For most in the OPC and for all in the Dutch Reformed traditions, three are three offices: minister, elder, and deacon. Thus, it is equitable that elders (rulers) and deacons should receive some supplementary training by distance. Elders and deacons are not properly charged with the administration of the Gospel and the means of grace. The question is more complex in the PCA with its two-office structure (elders - ruling and teaching) and deacons. In practice most PCA's I have observed function like three-office folk, so in practice the same things are true. If a ruling elder is regularly in the pulpit, then he should be fully trained. The pulpit is no place for amateurs.

After all, here I am posting to a discussion list. This is a form of distance ed, Continuing ed for some and preparatory training for others. Obviously, I recognize the value of the web. I run an ugly but large site. I simply want us all to recognize the limitations inherent in the technology. Just because we "can" does not mean we "should."

But doesn't it finally come down to the measure of the man. Whether I am trained at a distance or if I am trained locally, the ultimate decision as to how equipped I am for the gospel ministry, does not lie with the seminary, it does not lie with the professors, it does not lie upon the accreditation of the institution. It lies with the pastors and elders of my Presbytery. Now, clearly, if in the course of my study, I have performed poorly and substandardly, the institution will have something to say about it, no question. But as I rise to be examined on the floor of the Presbytery, they're not going to ask me what my professor thinks, or what I learned in class about "X". They will want to know what I know.

In the end, God makes the man and He uses several means to do so. Life is a major contributing factor. But whether brick and mortar or whether distance education, God equips the man for every good work and he stands or falls by the Word.

This is not the time to lower standards. It might have been possible in the 19th century for pastors (who read Latin, Greek and Hebrew fluently) to train other pastors, but the age of specialization and falling standards in preparatory education have made that impossible. Even in the 19th century, the model of pastors training ministerial candidates did not work well. The Log Cabin gave way to Princeton for a reason. The German Reformed churches discovered early in the 19th century that it did not work and formed a seminary.

Again, you assume that distance ed is lowering the standards. This is a false assumption. Perhaps if we could see the result of distance learning as well as we could see the results of the Log College, you might have a point. But the concept of distance education is bathed in more light than Gilbert Tennant's "New Light." As long as accountability and oversight remain, as long as the candidates for ministry are cared for in the context of the local church, I see no reason why this cannot be a viable option for disciplined men.

In Christ,

KC

[Edited on 5-11-2005 by kceaster]
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
I´m sorry that Gabriel is upset by my analysis. I did not intend to offend anyone. I think he has misread some of my arguments. I did not say that no distance degree should be regarded as credible, I was responding to a specific question about advanced or terminal degrees.

His responses do illustrate a fundamental problem of Internet based distance ed (there are video based versions too). The written word is subject to interpretation and misunderstanding. If Gabriel were a student in class, he could raise his hand and ask a question: "œProf. What did you mean when you said"¦?" "œDid you mean to say?" I could answer and everything we would be cleared up. Not so with distance ed. Not being able to see my face or hear my tone of voice or ask for clarification, he assumed the worst and imputed to me arguments I didn´t advance. This exchange illustrates the inherent limits in distance ed. I´ve spent hours typing posts. In the same time I could have lectured to 35 students and communicated far more material!

From his signature, I take it that Gabriel is an undergraduate. Evidently he trusts at least some of the faculty at the University of Indiana enough to pay tuition. Perhaps he should ask his professors where they got their degrees and what they think of a PhD earned by distance?

I think he will find not much support for DE. The reason is not mere snobbery, but rather in the nature of an earned terminal degree. A PhD is a sort of professional apprenticeship that cannot be served by distance any more than one can learn blacksmithing by distance. One learns to be a vocational and professional scholar by living and working with other scholars, by writing and giving papers in seminars and conferences and receiving and learning from needed criticism. A PhD/ThD does not simply indicate that one has read certain books and written a dissertation, but that one has learned a certain set of skills and demonstrated competence as a scholar in a field of research. PhD´s and ThD´s are awarded to those who demonstrate themselves to be ready to contribute to a given field and to function in the academy.

In truth, earning a PhD/ThD is a series of humiliations (it is a sort of death by degrees) from which no one who wants to work as a scholar can exempt himself. DE PhD´s/ThD´s necessarily miss out on this aspect of training.

Further, a PhD/ThD should be earned by studying with the best scholars in a given field. anyone who has done a PhD by distance is, in the nature of the case not working with the best scholars in a given field since they would never participate in such a program because of the inherent liabilities.

As I said above, the academy, like any other calling, is a covenant of works ("œdo this and live"). Scholars are obligated to engage the academy in a serious dialogue and to meet academic standards (make clear and cogent arguments, advance learning in a field, publish in peer-reviewed journals and the like). This is not possible through a distance ed program.

An accredited PhD/ThD program must provide certain services (e.g., faculty and libraries with the latest academic monographs and journals in multiple European languages. They must provide access to Latin and Greek texts from across the history of the church. I am not aware of a distance ed PhD/ThD program that meets such standards. Often the point of distance PhD/ThD programs is to avoid such standards.

As to DMin's and other I agree with David Well´s critique re the "œDMin-ization" of ministry (I think it was in God in the Wasteland). It is intended as a professional degree, not as an academic degree. It is intended to enable busy professionals to gain specialized skills (not academic proficiency) in a given vocation. A DMin is not intended to serve as a replacement for an academic degree and it isn´t an academic degree. They are not judged the same way and they are not earned the same way. I don´t have any great animus against a distance DMin, because it isn´t contrary to the nature of the thing. I do worry that folks can´t tell the difference between a professional and academic degree. A DMin candidate passes through none of the trials faced by a PhD candidate.

As to whether anyone should feel insulted by my criticisms of DE. The question here is not the quality of the men who have pursued such degrees. I have not and would not comment on that. It would be rude and irrelevant (ad hominem). I am only commenting on the quality and utility for the churches of DE programs.

I´m grateful for Kevin´s questions re the role of the Spirit in the preparation of ministers. Yes, when I say "œthe work of the Spirit," I mean just that, his work of applying Scripture to faculties of the student. All our faculty are called by churches to conduct our ministries here at the sem. We pray before class that God would use the instruction there to accomplish his equipping purposes. We are completely dependent upon the work of the Spirit to prepare men for ministry. We cannot replace the work of the Spirit.

I would not say that there is no value in distance ed, only that we should recognize its inherent limitations. Distance ed is appropriate for continuing ed (e.g., OPC MTI "“ we recently agreed to receive three of their courses for credit) and things of that sort. It is not appropriate, in my view, for laying the basic foundations for ministry any more than it would be to lay the basic foundations of medical or legal education.

Yes, there are certain liabilities in leaving one´s home church to go to seminary. There are certain liabilities to leaving one´s family physician to go to medical school, but any physician worth his or her salt would tell you to do just that. They would recognize their limitations. See my essay on distance ed for more on this.

Because of this reluctance to send gifted men away to seminary, many larger congregations are turning back to the early medieval model of the Cathedral School (e.g., Anselm and Abelard). I do not have time to detail the history, but it must do to say that we are likely to learn the same thing they did in the 12th century, i.e., that the limits of the Cathedral school will create the need for a theological faculty (in our system, a seminary).

Despite the drawbacks of leaving one´s home church, there are many advantages to leaving one´s home church to study just as there would be to leaving one´s family physician or lawyer to study. Does the local church have the necessary resources? Not likely? Does it subscribe to expensive academic journals and buy expensive European academic volumes (Brill and Droz volumes can run to $100 or more easily)? The answer is obvious. The only way to avoid the thrust of this argument is to deny that ministers need a first class education, which conviction, I fear, underlies some of the pro-distance ed arguments.

Students often learn things away from one´s home church that they simply cannot learn at home. They study here with faculty from the OPC, PCA, and URC. They mix with and learn from students from across the world. They learn Greek and Hebrew together. They learn to work cooperatively. They learn to listen to other views, perhaps views they´ve never heard before (one´s local pastor probably is not a learned specialist in multiple fields) and they learn to respond carefully. They learn the sorts of skills they will use for a lifetime of ministry, of attending Presbytery/Classis or GA/Synod meetings, but they are also useful in catechism class and in house visitation. Those who attend a traditional brick and mortar seminary have their horizons broadened in ways that cannot be duplicated in any other setting.

At the same time, there are dozens of local congregations ready to help train seminary students here. Our students are valued as interns because they are well trained and ready to preach, teach catechism and go on visitations. We cannot replace one´s home congregation, but we can provide a substitute.

I recognize that congregations are often reluctant to send a gifted young (or older!) man to seminary. This reluctance, though perfectly natural, is shortsighted. As I´ve argued already, a man will not likely be the pastor of only one congregation. Training in one´s local congregation has advantages, but it can produce a certain narrowness and parochialism which may not be healthy for the churches in the long run.

Whether a pastor should leave a congregation -- "œabandon" prejudices the discussion, doesn´t it?"“ is a difficult question which we face frequently. I have taught several men who have realized their need for a seminary education, who have taken a leave of absence and gone back to school. They did not believe that they were "œabandoning" their congregations. They believed that they were preparing to become more faithful.

As Reformed and Presbyterian Christians we realize that our congregations are not "œour´s," they are Christ´s. We have Presbyteries and Classes to whom we can turn for supply and pastors. These are difficult cases, and as such, they make for bad law. We should not make policy on the basis of such cases.

As to whether distance ed under a mentor is "œproper" training, I suppose it depends on the definition of proper. Strictly defined it means "œbelonging to" or even "œinherent to." In this sense, a roof is proper to a house. In the nature of things, a house without a roof is incomplete. I think a brick and mortar seminary education has the same relations to ministry. A house might go without a roof, but its not "œproper" (so defined) and may not work well, especially when it rains.

I agree fully that, at the end of the day, it is the Presbytery/Classis (and consistories/sessions) who are ordained by God to make the judgment as whether a candidate is fit. That is exactly why I´ve been arguing against distance ed. I want ruling elders and pastors as well as candidates and credentials committees to continue to ask that their candidates attend a traditional, confessional seminary as a prerequisite to licensure and ordination.

I agree that a disciplined man can take steps toward preparation for ministry by distance, but is that all the training one needs? Is it sufficient in itself? What about the analogy with medicine and law? If the analogy holds, then how can one avoid the conclusion that the local, traditional seminary is essential? One has to deny the analogy. One has to argue that ministry is not as demanding as the law or medicine, but our students who have been law and medical students tell us exactly the opposite. They tell us that their seminary training was more rigorous than their law/medical training. Yet we wouldn´t think of seeing a distance ed trained surgeon or lawyer, would we?

Thanks for the discussion. I hope it has been useful.

Blessings,

rsc

[Edited on 5-11-2005 by R. Scott Clark]

[Edited on 5-11-2005 by R. Scott Clark]
 

crhoades

Puritan Board Graduate
As one who desires to go to seminary and has visited: Westminster Cali, Philly, RTS Orlando, Covenant, GPTS, and Gordon Conwell...I have enjoyed this back and forth...
 

Arch2k

Puritan Board Graduate
Originally posted by crhoades
As one who desires to go to seminary ......I have enjoyed this back and forth...

:ditto:

I am strongly considering Whitefield because of it's program, but I definately see the advantages of a "brick and mortar" seminary.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
Originally posted by crhoades
As one who desires to go to seminary and has visited: Westminster Cali, Philly, RTS Orlando, Covenant, GPTS, and Gordon Conwell...I have enjoyed this back and forth...

When are you going to visit RTS Jackson? ;)

As to DMin's and other I agree with David Well´s critique re the "œDMin-ization" of ministry (I think it was in God in the Wasteland). It is intended as a professional degree, not as an academic degree.

He also gives the same expose in No Place for Truth, if that is what you are thinking of.
 

smallbeans

Puritan Board Freshman
I would go a little further and recommend that students not get Ph.D.'s or Th.D's from seminaries at all if one is hoping to work in academia. First of all, a Ph.D. from a university gives you many more job possibilities. A Ph.D. from a seminary is a little less marketable outside of the Christian world, excepting perhaps Princeton Seminary and a few other Ivy League seminaries. Secondly, it is really good to get outside of your denominational or even traditional context when earning your Ph.D.. This assumes, of course, a good foundation in one's tradition through the M.Div. program at a seminary, but it is then really good to go into academia and understand the concerns there. You can interact not just with people from other sister denominations, but people from EO, RC, and other backgrounds. I'll never forget the day in my "research problems in Early Church" class in my Ph.D. work when I and a Roman Catholic student were together defending the soteriological importance of the atonement to our Greek Orthodox professor who was downplaying the atonement in favor of the incarnation. The only hard part is that in universities you pretty much have to major in historical theology - not even most Catholic Universities have a systematics program, so the best proxy is historical theology, a disipline that is never sure whether it is doing theology or history.

The Th.D. moniker is kind of outmoded. Most of those programs have changed to be Ph.D. programs. I know Concordia (a Lutheran seminary here in St. Louis) recently changed its Th.D. program into a Ph.D. program because Ph.D. is the coin of the realm and fewer people understand that a Th.D. is the equivalent.

One nice thing about the American Ph.D. system with its emphasis on course work is that the student is forced to read all kinds of "junk" that he or she would never read out of sheer interest. The good thing there is that often one finds relevant material in unexpected places. You become a more well-rounded scholar in those places.

The biggest thing about the Ph.D. is its humbling effect. I've never felt like I knew less than I do now that I'm finished with my comprehensive exams. Part of it is just rubbing shoulders with people all day who know their fields well - you realize a. that there are tons of specialties, and b. that there is much more to know that is possible to know. It has a humbling effect, I think. The Ph.D. is an endurance test as much as anything else...
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
One nice thing about the American Ph.D. system with its emphasis on course work is that the student is forced to read all kinds of "junk" that he or she would never read out of sheer interest. The good thing there is that often one finds relevant material in unexpected places. You become a more well-rounded scholar in those places.

Even when I was an undergrad, we were force-fed Tillich, The Oxfor Companino to the Bible, etc. I've read the liberal side and have found it wanting. However, I can't say that it was altogether pleasurable. I hope I am sharper as a result.

Ditto on the working with Catholic thing. I had to teem up with a Romanist to defend the practice of Church Discipline to a hostile Covenant-breaker. Now, after the class was over the Romanist and myself turned on one another as we should.
 

crhoades

Puritan Board Graduate
Originally posted by crhoades
As one who desires to go to seminary and has visited: Westminster Cali, Philly, RTS Orlando, Covenant, GPTS, and Gordon Conwell...I have enjoyed this back and forth...


When are you going to visit RTS Jackson? ;)

All the people at Jackson are whack jobs...:lol: Just kidding...I haven't had the opportunity yet actually. I've been able to visit all of the other seminaries on business trips. I usually can take a half a day and swing by one and talk with admissions, a few professors, and check out their bookstore and library.

I would love to swing down there and hang out with you, Fred, and everyone else and stop by Mt. Olive Bookstore/Tape library.

On a halfway serious note, I guess I haven't put Jackson on the top part of the list due to apologetics and ethics...I'm open to correction by people that go there, but don't they follow more of Clark in apologetics rather than Van Til? (For everyone else reading - not wanting to debate, just ascertain...) And last time I checked Bahnsen didn't fair too well due to his ethics...This is probably just me being more close minded. Either way, definitely want to visit and share a pint.
 

kceaster

Puritan Board Junior
Dr. Clark...

I realize that you have said your last word, and I am not trying to illicit a response, but please allow me to say my last word.

I do think the analogy breaks down from the legal and medical realm, to the theological. For one, lawyers and medical Drs, are not promised to be guided and filled with the Holy Spirit of God. A medical Dr is not promised to be led into all truth. A lawyer is not responsible for teaching the Scriptures. In both of these professions, certain agencies and certification boards are involved to ensure that men and women who practice them are in every way qualified, depending on the standards of the time. Not to mention, that there are proven courses of study that continually change as to content and scope. I can name several other professions that cannot be learned by a distance. One cannot learn to be a pilot without being local, that is, cannot gain a license without having proven by much practice that he is able to control the craft. One cannot learn to be a mechanic without having the hands on, local training needed in being able to diagnose and troubleshoot automotive problems.

Each of these professions carries with it certain requirements for approval in each field. What you have not proven is that the Scriptures are clear as to how a disciple is trained to be an elder in Christ's church. I think we can all agree that the requirements in I Tim. 3 are a bit vague when it comes to the type of education one should have. But we do see that Paul encouraged Timothy's studies.

I have not argued against seminary. I have not argued for relaxed standards. I have not argued against brick and mortar schools. I have not said that professors and what they can teach me are irrelevant. I have simply argued that a man can receive good classroom teaching from a distance. Sure he misses out on the one on one conversation. Sure he misses the close relationships that are built between teacher and student. Sure he misses the camaraderie of being with fellow students and being able to spur one another on. But these are periphery, they are parenthetical to the education of the mind in the Reformed faith and Biblical ministry.

I see distance education as sort of an innovation like the printing press. It is a way for men to have information where they did not have the luxury before. I have no trouble waiting until I can go to seminary. I waited a good long time as it is. I do not care how long it takes me. I am willing to do all of the work and then some. If I am some exception to the rule, so be it. I stand because God causes me to stand. It is not my exceptional abilities that enables me to do what you deem as impossible.

I would simply ask for time and patience to see if this sort of thing will work. In many ways, it seems you have dismissed this without trial. As I have stated before, your presupposition makes this issue decided. But my hope is that you will see that there are men who not only can do this, but do it well. And on the other side of this, there are that many more Reformed and confessional ministers to aid in the spreading of the gospel and the shepherding of the flock of God. If you merely see this as a shortcut that will undermine the Church of God, I can assure you that it will die a quick death within the Reformed community. You will not see it flourish among conservatives. But if it does have lasting value, it can be just as beneficial as the Genevan Academy, only this technology can bring it to a wider world.

More education to those who would otherwise not have it, even if delivered under this medium, is better than no education at all.

Thank you, Dr. Clark, for your exchange and your patience with me. I have enjoyed it as you have. Again, I would add that I have meant no disrespect and I pray that I have not offended you.

In Christ,

KC

[Edited on 5-12-2005 by kceaster]
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
On a halfway serious note, I guess I haven't put Jackson on the top part of the list due to apologetics and ethics...I'm open to correction by people that go there, but don't they follow more of Clark in apologetics rather than Van Til? (For everyone else reading - not wanting to debate, just ascertain...) And last time I checked Bahnsen didn't fair too well due to his ethics...This is probably just me being more close minded. Either way, definitely want to visit and share a pint.

I don't think anyone follows Clark anymore. Of course I haven't taken apologetics yet either. But I don't remember seeing Clark in the readings. But you will not find a perfect seminary either. At least if you come to Jackson, you will have some PB freinds here already waiting for you who can be your moral support whenever VanTil may be attacked or if you need help with anything else. :bigsmile:
 

crhoades

Puritan Board Graduate
Originally posted by puritansailor
On a halfway serious note, I guess I haven't put Jackson on the top part of the list due to apologetics and ethics...I'm open to correction by people that go there, but don't they follow more of Clark in apologetics rather than Van Til? (For everyone else reading - not wanting to debate, just ascertain...) And last time I checked Bahnsen didn't fair too well due to his ethics...This is probably just me being more close minded. Either way, definitely want to visit and share a pint.

I don't think anyone follows Clark anymore. Of course I haven't taken apologetics yet either. But I don't remember seeing Clark in the readings. But you will not find a perfect seminary either. At least if you come to Jackson, you will have some PB freinds here already waiting for you who can be your moral support whenever VanTil may be attacked or if you need help with anything else. :bigsmile:

Aww...now you're making me want to come down there! Truth be told, my wife being from California and all...I praise God that she has adjusted to Nashville - I think she would go bonkers in Jackson. :lol: Orlando would probably suit her beach going ways better. I know...I know...my wife's climatic desires shouldn't be my deciding factor on choosing seminaries... I do need to find an excuse to make it down there soon...
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
Originally posted by crhoades
Originally posted by puritansailor
On a halfway serious note, I guess I haven't put Jackson on the top part of the list due to apologetics and ethics...I'm open to correction by people that go there, but don't they follow more of Clark in apologetics rather than Van Til? (For everyone else reading - not wanting to debate, just ascertain...) And last time I checked Bahnsen didn't fair too well due to his ethics...This is probably just me being more close minded. Either way, definitely want to visit and share a pint.

I don't think anyone follows Clark anymore. Of course I haven't taken apologetics yet either. But I don't remember seeing Clark in the readings. But you will not find a perfect seminary either. At least if you come to Jackson, you will have some PB freinds here already waiting for you who can be your moral support whenever VanTil may be attacked or if you need help with anything else. :bigsmile:

Aww...now you're making me want to come down there! Truth be told, my wife being from California and all...I praise God that she has adjusted to Nashville - I think she would go bonkers in Jackson. :lol: Orlando would probably suit her beach going ways better. I know...I know...my wife's climatic desires shouldn't be my deciding factor on choosing seminaries... I do need to find an excuse to make it down there soon...

If she ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!

I hope I didn't get in trouble on that last remark.

[Edited on 5--12-05 by Draught Horse]
 

smallbeans

Puritan Board Freshman
It gets pretty cold in St. Louis in the winter, but there are at least a dozen PCA churches here all with different worship styles, so there are plenty of places for internships, etc. I kind of like having four seasons. Nashville is a "prettier" town in many ways, though.

You also can't really judge a seminary based on its apologetics curriculum. That is going to be maybe one course you take along the way. Seminary is quick - there are lots of things to learn - the "vibe" of the place is important, and all the external concerns - is your wife happy, do you like the town, etc. are the most important. Finally, what kind of men am I entrusting myself to? Will I learn the bible? Will I learn to preach in a clear way? Will I learn the original languages?

As for Bahnsen - dude, you can't judge a seminary based on its approach to Bahnsen. Most everyone I know really never thinks of him - he stirred up a pot with the whole theonomy thing and he popularized one particular version of the transcendental argument. There have since been better books written on apologetics, better books on ethics, etc. He was a smart guy and you can learn from him, but no one really talks about him anymore at seminaries and you won't be reading his books unless you're writing a paper on the theonomy movement or perhaps on Van Til's apologetics. I don't mean to sound down on him, but I'm just giving you the honest truth about the general approach to him at various seminaries. Seriously, I can't think of a seminary you could attend where you'd ever even hear his name mentioned outside of the one class period in Christian ethics when you contrast the various views on civil government....
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
Originally posted by crhoades
Originally posted by crhoades
As one who desires to go to seminary and has visited: Westminster Cali, Philly, RTS Orlando, Covenant, GPTS, and Gordon Conwell...I have enjoyed this back and forth...


When are you going to visit RTS Jackson? ;)

All the people at Jackson are whack jobs...:lol: Just kidding...I haven't had the opportunity yet actually. I've been able to visit all of the other seminaries on business trips. I usually can take a half a day and swing by one and talk with admissions, a few professors, and check out their bookstore and library.

I would love to swing down there and hang out with you, Fred, and everyone else and stop by Mt. Olive Bookstore/Tape library.

On a halfway serious note, I guess I haven't put Jackson on the top part of the list due to apologetics and ethics...I'm open to correction by people that go there, but don't they follow more of Clark in apologetics rather than Van Til? (For everyone else reading - not wanting to debate, just ascertain...) And last time I checked Bahnsen didn't fair too well due to his ethics...This is probably just me being more close minded. Either way, definitely want to visit and share a pint.

Jackson is clearly a Presuppositional campus. The apologetics prof is Michael Payne, a serious Van Tillian. He is published in the academic field on apologetics issues. Another prof who I know well, Dennis Ireland (NT prof) is also presuppositional. So is (to my knowledge) Derek Thomas and Ligon Duncan.

I have not heard any one espouse Clarkian apologetics (or other emphases) in any context here.

Bahnsen did not fare too well here, it is true. But from everything that I have heard - from both current profs and those who were students at the time, it had far less to do with apologetics and ethics than it did with his sessions with students in which he heavily criticized all the other faculty. It basically divided the seminary, and almost killed it.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
I understand what you are saying, Jonathan, but I know what Chris is getting at. It is too easy on the theonomy/apologetics debates to either, lash out at Bahnsen while never reading his stuff, or defend Bahnsen to the death without realizing that the other guy might actually be probing or not fully understanding the arguments, or vice-versa. One can get really frustrated hearing people bash straw-men arguments at their heroes. I know. I went to a liberal baptist college for four years and saw conservative views mocked with a savage vengeance. I know it is different in seminaries, but old baggage is hard to let go.

And apologetics is important. One's apologetical method will shape the way one does theology and evangelism, along with changing the way one looks at the world. Chris might be narrowing his approach too much, maybe, but it certainly is a valid point he raises. Plus, the fact that "nobody"* has heard of Bahnsen is irrelevant to whether he is right or wrong (not trying to open the debate back up).

*This is what I had thought for a while but thanks to Covenant Media, the legendary Bahnsen-Stein debate is being made ready for the masses. While he may not have taken hold at the seminaries, his methodology is being popularized at home-school, patriotic, etc. conferences. Men like Doug Phillips and Gary Demar are popular speakers and leaders in their areas. I expect things to break open in the near future.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
The apologetics prof is Michael Payne, a serious Van Tillian.

I remember sitting in on his lectures when I visited. He referenced personal experiences with Van Til. And the content of his material was hard-core Van Til. Rock on!
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
BTW, I wasn't arguing any points on Bahnsen in that post. Just making some observations and trying to clarify Chris's point.
 

crhoades

Puritan Board Graduate
Originally posted by smallbeans
It gets pretty cold in St. Louis in the winter, but there are at least a dozen PCA churches here all with different worship styles, so there are plenty of places for internships, etc. I kind of like having four seasons. Nashville is a "prettier" town in many ways, though.

You also can't really judge a seminary based on its apologetics curriculum. That is going to be maybe one course you take along the way. Seminary is quick - there are lots of things to learn - the "vibe" of the place is important, and all the external concerns - is your wife happy, do you like the town, etc. are the most important. Finally, what kind of men am I entrusting myself to? Will I learn the bible? Will I learn to preach in a clear way? Will I learn the original languages?

As for Bahnsen - dude, you can't judge a seminary based on its approach to Bahnsen. Most everyone I know really never thinks of him - he stirred up a pot with the whole theonomy thing and he popularized one particular version of the transcendental argument. There have since been better books written on apologetics, better books on ethics, etc. He was a smart guy and you can learn from him, but no one really talks about him anymore at seminaries and you won't be reading his books unless you're writing a paper on the theonomy movement or perhaps on Van Til's apologetics. I don't mean to sound down on him, but I'm just giving you the honest truth about the general approach to him at various seminaries. Seriously, I can't think of a seminary you could attend where you'd ever even hear his name mentioned outside of the one class period in Christian ethics when you contrast the various views on civil government....

Thanks for your thoughts. My post was really only serious at one point. What type of apologetical methodology is prevalent at RTS Jackson. The Bahnsen comment was a veiled joke.

I have had the privilege of visiting most reformed seminaries and have a pretty good feel of strengths and weaknesses of most of them. What has been especially helpful are threads like this one between Prof. Clark and KC. as well as reading the Fred Greco's of the world. (Sorry for abstracting you there Fred...) All of that being said, I know that Jackson is strongly historical/confessional and has a kick butt homiletics department etc. etc. etc. I wasn't sure about their apologetics.

I will say that there is a lack of apologetical focus at most seminaries if I had to throw my .02 in. In most cases it does boil down to 1 class on the list. RTS Orlando has an M.A. in Christian Thought which covers the history of epistemology etc. which is nice. WTS PA has a strong apologetics department which makes sense...

Also, to round out my general ruminations, I do have strong leanings in the realm of apologetics and ethics and would like to have the seminary I go to have strengths there as well. I'm still trying to figure myself out in a lot of this.
 

crhoades

Puritan Board Graduate
Originally posted by fredtgreco
Jackson is clearly a Presuppositional campus. The apologetics prof is Michael Payne, a serious Van Tillian. He is published in the academic field on apologetics issues. Another prof who I know well, Dennis Ireland (NT prof) is also presuppositional. So is (to my knowledge) Derek Thomas and Ligon Duncan.

I have not heard any one espouse Clarkian apologetics (or other emphases) in any context here.

Thanks! Good to hear actually. My wife won't want to hear it though. :) I'm not even sure where my thoughts were about an emphasis on Clark. Was that true historically or am I just making this up?

Bahnsen did not fare too well here, it is true. But from everything that I have heard - from both current profs and those who were students at the time, it had far less to do with apologetics and ethics than it did with his sessions with students in which he heavily criticized all the other faculty. It basically divided the seminary, and almost killed it.

That's sad to hear. Wish it weren't so but there's probably a lot of truth to it. Of course I would like to hear comments from Gentry etc. that were his students at the time to get their take. Very well could confirm this. Not a big issue either way in determing where I'll go but is interesting to me nonetheless.

Thanks for the info Fred. Beer for you when I come. :up:

Just realized that I completely hijacked this thread...Sorry about that.

For giggles...so what are everyone's thoughts about Bahnsen Theological Seminary (non-accredited, distance ed, theonomic, presuppositional)...(please don't go for the bait....being sarcastic:lol:)

[Edited on 5-12-2005 by crhoades]

[Edited on 5-12-2005 by crhoades]
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
Originally posted by crhoades
[For giggles...so what are everyone's thoughts about Bahnsen Theological Seminary (non-accredited, distance ed, theonomic, presuppositional)...(please don't go for the bait....being sarcastic:lol:)

[Edited on 5-12-2005 by crhoades]

[Edited on 5-12-2005 by crhoades]

Hey,
Paul Manata went there. Can't be too bad;)
 
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