My Responce to Dr. R. Scott Clark

Discussion in 'Seminaries, Colleges & Education' started by JOwen, Mar 6, 2007.

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  1. JOwen

    JOwen Puritan Board Junior

    My Response to Dr. R. Scott Clark

    I have an abiding respect for Dr. Clark, don't get me wrong. But some times you just have to disagree.
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2007
  2. tcalbrecht

    tcalbrecht Puritan Board Junior

    So seminaries like Westminster and Greenville are really just parachurch institutions, like Navigators or Evangelism Explosion, meant to fill a void left by the church.


    Would you say that denominational seminaries like Covenant fall into the same category?
  3. JOwen

    JOwen Puritan Board Junior

    Not knowing the governing method of that institution, it would be hard for me to say. Seminaries that are governed by the Church (make curricula, enforce standards, govern purity, etc), like Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary is probably the exception. There may be others like Covenant. At a minimum this should be the case because the highest teaching and governing authority in Christ's Church is the Church herself not an appointed board. Too often, in my opinion, the Seminary is telling the Church what is important to the ministry and not the other way around. I find no place in the Word that includes the seminary as a part of the ministry of the Church. If it is a convention of man, then it is para.:)
  4. JOwen

    JOwen Puritan Board Junior

    Amen brother.
  5. Chris

    Chris Puritan Board Sophomore

  6. Poimen

    Poimen Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Is it just me or does this issue remind you of the 'home schooling vs. traditional schooling' debate?
  7. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    It's not just you. Many of the arguments used against distance seminary education can and are used against home schooling.
  8. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    I'm thinking you can get a servicable computer for extension classes, etc. for probably $700-800, but correct me if I'm wrong.
  9. Poimen

    Poimen Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Right, but it goes both ways doesn't it? The division is caused by an either/or approach instead of a both/and approach. As Dr. Clark mentioned, distance education is valuable but, at least in his view, cannot and should not replace traditional seminary training. :2cents:
  10. Chris

    Chris Puritan Board Sophomore

    I bought a brand-new Dell laptop last year for $725-ish.
  11. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    You can buy a brand new desktop that runs Vista with a core duo processor for under $500 this week at several stores. I VERY serviceable laptop can be had for under $700 (unless you need all the latest gadgets). And those are all brand new machines. You can get a one year old laptop/PC for far less on ebay or the like.

    $1500 is a red herring. You can even get a Mac for less than that.
  12. Kevin

    Kevin Puritan Board Doctor

    Great article.:up:

    I saw that you cited my good friend (& former pastor) Jack Whytock. I have taken several of the Haddington House "summer school" courses over the years I highly recomend the model of HH. The combination of distence course work along with intense week long "on campus" courses seems to strike a very good balence.
  13. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    Yup. I bought my wife a spare Toshiba laptop two months ago for about $500from Office Depot. Off the shelf with everything you could need. Fast and light. It puts my $1500 dinosaur to shame.
  14. New wine skin

    New wine skin Puritan Board Freshman

    Great post. I have spent time in WTS Dallas and now am enrolled in the MAR distance program at RTS. It is a top notch school and program. I have no problem getting books via Library loan. I already own a PC and already had small library of books that I would want even if I was not in seminary. Many of the new courses offered at RTS are simulcast, so you can interact real-time with the prof and other students. The quality gap is narrowing btw brick/mortar vs distance programs every year. Technology can be a great blessing! Like it or not Distance ed is here to stay.
  15. polemic_turtle

    polemic_turtle Puritan Board Freshman

    Dependin on what you need it to do, doesn't Walmart sell fine PCs for $300+?

    I've got at least two computers from a generation or two ago sitting in my closet unused. All they would need is perhaps $120-$150 worth of software/hardware. I wish I knew someone who needed one.

    Interesting viewpoint, brother. Lewis.
  16. Chris

    Chris Puritan Board Sophomore

    Last year I took an accounting class from UoP online. It was much, much better, in terms of rigor and necessary commitment level, than the other classes I took for my brick/mortar MBA.

    I actually 'went to class' once from Tokyo, in a hotel lobby, and did the last 2 weeks of the class from Bangkok. No issues whatsoever. I finished the class greatly impressed with distance education (as done by UoP, anyway).
  17. Poimen

    Poimen Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Yes, the main work of a pastor is to preach the word of God (2 Timothy 4:1ff.) though I do not deny that the responsibilities you mentioned above are secondary, important concerns and tasks of a minister (ironically something I learned, at least in part, at WSC!).

    On a related point, it would be difficult to minister to the needs of the flock if one was busy teaching another man (or men) to be pastors. Just a thought. :)
  18. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    I believe in our world, this is the single biggest argument against distance education. The life of a reformed pastor is very busy - often a solo pastorate, with two (sometimes three!) sermon preparations per week, often with no secretary to help run the office, hospital visits, pastoral calls, meetings, etc. It would be very difficult to teach someone how to be a pastor. Some could be "caught" by accompanying the minister on visits, etc., but it could be very hard.

    This is one reason why I think it is wrong to be dogmatic on this subject, either insisting one must attend a seminary (as Dr. Clark insists) or decrying seminaries as the root of all evil (as some of Dr. Clark's critics insist).

    I think Jerrold has struck a good balance, and helped the discussion on this.
  19. JOwen

    JOwen Puritan Board Junior

    Take them with you. That's how they learn best. Same thing with pastoral counseling, funerals, weddings, etc. This would eliminate the embarrassing "roll playing" skits found in the back of some text books I've seen. :)
  20. Poimen

    Poimen Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    No (substantial) disagreement here. I did this during and after seminary in my internships (500 hours of which were required by WSC in order to graduate under the M.Div program).

    However, as Fred and I have pointed out, it would be very difficult if not impossible for most (many) pastors to be able to do that AND theologically train a man (men) for the ministry.
  21. JOwen

    JOwen Puritan Board Junior

    I agree that most would not have the time. However in the federations I have been a part of, there is never more than a handful of men under care at a time. Perhaps 10% of the (older) ministers would be engaged in this kind of activity. I would not suggest that new or inexperienced ministers train. In the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, the student spends a predetermined amount of time with different pastors. One who excels in Greek, one who excels in Church History, etc. This allows a dispersement of responsibility in a Presbytery, and gives the student time in several manse studies. The detraction in this model however lies on the home front. If the student minister has a family, they do not see him as often as they might.

    No perfect system to be sure.
  22. Poimen

    Poimen Puritan Board Post-Graduate

  23. Philip A

    Philip A Puritan Board Sophomore

    Note that Clark specifically mentions in his blog post that the reference to computer costs is out of date:

  24. wsw201

    wsw201 Puritan Board Senior

    One area that I think distance education from Seminaries would be extremely helpful is with the training of RE's and Deacons. On the whole, these offices get short changed.
  25. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Yes, that's always been kind of confusing for me since I joined a Presbyterian church. The office of elder, whether teaching or ruling, is one office. But ruling elders usually are people with full-time jobs besides being elders, and usually not with any extra education in theology than non-ordained people.

    Not all people are able to receive a formal education in a brick and mortar institutions. Some can't afford it, and some can't for practical reasons. But whether one learns at an institution or in his den, education only teaches you how to learn, giving you the skills and the tools. That doesn't mean that people don't learn anyways, even if they receive neither form of education. And it doesn't always mean that people who do learn formally know how to learn properly even with all the education they have received.

    The problem I see with distance education is with how to judge their credentials. Marks are not the only thing to look at. There are recommendations from teachers and peers, and there are observations of character through personal familiarity. How do you know what you need to know about whether a person is fit for the ministry through one examination, or even two or three?
  26. JOwen

    JOwen Puritan Board Junior

    This is a valid criticism, but it cuts both ways. How can a federation at the presbyterial or synodical level discern that after 4 years of acedemic training a man is ready to do the full-bodied work of a pastor? Academic credentials are only half of the equation. Let's not forget the disciplines of love, humility, pastoral care, self abasement, experiential preaching, caring for those that lack assurance, are presumptuous, back-slidden, the sick, the grieving, etc. While the hub of my ministry is the preaching of the gospel, the spokes mentioned above complete the wheel of Christ's ministry in the Church.
  27. satz

    satz Puritan Board Senior

    Hi all,

    I am young and fairly inexperienced, so I don't want to appear to be shooting off my mouth, but I would like to ask a sincere question.

    I guess I have a hard time understanding where the idea comes that seminary training is considered even a normal prerequisite for being a pastor. I cannot recall anything in the New Testament that resembles the kind of formal seminaries we have today. I am not saying that the concept is wrong, but I don't understand the idea that the 'ideal' training for a pastoral candidate is to go though the seminary route. Someone here mentioned being mentored by a pastor as an alternative training method and it seems to me a perfectly valid one, every bit as valid as going to seminary. Paul told Timothy (2 Tim 2:2) and Titus (Tit 1:5) to be the ones appointing and ordaining new ministers and he made no mention of external teaching institutions, so there must be at least the assumption that a pastor can be the one to identify (note that the qualifications for ministers are given to Timothy and Titus in the pastoral epistles), train and ultimately ordain the next generation of ministers. I understand Pastor Greco's comments above that practically speaking pastors today may be pressed for time to do this, but I am interested in just examining the prinicple.

    Let me say again I am not saying there is necessarily anything wrong with the seminary route, but I truely do not understand why there seems to be the strain of thought in christianity today where it is considered undesirable to take an alternative route.

    Am I missing something here? Any thoughts?
  28. JOwen

    JOwen Puritan Board Junior

    Pastor's College ala Spurgeon & Lloyd-Jones

    The best model I can think of, in our day would look something like this:

    1. Student presents himself before the Consistory to be accepted as a candidate for the ministry.
    2. An examination is given to discern the inward and outward calling, and general cognitive ability.
    3. Upon consensus, the Consistory makes a recommendation to Classis to examine the man for entrance.
    4. Upon acceptance, the man is sent back to his home congregation and begins his studies under the oversight of the ministers of his Classis, his own minister being the lead pastor.
    5. One half of the student's 1 year classes are taken via distance ed with all papers and exams submitted to members of Classis for review. He is permitted to take limited part in Consistory meetings and is invited to Elder's meetings as an observer (expected to take notes).
    6. One half of students classes would be take in modular form at the denominational seminary (ours is PRTS) in one or two week intensives. (PRTS brings in the best of the best in any given field as it relates to the ministry!)
    7. Upon completion of first year, the Classis examines the student (orally) on basic Greek, intro Bible courses, and each other first year disciplines.
    8. Upon completion of this exam the student is approved to second year training.
    9. Years 2 and 3 progress in the same fashion as year one, only in each successive year he is given approval to "speak an edifying word" to his local congregation (from the NT in year 2, and OT or NT in year 3). Year 3 he is expected to 'preach' to Classis twice. During year 2 he is also given permission to teach catechism, conduct Bible Studies, lead prayer meetings, accompany Elder visits, funerals, weddings, counseling, etc. All with consistory oversight. Material would be generated from his course material so as not to overburden the student.
    10. Year 4 the student faces a final trial at Classis which includes Greek, Hebrew, Old Testament, New Testament, Systematics, general Bible, ethics, and eccesiology. He also preaches a full sermon and is examined extensively on his call to the ministry, piety, and private devotional life.

    At the end he would have a 4 year degree with all the bells and whistles, would have hundreds of hours of preaching experience in a local Church, and would have intimate knowledge of Church life from counseling to funerals.

    I would even go so far as to trim the curricula to hold to:

    1. Old Testament (knowledge, exegesis, hermeneutics)
    2. New Testament (knowledge, exegesis, hermeneutics)
    3. Languages (4 semesters each)
    4. Systematics (the 4 major disciplines)
    5. Homiletics
    6. Biblical Theology
    7. Pastoral Theology

    This follows the Pastor's College model of both Spurgeon and Lloyd-Jones.

  29. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    This is a really interesting discussion and I appreciate the "both and" balance to the discussion.

    I really do have a problem with an unbalanced attack against Seminaries as if they are at the root of the problem. It really takes the pressure and the focus of where the failure is occurring.

    1. You cannot blame a seminary for a man getting into debt. Nobody points a gun to his head and makes him attend.

    Let's be realistic here. This is not a Communist state where land is provided free of cost and the saintly Professors till the land to feed and clothe themselves and, when done with their daily toil, break away to be scholars. Buildings and grounds cost money. So do books. Seminary professors are hardly in the upper crust of compensation for their scholastic endeavors. Nobody's making a killing off of the varsity football team and TV endorsement deals.

    If we wish to blame anyone for the debt of students then blame the Churches that say "Hey go get an education on your dime and if you finish then we might ordain you...." Just don't blame the institution who is providing a service that is desired.

    2. Regarding pastoral care issues - again I don't think it's the sole job of a parachurch institution to train a man in how to shepherd a flock. I really like Rev. Lewis model above not for all its particulars but in the way that the Church is directly involved. I would back his list up a few steps:

    (1) Pastor and session invests time and energy in fathers and families to raise up Godly men.
    (2) Children are well educated and their hearts are trained. Young men are encouraged to desire eldership and the ministry if that gift is noticed early on.
    (3) Pastor and elders identify the young men who have the acumen and desire for ministry.

    and then begin the list above.

    In other words, the Church should be organically training and identifiying people. Many of the complaints above are a symptom of the fact that many Presbyterian bodies act more like independents. I hear all the talk about the way Puritan Books described Reformed Elders and I applaud that but then they blame the Seminaries for not modeling eldership. Seminaries shouldn't have to. A young man should instinctively know what a great Elder looks like because he ought to have grown up with one. Shame on the Church, not the Seminary, that many have no clue!

    Gents, it's not the job of the Seminary to perform visitations. It's not the job of the Seminary to counsel. I could go on and on. Again, we're projecting our frustration with the failings of the Church and blaming institutions that are supposed to help the Church but can never supplant what the Church alone has the responsibility for.

    3. I don't have all the answers but I do hope that we don't go so far down the road of distance education that all we're left with is a University of Phoenix approach to education. Don't get me wrong, I have respect for those that get distance education but I really think there should be a place where a man can go and interact with scholars whose time is devoted to research and intense study. Again, I agree that a "Seminary only" model is deficient but it's something that Churches need to address.

    I honestly believe that if Church's would reform the manner in which they identify and participate in the training of men that Seminaries would be very willing partners in that effort. Just don't expect them to be the Deus ex machina that solves the mess that entangles the whole process in most Churches.
  30. Robert Truelove

    Robert Truelove Puritan Board Sophomore

    In my denomination (Covenant Presbyterian Church), we do not require a degree (though many of our pastors have them); rather we seek the recommendation of the sponsoring session as to a man's knowledge and life and that the man pass the required exams.

    With the session's recommendation, the candidate submits a written exam to the examination committee. The written exam is broken down into Practical/Life Questions, Doctrine and Creeds, Church History, Church Polity, and View and Knowledge of Scripture.

    This is followed up with a 4 hour oral exam before the examination committee. If the examination committee approves the candidate they will present their recommendation to the presbytery and then the candidate will take a 20-30 minute oral exam before the entire presbytery that generally covers practical, pastoral issues.

    At the end of this process, if the presbytery approves the candidate, he is ordained into the ministry.

    We hold to a strict two office view. We do not make a distinction between "ruling" and "teaching" elders. While there are differing gifts from one man to the next, and in each local church we desire that at least one elder serve in a full time capacity and be supported by the church, we do not see these differences of gifting and service as different kinds of elders. Therefore, the process above is required for all elders in the Covenant Presbyterian Church.

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