Dear Jack:Recently I've felt God calling me to spend a period of my life dedicated to the study of his word, and I'm interested in attending a seminary after I finish my undergraduate degree, but I don't know much about the community of seminaries and how to ascertain what kind of school would be right for me. Furthermore, many of my expectations and strategies in choosing undergrad or grad schools don't seem to apply to seminaries. For example:Unlike an undergraduate or graduate school, I don't think the "name" or "prestige" of a seminary is a good delineating factor because I'm not depending on the school for a job offer, I'm depending on it to aid me in learning how to hear God speak to me and the church through his Word. Furthermore, when choosing an undergraduate school to attend, I assumed that the school was solely out for my money or my name (should I do anything successful after graduation) and treated the entire process like a business exchange. (What does this school have to offer me, what will my experience be in return for my money?)This attitude probably shouldn't apply to seminary...Do you have any recommendations on how I can determine the way any given seminary teaches its students? Many, many schools claim to be into "exegetical teaching", but highly doubt this means the same thing for every school. Finally, what kinds of things can I be doing now that will ensure I get into the seminary school I want, if and when I find it?
Jon, there are lots of schools out there that teach Bible, theology, and other subjects that prepare one for ministry. Many are liberal in their theological approach. The ones I would recommend to you are evangelical and what most of would consider conservative in theology. The opinions are all my own and nothing I write should be construed to be considered an official endorsement by InterVarsity.
In general: one can look up seminaries on Google and read descriptions, which - understandably - are glowing. However, you can tell what their emphases would be. On the other hand, when it comes right down to it, it is the impact of each professor that will influence you. Another detail would be the part of the country you live in and also the financial aspect. I would not think a seminary would accept one or another student on the basis of how their "success" would enhance the prestige of the school! As for being a "business exchange," obviously education costs money, and well qualified professors should receive a just remuneration, so costs are rising. However, there are scholarships.
Columbia International University (South Carolina) (http://www.ciu.edu/), began as a Bible College with a strong emphasis on Missions. (It still calls itself "Seminary and School of Mission.") I have never been there, but I am told that it has maintained its warm, evangelical atmosphere, with added Southern Charm.
Moody Bible Institute (Chicago) Founded by D.L. Moody in 1886, to prepare people for active ministry. "Its goal is to train students specifically for full-time ministry in churches and parachurch organizations. Ministry intent is a necessary prerequisite for admission." Aware of students' financial needs, they don't charge tuition at the undergraduate level. I'm not sure about "seminary" level. For many years they were not accredited, wanting to remain free to teach what they cared about, not what would be expected. They are accredited now. I understand that practical work is required of the students. My parents graduated there in the 20's. My dad learned to preach on the streets of Chicago and taught generations of Presbyterian missionaries in Korea to do the same in the countryside.
Trinity Evangelical University (Deerfield, IL, near Chicago). They have a college, graduate school, and also a Seminary. Evangelical in orientation. Founded, I understand, by the Evangelical Free Church.
Wheaton Graduate School (45 minutes west of Chicago). Known more for the college than the Seminary, it began as a graduate school but now offers full fledged Seminary degrees.
Gordon Conwell Seminary (near Boston, MA). Considered the evangelical seminary in the North East, bringing vitality to many churches in a pretty desolate landscape.
Fuller Theological Seminary (Pasadena, CA). Probably the largest evangelical seminary in North America, with many extensions. It has three graduate schools: Theology, Psychology, and World Missions. Strong emphasis on theology; some might consider it on the edge of evangelical emphases.
Talbot School of Theology (http://www.talbot.edu/). Also in the Los Angeles area. Related to BIOLA, their undergraduate program. Smaller and perhaps less congested than Fuller.
Dallas Theological Seminary. (Texas). Great emphasis on Biblical languages and exegesis. I understand that their normal course is 4 years, from which one graduates with a ThM. They used to be known for the "dispensational theology." I don't know what their emphasis would be at the present time.
How to determine what they teach?
- Look at their statement of faith.
- Explore the tenor of their website. The articles, the comments about professors, etc.
- If some interest you, ask them to send you their catalogue.
- Ask your pastor if he knows any of the faculty.
- Visit the school and talk to students.
What you should be doing now.
- I don't think it would be difficult to get into a Seminary if you have a college degree and decent grades.
- I would work on the development of your spiritual life, fellowship with other Christian students, growing in your ministry gifts and activities.
- Pray that the Lord will guide you.
Well, that's probably more than you expected! I trust it will be helpful!