Crystal Gayle would sing, “Now I go down this wrong road again, going back to where I’ve already been”. That should be the theme song for theological seminary. The purpose of theological seminary is to frame the nonsense of juvenile teachings about religion in a more adult manner. I am going to paint with a broad brush for a few paragraphs – then we shall become more specific.
Thinking adults soon drop the foolish nonsense of literal biblical interpretation. Theological Seminaries would be quick to dispute this post. They would rather frame their purpose along these lines:
- Preparation for Ministry
- Preparation for Ordination
- Theological Education
- Preparing for Counseling
- Spiritual Discipline
There is an implication, because of the Masters level of education and the subject matter, that seminary is an intellectual endeavor leading to a more open mind. We think it lo0ks like a high class votech school – job training. The design is the proliferation of particular doctrine – not an intellectual debate about truth. We cannot hide the truth behind fancy words or titles. In every instance mentioned the purpose is to frame childhood religion in a manner that is acceptable to a thinking adult. There is no attempt to seek the truth – only to affirm that which is already believed.
Along the way in seminary the students study a variety of perspectives on the creation and evolution of their faith (what a sad pun). Students study the Gnostics. Not really. Students are led through some Gnostic Gospels which fail to meet the polished standards of King James. The purpose is to lead to an acceptable refuting of anything mentioned in those Gospels. Why? Because these ideas do not conform to traditional Christian thought.
The word itself, Gnostic, means knowledge. The enigma of seminary is that, while claiming to promote knowledge, the theologians dispute knowledge – the preference is for a more faith or belief based religion. The message: knowledge is dangerous.
We are not just talking about the goofy seminaries of the LDS or the Southern Baptists and their cousins – the holy rollers. The purpose of mainstream seminary, Presbyterian, Methodist, Whatever, is to frame the debate in a manner favorable to their organization.
Compare these seminaries to advanced degrees in any other area. How about architecture? If architecture schools performed like seminaries then they would teach a variety of styles and tell the student what is wrong with each of them – perhaps only the Frank Lloyd Write style is acceptable. Buildings would be restricted by size or color or footprint. Other styles would be acknowledged – and arrogantly dismissed as not fitting the dignity of the particular faith of the seminary.
Some of the most liberal theologians today dismiss Gnostics, dismiss Jung, dismiss astrology, dismiss ancient Egyptian theology, dismiss Nietzsche, dismiss Plato, dismiss conservatism in general and a couple of knuckleheads in particular. We are not arguing that any of these are the correct methods of understanding. We are not saying that one is more right than another. We are saying that the products of theological seminary, at least in the United States, are programmed with specific negative bias toward the world of thinking people.
There is no talking to these folks. If I quote Nietzsche I will be given a lecture on why Nietzsche was a wacko. No consideration will be given to the actual quote – they have been trained to immediately dismiss anything that does not fit the weave of their comforter. Here, for example, are a few quotes from Nietzsche:
OK – broad brush strokes. The broad brush is as wrong on this side of the argument as on that. Life is not so simple. All of the above mentioned ideas contain morsels of truth. The joy of life is in sifting through the ideas, pausing to contemplate, and then in finding other people to debate and refine the points. There are far too may people coming out of seminary unprepared to intelligently discuss ideas – they are well prepared to dismiss ideas other than their own – and in my estimation they have learned nothing.
The point I am making is that too often young people with good hearts and profound faith enter seminary with the hope of learning truth. They learn may things. They learn history and philosophy – but these are biased learning not suitable for honest debate. The spirit of the young and hopeful heart is overwhelmed by dishonest dogma presented as intellectual stimulation.
Anyone who teaches our youth to disregard that which does not fit the prescribed mold is a false prophet.
Am I any different that the theologian I describe?