The Agenda of Theological Seminary – a False Prophet

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Gary L. Clark is an author. After a thirty year career he retired to write a novel. He then joined a counselor-in-training program at the local community mental health center and worked three years as a substance abuse counselor. He retired again and has written two more novels. He recently completed the annotation of a self-help book on faith-based self-help. Two published novels (available on Amazon.com) address social justice. Mr. Clark is the Editor of thefiresidepost.com. He lives in St. Joseph, Missouri.

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The Agenda of Theological Seminary – a False Prophet

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:

All things are subject to interpretation whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.

The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.

And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh.

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?

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There Are 4 Responses So Far. »

  1. Gary,

    Although I have rejected much of Christianity; I think you are off base on some of your criticism of seminaries.

    Philosophy is not dismissed out of hand. It is taken seriously.

    Gnosticism is dismissed not becasue of in non-canonical nature but because it paints a picture of God that is even goofier than some aspects of Christianity. It asserts that there is some secret that once known by a select few, can lead to salvation. Gnosticism would make the Church look more like the shriners but without the cool dune buggies.

    If you are a seminarian the following criteria are suggested for deciding if something is relevent.

    1. Does it make sense? Astrology fails.
    2. Is it in keeping with the Gospel? Being a party to some divine secret necessarily leaves out most people and therefore limits the good news of God’s grace.
    3. What does the tradition say? What does two thousand years of Christian thought say about the situation at hand?
    4. Is it scriptural? What does the Bible actually say and why does it say it?
    5. Is it loving? the Bible and the tradition can be rejected if it is cruel, especially if it is locked into some ancient ignorance.

  2. Greg,

    Nice try. I admit that my post was not lengthy – thus the ideas were not fully explored. But I maintain simply that seminary has an agenda of promoting Christianity, and specific dogma related to denomination, at the expense of all other thoughts. Simply put – there is a bias in very class.

    Yes, seminary does offer the study of philosophy, particularly philosophy that reinforces the agenda of producing Christian honey bees. The bees go out into the world and repopulate the faith.

    Let’s look at your criteria.

    1. Does it make sense. You say Astrology fails. Astrology makes as much sense as the Bible. I submit there are many more lunatic Bible thumpers than there are lunatic Astrologers. I do not believe in the Bible that you do not believe in and I also do not believe in the Astrology that you do not believe in.

    2. Is it in keeping with the Gospel? Greg – you make my case. The presumption of seminary is that the “Gospel” is the measuring stick for truth. Not only is this limiting – it is wrong.

    3. What does tradition say? Geez Greg, really? 2000 years of following the “Gospel” speaks to the horrors of theology as a means to civilized life.

    4. Is it scriptural? How is this different than Number 2? The purpose of seminary is to give a sophisticated argument for believing the Bible to be the fundamental truth of some sort of “Great Spirit”. As science has advanced the seminaries have been challenged to rethink their unchallenged interpretations of scripture.

    5. Is it loving? Greg, I know many people who would come to me for help before they would go tho their Christian Minister – these people are consistent – they go where they find love, not rejection. The Christian faith, as demonstrated by the products of seminary, is loving – just as long as the love does not cost them or their church organization anything. This is harsh and cynical, I realize that.

    Christianity an Astrology are close cousins. The star over Bethlehem, leading the wise men to the baby in the manger, is but one example. Christianity and Astrology have both changed their tune when presented with new science. When a heliocentric solar system was presented and finally accepted as science the theologians and astrologers adapted in order to protect their belief system. None of the theologians said, “Oops, I guess we were wrong”. That, Greg, is the 2,000 year tradition of Christianity.

    I must note that these are only my thoughts. The Fireside Post has a mission of ‘stoking the flames of the cultural conversation”. My son, Bryan, is a Christian. He views the world differently than I. Here are some examples of Bryan’s support for the pseudo science of Christianity.

    http://thefiresidepost.com/2012/04/17/bad-religion/

    http://thefiresidepost.com/2012/08/10/religious-tools-of-the-trade-the-church-the-bible-and-the-doctrine/

  3. I don’t really have a dog in the fight but it seems to me that a Masters of Divinity degree has as it’s goal the mastering of the subject of divinity. Ideally, one learns the criticisms of the subject as well as the propositions that support it. It may be true that a seminary is pro-Christianity but what else could it possibly be? Its job is not evangelization but rather to provide the tools for people who are already believers to go out and make more believers. It may be wrong or misguided in its base assertion that Christianity is a good thing but you are suggesting that it have a scope that is larger than its mission.

  4. Seminary fulfills its mission. That is true. I just think that anyone entering Seminary should be very aware of the Seminary mission.

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