Below is a short interview I had the honor of conducting with renowned New Testament scholar Scot McKnight (Professor of New Testament, Northern Seminary), who answers four questions having to do with the pros and cons of Seminary. In bold are my questions followed by McKnight’s responses. Enjoy!
What is your response to those who feel that Seminary is in fact the “cemetery” of Christian faith? Do you find there to be merit to such concerns? Is this simply a caricature?
Scot: I’m encouraged when I hear anyone thinking of seminary because it usually means they want to go into church ministry work. Yes, it’s a quip that it is the cemetery but that impression is dying a slow death because increasingly seminaries are doing formation time as well as academic time. It is a caricature based on stories of those who experienced it that way, but at the same time the far greater percentage of seminary students who flourished and grew through seminary is the more accurate story. I have not heard this “seminary is cemetery” story once at Northern seminary.
When someone tells you that they feel called to Seminary what words of advice do you offer? Or are there questions you might proceed to ask them?
Scot: I ask these questions: Why? What do you think God is calling you to do? Are you doing that now or do you think you will do that in the future? If you want to be a pastor, who considers you their pastor now? If a leader, who is following you now? Pastors don’t become pastors because they have a seminary degree but because they are gifted to be pastors. Seminaries enhance those gifts, provide guidance for the gifted, and equip the gifted to use their gifts.
Realizing there are different types of Seminaries that respond to different needs, do you feel there still remain certain “non-negotiables” when it comes to the vision or commitment of a Seminary, or how a Seminary is run?
Scot: Yes: Bible, Bible, and more Bible.
Yes: Theology, church history, preaching classes.
Yes: A pervasive sense of the Christian life and the devotional life and the need to be a disciple of Jesus.
What advice do you have for that student in Seminary who is feeling that his or her faith is under assault or is being threatened?
Scot: At Seminary? Find a seminary where you are more comfortable, where it will enhance your gifts and not deconstruct your faith.
Thank you! We’re looking forward to your upcoming books!
*Scot McKnight is the author of numerous books, both academic and non-academic. His new release he co-authored, titled Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture After Genetic Science, dives into the topic of the “Christianity vs. evolution” dichotomy. McKnight runs a very sought-after blog, Jesus Creed, where he addresses sticky issues in Christianity.