Below you will find an interview I conducted with well-known Bible scholar Darrell Bock (Senior Research Professor of NT Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary) concerning pros and cons of seminary. In bold are my questions followed by his 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?
Darrell: Anyone who thinks seminaries kill the faith fails to understand what they have provided in terms of church leadership and content resources to pastors and leaders in multi-national contexts. Going to Seminary can be a challenge at the level of maintaining your spiritual equilibrium when you are studying theology as a consumable subject. Anytime you reduce God and theology to an object and lose the personal dimension, there will be an impact of that move. That is not the fault of the Seminary, but is on the student and how they walk with God during their time there.
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?
Darrell: A reflection on calling yields nothing different than questions one might ask about God directing someone into any activity in life. Our core calling is the one we have in Christ, no matter where that takes us. But issues of giftedness and passion might lead us to understand a direction from God to teach and lead in the church. Others may take such gifts to the workplace and still desire what a Seminary offers in terms of developing teaching or leadership gifts. Many seminaries are able to deal with both kinds of students. Of course, there are character issues at the core of this direction a potential student also must recognize.
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?
Darrell: Yes, a seminary needs to be biblical at its core. Relationship to God and scripture need to be primary foci in how the school does its business. It is not just what we believe but how it is modeled in interpersonal interactions and tone that are important in getting the balance right.
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?
Darrell: Go to seminary to learn and be open to the complexity of many of the things being discussed. Tension is not a bad thing. Really test what you have heard and what you hear but do so with a firm commitment to the Word and its integrity and character as an unequaled spiritual resource. Connect with others who have a vibrant walk. They can be of help.
Have you been able to find a balance between dry academic rigor and a more Spirit-ual Christianity? If so, do you have any tips for those who find themselves falling into one extreme over the other?
Darrell: I do not buy this contrast in many ways (and the contrast can set us up for failure here). If my goal is to know God and know him better than part of that entails a sense of discipline about study and reflection. Keep the ultimate goal in mind and the personal God in the equation. Pursue that personal dimension as rigorously as one’s study and the balance can exist (Proverbs 2:1-4).
Thank you very much for your time and thoughtful reflections!
Darrell Bock has earned recognition as a Humboldt Scholar (Tübingen University in Germany), is the author of over 40 books, including respected commentaries on Luke and Acts and studies of the historical Jesus. He has done work in cultural engagement as host of Dallas Theological Seminary’s The Table Podcast. Having served as president of the Evangelical Theological Society for 2000–2001, he is a consulting editor for Christianity Today, and serves on the boards of Wheaton College and Chosen People Ministries. His articles appearing in leading publications, he has been a New York Times best-selling author in nonfiction.