Seminary Education: A Philosophical Paradigm Shift In Process -- By: Wayne G. Strickland

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 32:2 (Jun 1989)
Article: Seminary Education: A Philosophical Paradigm Shift In Process
Author: Wayne G. Strickland

Seminary Education:
A Philosophical Paradigm Shift In Process

Wayne G. Strickland*

With the rapid increase in seminary enrollment over the past few decades has come a corresponding change in seminary educational philosophy. This is partially validated by the proliferation of other seminary programs in addition to the standard M.Div., Th.M. and Th.D. degree programs such as the various types of M.A. programs and the D.Min. programs.1 Many of the changes in seminary curricula have been long overdue and needed. The increased attention to Christian education objectives in the pastoral ministry may be cited as a positive example. Yet at the same time a shift has occurred that may have a serious long-range impact on the efficacy of seminary education. Just as in secular education the notion of a classical education has been abandoned, so also I fear the jettisoning of critical ingredients of the classical seminary education is in progress. My purpose in this article is to raise the issue in order to further discussion on this aspect of seminary educational philosophy. Hopefully it will foster communication between all of those investing time and effort in seminary education: administrators, board members/trustees, faculty, and staff alike. I seek to raise a caution flag regarding seminary curricula.

I. The Shift

Traditionally, the Biblical languages have been a foundational structure in the complete and adequate training of the ministerial student. Every seminarian was expected to include enough Hebrew and Greek in the course of his studies to be able to accurately exegete the Biblical text. Harvard in its early days was exemplary of this classical model with its requirement that the students learn to read the Bible in the originally received languages.2 The philosophy underlying this emphasis was sound. Whereas secular educators had stressed the classics for sometimes the

* Wayne Strickland is professor of theology at Capital Bible Seminary in Lanham, Maryland.

wrong reasons—such as using Latin and Greek to separate the average from the superior intellects, or giving the possessor an aura of refinement3 — the reason for including Greek and Hebrew was very practical and necessary. It was believed that Scripture was the key to changing the lives of people. Since the Bible was deposited in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, they should be mastered in order to give the most accurate understanding of the life-changing book. Systematic and pastoral theology were built upon this foundation in the seminary curriculum.

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