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Notes on Michael Reeves Address: "Theological Education Today"
Ways to think about training the next generation of pastors and church leaders
Theological education at all levels across Europe us facing a number of common challenges. This talk examines some of those challenges, offering principles and examples to encourage good practice among evangelicals. Here are my notes on the lecture.
The Situation today:
Lack of finances: The financial pressure. Seminaries are fragile.
Lack of desire: There is an apathy toward theological education today
Lack of fit: Is the traditional seminary model unfit for purpose? Is there a bottleneck here?
How do we raise up the leaders we need with these challenges?
Why is this important? The puritan movement died off when theological education was cut off. We will see churches and institutions be theologically thinned out without theological education.
A few issues that will help us have a robust and viable theological education today:
Training and education - the language of "training" has trumped the language of "education."
What is theology? It is a language, a means of discourse about God. It's about knowing God.
That means that theology cannot primarily be practical. It will actually be highly practical secondarily. It will be more deeply transformative than learning skills.
Augustine used to compare two words: "using and enjoying." We are to enjoy God. We use everything to enjoy God. The problem with "training and equipping" is that we can bring people to know practical skills and therefore finding themselves using God to enjoy ministry of some sort. When this happens something is catastrophically wrong.
We need theological educators who understand what theology is, what education is, and what training is.
Theology, knowledge of God, is to bring us to worship.
This means that as we're concerned with theology we must be concerned with discipleship.
Education - knowledge is a basic human need. Not merely equipping. We need to know God.
Having said that there are practicalities. We need to look at a rounded discipleship: head, heart, and hands. Theological education has to do all 3.
My take: I would not strongly divide knowing from doing though there is some distinction Michael rightly makes. Secondly, I think the lost tools of learning are helpful here. Theological education focuses on grammar and logic first before the stage of rhetoric. But grammar and logic are for rhetoric. Third, theological development is growing as a Christian hedonist. We need to not only know God. We also need to love God and enjoy him.
"Faithfulness" and theological education
The most important thing: fight for orthodoxy. Hire good faculty. Faculty must teach orthodoxy.
The danger in PhD research is the tendency to enjoy eccentricity.
If all you fight is for penal substitutionary atonement but then it can misshape your overall approach
Have a clear theological confession or statement and teach all of it.
My takeaway: I’m thankful that Bethany Baptist Church has a confession of faith that we teach regularly in our membership considered class. I praise God that we have different confessional or creedal statements we stand and confess as a church on Sundays. I also thank God that I get to exposit Scripture and preach the whole counsel of God and not get stuck on my particular burdens for Christocentric thinking and hermeneutics, biblical theology, ecclesiology, and social ethics.
"Formation" and theological education
From orthodoxy to orthopraxy and orthokardia
In every seminary there are two curricula
there is an explicit curricula
implicit curricula: the values, the theology, that is picked up in every part of time in the seminary (how we engage, eat, teach, etc.). For example, community of grace vs. community of performance even though we explicitly teach grace. Grace is undermined by the implicit curricula. How faculty behave. It even comes down to the architecture. (i.e. the perks of the "president")
My note: The implicit curricula is what some have called "tacit knowledge." Discipling, training, equipping, and educating all have a dimension of tacit knowledge that leaders and learners should be aware of and intentionally work to improve.
"Mission-oriented" theological education
serve the church, not the institution
Institutions default to self-preservation, e.g., get the students to pay the bills.
We need a church-serving vision. What is it you're seeking to do? To achieve? Have a clear vision.
You need a clear vision to achieve that strategy. Have a clear strategy statement.
Develop a coherent strategy. We are not about sending out graduates. We are about growing church leaders. We are about working with church partners to recruit and raise and deploy and ongoingly support church leaders.
My takeaway: Keep training men with our pastoral internship. Offer ecclesiological deep-dive training for the sisters too. Continue with our Union School of Theology learning community in Los Angeles. Continue to beef up and run Bethany Baptist Divinity School classes on Sundays and on Wednesdays. I am glad we are teaching systematic theology on Wednesday mornings and biblical theology on Wednesday nights at BBC.
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