Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Advice to Seminarians from a Seminarian

Patrick Shreiner is a blogger and a recent graduate from a seminary. Patrick earned his MDiv from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

Recently he has been providing unsolicited advice about being in seminary for those who are willing to listen. As a professor I give out a lot of advice to students, but sometimes it is better to hear from another student than a professor. Below are two of the points that Patrick has posted thus far. I will more as he posts. In the mean time, do stop by Patrick’s blog Ad Fontes and drop him a note.

First, take the hardest classes you can find.

I am convinced that you can go walk out of Seminary with a completely different education than your classmate sitting right next to you. I realize that hard does not necessarily translate into learning, however generally the teachers who push you, you will learn from the most. Therefore, when you are in the halls, and you hear someone say, “Don’t take blankety blank, it is way too much work,” mark that on your list of classes you must have.

Get the most out of your education. Don’t coast. It would be like going to an amusement park and getting on the Ferris Wheel while the line is wide open to the roller coaster Magnum XL-200. This is a particular time in life where you get to sit under scholars who are there to help you lay the foundation for the rest of your life. So don’t take it easy on yourself. After the ride is over, you will be look back on those who are still on the Ferris Wheel and be glad you stepped out of line.

Second, learn the languages.

Many are going to disagree with me on this one, but I am not here to tickle your ears. This might be the main reason to come to Seminary.

Learning the languages (Greek and Hebrew) are the hardest part of Seminary. I have actually enjoyed some of the other classes more than language classes, however if a student is motivated enough, they can learn The Systematics, NT Theology, Church History, and Ethics on their own.

I am not saying the other classes are worthless, I have got a lot of out all my classes. What I am saying is that if you walk out of Seminary without a working knowledge of the languages you will never learn them.

Come to Seminary and take the language courses.

You can read all those other books later. But you won’t pick up your NA27 or Biblia Hebraica if you are overwhelmed every time you look at them.

Here is motivation from John Wesley:

Do I understand Greek and Hebrew? Otherwise, how can I undertake, as every Minister does, not only to explain books which are written therein but to defend them against all opponents? Am I not at the mercy of everyone who does understand, or even pretends to understand, the original? For which way can I confute his pretense? Do I understand the language of the Old Testament? critically? at all? Can I read into English one of David’s Psalms, or even the first chapter of Genesis? Do I understand the language of the New Testament? Am I a critical master of it? Have I enough of it even to read into English the first chapter of St. Luke? If not, how many years did I spend at school? How many at the University? And what was I doing all those years? Ought not shame to cover my face?”

John Wesley, “An Address to the Clergy,” in Works X:491.

Third, take some professors who will teach you the art of exegesis, and others who will teach you the science.

All of us tend one way or the other. If you are all about the art of exegesis find the professor who teaches it as a science.

We all need both, and if you only gravitate towards what you like, then you will be unbalanced in your interpretation. Or at least you won’t be able to interact with those who argue from the other perspective.

Here is a good way to tell which one you gravitate towards. Are you a math person or a literature person? Math people tend to see it as a science, and literature people as an art. Be careful not to spurn each other, both are needed and both are useful.


  1. excellent. His first two points are my biggest complaints against other students here at ATS. So many people are in seminary for their ordination papers. More need to have this attitude and get all they can out of their seminary experience!

  2. And don't forget to ask questions...lots of questions! Especially about the things you don't understand.