Should women attend seminary?

by on November 6, 2007

Now, some of you might read that and think, “that’s a stupid question.” And of the ones who think that, half of you think it is stupid for one reason and half think it is stupid for another.

However, the fact is that whether the question is good or not, it’s one I think we should tackle.

My short answer is yes. In fact, my answer is so much a yes that Just a Gal (my wife) is going to seminary with me. And by going, I mean attending.

The longer answer is that I think anyone who has the ways and means should attend seminary. And if you don’t have the means, I’ve already blogged about the ways… so, there is really no excuse. So, why everyone? Well, I guess mine is kind of a reverse logic… meaning, why not? Why not take time to study the depths and beauty of our redeemer and his gracious word? If you are a Christian, why would you not take the opportunity to do that?

Now, sure, we can have all kinds of debates about who can be an elder or deacon or sunday school teacher… and all the other debates that surround woman, men, and gender roles… but we can’t debate with Jesus.

Luke 10:38-42 (ESV)
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Is this a proof text for women to attend seminary? It has to be:

  1. Uh, yeah Dr. Insert Your Professor’s Name is great… But this is JESUS!
  2. Jesus was teaching. Again, better than Dr. Insert Your Professor’s Name.
  3. Jesus said that Mary chose the good portion. He like that she was attending his seminary class.

So, there you have it ladies. Go to seminary. Jesus thinks its a good thing and so do I… but Jesus’ opinion is probably the better one to go with… I’m just a tag-a-long.


The author of this post is noted above. and were created by Ryan Burns. He is currently on staff at Redemption Hill Church in Richmond, VA, and recently launched a site to help people find Seminary Scholarships and anther site to help people find Church Jobs. He also writes about his experiences doing GORUCK events on his hobby blog.


I don’t know who you are or what is your denominational background, but I just want to say, THANK YOU for your post about women in seminary. I’m a woman who just passed the half-way mark to a Master of Divinity in a fundamental Baptist seminary (one which I love), and sometimes I get tired of the inertia we have to struggle against (because, not only must I refuse to be a pastor, I also am not going into Bible translation work….that’s awkward).

So, thanks again.

Thank you… I agree wholeheartedly that women should be encouraged, never discouraged, from studying the Word of God, whether in seminary or academic fields. I am a first-year Biblical Studies undergrad student and it took me until my 30s to realize that God calls us ALL, desires us ALL, to be close to Him and to seek Him.

I am not cut out to be a pastor, but for the first time, I’m able to say, simply, that it’s not a job I personally would do well, instead of focusing on some invented idea that I shouldn’t because I’m a woman.

God has opened my eyes through study of the original languages, cultures and contexts of the Bible to the understanding that every single one of us has something to contribute to and gain from serious study of Scripture. I’ll let God tell me what jobs I’m suitable for, not men. 🙂

1 tim. 2:11-14 explain? Did paul then contradict Christ? Or are we to use the tired and worn out excuse of ‘culture?’ I don’t have anything against women LEARNING. However, it would seem that seminary is specifically for those who will eventually be teaching. I’m not so sure KIDS church and young ladies need a teacher with a degree in greek or hebrew though. Furthermore, 1 Tim. 3:2-makes it very clear; ‘husband of one wife.’ not ‘and/or wife of one husband…’ God designed the man to be the leader and head of the house. Through all the bible there’s not one single woman that had an ongoing prophetic ministry. Not one female pastor, elder, teacher, Rabbi, or even a single sermon given by a woman. Lets look at the whole context people. Amen

um mike, i think that it is the “christian culture” that got it pretty twisted here, maybe you should read “what paul really said about women”. And remember Deborah.

@Mike–I know of numerous women who have greatly benefited from studying at a seminary and have gone to have teaching ministries in prisons as well as other crisis centers and such.

I would like to know, while we are on the subject of seminary, where does our seminary training found in Scripture or is it more of a cultural issue? I was ordained before I even thought of attending seminary. Seminary does not qualify you for being a pastor or a teacher. It is merely a training aid to those who feel called to a ministry of some sort whether that is in the prison, in a crisis center, or as the pastor of a church.

To be honest, I greatly appreciate the interaction with women in my classes. They offer a completely different perspective on most everything.

Mike… Your comments don’t make a lot of sense because you seem to be concerned with what women do after seminary. The post is about whether it is ok for them to go to seminary. Clearly, there is no scriptural mandate that they don’t. You assume that going to seminary means a teaching (pastoral?) position, and thus seem to argue that it doesn’t make sense for them to go to seminary. No offense, but you might as well say they shouldn’t read theological books either or think for themselves. If anything, I’d argue that more women should care about and be passionate for sound doctrine. I am THRILLED that my wife was able to take seminary classes. She spends FAR more time with our kids then I do… Thank God she has sound theology and had the opportunity to strengthen it in seminary. It has made her a better mother.

Frankly, your argument is just silly. Sorry man.

Now, if you want to talk about church government… that’s cool. Heck, I’ll probably agree with you on some of your points. This just isn’t the post to do that.

I personally would be thrilled if a lady teaching “kids church” had a seminary degree. But then again I don’t plan to let my daughter attend “kids church” or be separated from us in church, so I guess I’ll just have to suffer. 😉

I personally would also have been thrilled if the woman I married had a seminary degree. But then we’d probably never have kids because we’d have been up all night discussing theology and original languages. And I think it’s more fun seeing my wife learn a lot of this for the first time, anyway. 😉

I would also personally be thrilled if everyone in a “teaching” function at church, male or female, desired a seminary degree. That means they care enough about this stuff to learn it deeply. So I suppose you can say I want women to be a “Mary” type when it comes to learning about God.

Great thread you got going here. Just want to add my 2 cents. I am 26 and in seminary. I never thought I would go.. though I felt pressed to do so at many times in my journey. For years I accepted the submission doctrine. You know “wives submit” “men are the head” and so on and so forth.

Oh and Mike I feel maybe the verse you are referring to is speaking of monogamy…just a thought…

As far as the submission doctrine…

I accepted this to be true. Until I encountered Jesus. In a very real way, how radical was it for Mary to sit and listen to Jesus’ teachings? It was SO radical. How radical for Jesus to speak directly to the woman at the well. He didn’t say “Woman, go get your husband I will talk to him”. He talked directly to her.

Wow! This was unheard of in Jesus’ day!

Furthermore, for me to say I am Christian simply means I am saying I believe God came to Earth. His name was Christ and at the end of the day, God is my God, scripture is not my God, but a wonderful text and reflection of the divine.

We must remember that the bible is “the crystallization of primitive church dogma” (from Jesus Christ Liberator By: Leonardo Boff). Yes there is truth in it, but there is also a reflection of a culture. What gender was and is varies by culture, this is not something regulated by religion. Nor should it be.

I hope to someday pursue either being a chaplain or a pastor. I am no longer letting gender discourage me.

To anyone else who may read this, if you are feeling discouraged remember, if God will pull you to it, God will definitely pull you through it. Trust, pray, and keep moving forward, God will handle the rest!!


My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ (Colossians 2:2)