The Two Most Important Questions to Ask Any Seminary

by on January 12, 2009

Today’s post is by Josh Bleeker.
Josh is the Director of Admissions at Dallas Theological Seminary.

Really, only two questions?

More questions will certainly arise. However, two key questions will provide the quickest and most important overview of any seminary:

“What do they believe?”

The seminary’s doctrinal statement shapes everything educational—from faculty hires to classroom content. This directly affects the student! As you might guess, a wide spectrum exists in this regard. You can find “conservative” schools and “liberal” schools (the terms are always relative!), but you need to find a fitting school.

By this I mean a good fit for you and your educational aim. Some may choose to enroll in a more “liberal” school because they have a conservative background, and they want to engage the broader issues. Some may choose to enroll in a more “conservative” school because it reflects their tradition and they wish to sharpen, clarify, and refine their background. And vice versa.

Some schools may offer a both/and approach, such as Dallas Theological Seminary. While the entire faculty annually reaffirms their agreement with the full doctrinal statement, students need only agree to the seven core doctrines (e.g., the Trinity, the full deity and humanity of Christ). This allows students the freedom to explore the landscape of theology and ask the hard questions, while at the same time uniting the student body on the essentials.

“What will I get?”

Review the curriculum closely. Although no one ever feels like a “master” after finishing a master’s degree, the school’s curriculum should challenge the student to gain a firm, commanding grasp on the content. Whether you aspire to absorb the original languages, penetrate biblical and systematic theology, or give your life in mission, the school’s curriculum sheds light on how well you will be trained.

How much bible will you get? I.e., how many credit hours does the curriculum devote to knowing the Scriptures? How much theology will you get? Some schools require one to two courses in Systematic Theology. Do you feel confident that this adequately prepares you for your direction in ministry? Maybe so. Maybe not. If not, there are schools that require more, some much more. Is there an internship component? A spiritual formation component?

“What about the money?” you might ask.

Yes, finances constitute a large part of the seminary experience, but I would suggest that they ought not influence the seminary decision. Nor should geography. Scads of stories come to mind about the Lord’s provision, including my own, but the point is that the Lord provides. Financial aid and scholarships contribute, but only at his bidding!

With that in mind, I know the curiosity still resides about many various factors. Something that might help you is the Seminary Comparison Chart located on the DTS site. You can compare and contrast several different schools on Living Factors, School Data, and Degree Costs.

May the Lord bless your search, and give you the grace to serve with joy!

About

The author of this post is noted above. GoingtoSeminary.com and Best-Seminary.com 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.

Comments

I actually really enjoyed this post. I recently got into Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary and had more of a wake up call regarding finances- so I was surprised that this wasn’t one of your “two”- but again, I agree and was reassured by your assesment that the LORD will provide- and that there are other things that are more crucial.

Thanks for the post.

I’m wrapping up at Calvin College, and heading to seminary next. However, I’m looking for a list that describes seminaries on a more theological scale (rather than economical).

Do you know where I can find such a thing?

Gauging liberal vs. conservative, reformed vs. not, evangelical vs. not, charismatic/pentecostal vs. not, etc.