With so many seminaries to choose from, how do you narrow down your search? Today, hear the criteria that Harry Reeder recommended students to look for and important questions to ask when considering a seminary.
NATHAN W. BINGHAM: This week on the Ask Ligonier podcast, we’re actually recording live at Ligonier’s 2023 National Conference, and I’m joined by Dr. Harry Reeder. Dr. Reeder is the senior pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Dr. Reeder, what should a man look for when he's searching for a seminary?
DR. HARRY REEDER: Well, first of all, go check their graduates. Who have they produced historically and recently? The Bible says that wisdom is borne by her fruit. You see the product of what is being taught. Take a look at what they’re doing, how they’re doing it. And so, that would be number one: I’d take a look at the outcome of the seminary and what they’re doing.
Number two, I would take a look at the seminary: Are they staying focused upon biblical standards of a right view of Scripture, a right view of theology, a right view, the right use of practical theology, but also do they have that built upon proper theology? Are all those things in place?
And then, do they include both the academic work without compromise and do they include apprenticeship work with intentionality? I’m just a firm believer that you learn in the company of other learners with a teacher, and you also learn by doing. Notice what the Bible says. It says in the book of Acts, it says: “O Theophilus, this is the second volume that I have written. The first was what Jesus began to do and teach.” How did Jesus disciple? He didn’t teach and do; He would do and teach. In other words, He would model, and He would mentor. So, I believe a good seminary education—look, you may have to add a year. You may have to add a year. That’s fine. Maybe add two years. That’s fine. You need both modeling and mentoring.
We learn by instruction, and we learn by imitation. I mean, just stop and think. Nathan, the most difficult educational feat in the world is a mother teaches her new baby a foreign language with no point of reference and was never trained to do it. Now, how can a mother do that? Well, because number one, the unique gifting of a mother with nurturing gifts. Number two, we are born imitators. That’s how we function. We learn by imitation.
So, you want to get the right models and the right mentors in front of people, and then you want to make sure that the seminary is not only giving you the classroom academics, which I do not discount by any means—they’re crucial. But now also, they understood the importance of the collegiate nature of education and the practical dynamics of apprenticeship.
I think that’s what I would look for in the seminary. So, you look at their history, you look at their present graduates, and you look at the curriculum, and you look at the pedagogy: are they making use of both mentoring and modeling—both the academy and the academic work—and then also apprenticeship.
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