How to Choose a Seminary {Part 2}

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4. Does the school major on essentials or non-essentials?

Seminary education can unify or divide. The more detailed a school’s doctrinal statement is, the more it can tend to produce graduates who are inclined to work only with those who hold to the same doctrinal position(s). On the other hand, if a school will identify essential doctrines on which all evangelical believers agree and encourage its graduates to focus on those essentials, it frees those graduates to work with others across denominational lines. A seminary should foster a willingness to disagree on the non-essentials, while holding firmly to the essentials. When it does, it contributes to the advance of God’s kingdom purposes.

5. Does the school take into account prior theological education?

I began seminary without a formal theological background. What I knew, I had learned at church or from the campus ministries in which I had been involved.  I needed to start from scratch. I soon discovered, though, that there were other students whose undergraduate studies in Bible and theology put them well ahead of me. For them to take the same foundational courses I needed would have been redundant. Instead, a seminary should take into account prior theological education and give those students an opportunity to go farther and faster.

6. Does the school use delivery formats that are flexible and accessible?

When I was accepted to seminary, my wife and I had one option: quit our jobs, sell our house, and relocate to the city where the school had its campus. We left our friends and our church to start over again in a new setting. When I arrived, I discovered that courses were offered only during the day, which meant I had to study full time and work evenings or weekends. Things have changed in thirty years. With the spread of online education and changes in economic circumstances, a seminary should use delivery formats that allow their students to study anytime and anywhere.

Attending seminary requires a substantial investment of time and resources. Choosing the seminary that is right for you is an important decision, and there are multiple factors to consider. Perhaps these six questions will help you focus your thinking and allow God to guide your steps to the school he has in mind for you.

Written by Dr. John Harvey, Dean of CIU's Seminary & School of Ministry

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