The Dangers of Seminary and Some Post-Graduation Pastoral Solutions

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A while back, I mentioned that Paul Tripp’s Dangerous Calling is a book for people who like lists. We looked at his diagnosis of how a pastor descends into disaster. In the third chapter of the book, Tripp presents several downsides of “academized Christianity” which is an unnecessary byproduct of getting a thorough seminary education. Tripp considers the following list “things that may happen in the lives of the students when the seminary environment is less than faithful to God’s intention for his Word” (54). I would add that this list can describe a graduate even if the seminary environment has been faithful, if for no on other reason than our hearts are sinful and gaining the type of knowledge you do in seminary can lead to thinking along the following lines (54-56):

  • General spiritual blindness (i.e. you don’t see your own sin well)
  • Theological self-righteousness
  • Dysfunctional personal relationship to the Word
  • Lack of personal Gospel neediness
  • Impatience with others
  • Wrong perspective on ministry (i.e. goal is theological correctness rather than worship)
  • No living communion with Christ

In light of these dangerous symptoms, Tripp focuses a chapter on what it looks like when a pastor is “more knowledge than skill” and in the following chapter offers some pastoral solutions for de-isolating pastors and working against the above symptoms developing (79-82):

  • Require your pastor to attend a small group he doesn’t lead
  • Encourage pastors to seek out a spiritually mature person to mentor you at all times
  • Establish a pastors’ wives small group
  • Encourage pastors to be committed to appropriate self-disclosure in their preaching
  • Be sure that your pastor and his family are regularly invited into the homes of families in the church
  • Make sure there is someone who is regularly mentoring your pastor’s wife
  • Make sure your pastor and his wife have the means to be regularly out of the house and away for weekends with one another
  • Make sure counseling help is always available to the pastor, his wife, and their family

At first glance, these solutions don’t seem to directly target the issues in the first list. That’s because by and large they don’t. Rather, they setup a context where the pastor and his wife and family are not isolated from the body and where they are appropriately cared for from within. It will help to keep the mindset of “arrival” from forming in the pastor’s heart.

As for the list of negative by-products of a seminary education, community can be a great antidote. By regularly being immersed in the lives of others, those of us with who have extensive theological education may recognize a devotional life in those “less educated” that we realize is missing in our own life. That can provide an appropriate challenge to the paradigm that suggests “arrival” comes with theological precision and all you have to do is spend four years getting a masters degree and you’ve made it. I’m pretty most, if not all of us who take the time to do that don’t actually think that we’ve arrived when we graduate, but it is always fairly tempting to start down that mental road. Community often provides a good wake up call.

Author: Nate

I'm an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let's connect!

1 thought on “The Dangers of Seminary and Some Post-Graduation Pastoral Solutions”

  1. Hi Nate, Tripp has some great insights. From my experience think these things are potentially true for all serious students of the word. I have been wary of some of these things creeping up in myself. Thanks for the post.

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