Sunday, April 29, 2007

Letter to a

Prospective Seminarian



I’m glad to hear that you think the Lord is calling you to be a minister. As you know, two years ago I felt the same way. I had to choose between a big-name seminary that had long ago abandoned trust in the Bible and an evangelical seminary that still held the Bible as its real source of authority. Since you are facing that decision now, I’d like to suggest some biblical guidelines.

1. Sound seminary training should be directly and explicitly based on the Bible.

“All scripture is inspired by God [literally, “breathed out by God”] and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that [or “in order that” – shows the purpose for which Scripture is inspired] the man of God my be complete [or more precisely, “exactly fitted to his job”], equipped [or “completely furnished”] for every good work” (II Tim. 3:16, 17).

“I have more understanding than all my teachers, for thy testimonies are my meditation” (Ps. 119:99).

“But his [the blessed man’s] delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night [“law” here can apply to the whole Bible]” (Ps. 1:2).

“If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:46, 47). A seminary that claims to believe Christ but not the Bible is really not believing Christ at all.

2. By contrast, there is much “theology” that is non-biblical and anti-Christian. We are positively commanded to avoid it.

“See to it that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8).

“Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards the faith” (I Tim. 6:20, 21).

“But Jesus answered them, ‘You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God’” (Matt. 22:29). What had they done wrong? Read the context and you will see that they had asked the wrong question; Jesus says that men who don’t know the Bible don’t even ask the right questions.

“Like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings which are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh” (Eccl. 12:11, 12).

From all this, Jerry, I think you can see that to go to a seminary where the Bible is not upheld would be to act as though you yourself thought lightly of the Bible’s value. This would be serious, for God doesn’t treat it as an optional matter; he has sometimes judged people for their rejection of his Word. See, for instance, Isaiah 5:24, 25: “They have rejected the law of the LORD of hosts, and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. Therefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against the people, and he stretched out his hand against them and smote them.”

3. True theology is rightly done only with and by believers.

One reason for this is that we need good Christian fellowship to grow to Christian maturity.

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers” (Ps. 1:1).

“He who walks with wise men becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (Prov. 13:20). A “fool” in the Old Testament isn’t necessarily unintelligent; he is a person who doesn’t know the Lord.

“I am a companion of all who fear thee, of those who keep thy precepts” (Ps. 119:63).

But an even bigger reason than Christian fellowship for choosing a seminary true to the Bible is that our real teacher in the things of God is the Holy Spirit. In seminaries that reject the Bible, many teachers don’t even profess to be Christians. How can the Holy Spirit teach through them? Their wisdom cannot be called true wisdom, for “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps. 111:10), and “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1:7).

God has given some the gift of teaching “for the equipment of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12). In Second Timothy 2:2, Paul tells Timothy how to build the church: the teaching he received he should “entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

You probably still have some questions in your mind, Jerry, and I think I can anticipate a few of them.

1. Would an evangelical seminary be too restrictive?

No, it would be more free. Free, that is, in the true sense – the freedom that

comes from living in obedience to God. As Psalm 119:45 says, “I shall walk at liberty, for I have sought thy precepts.” Of course, there would not be the pseudo-freedom of the unbeliever, which is really rebellion against God. In Psalm 2:3, for instance, men who set themselves against God’s will cry, “Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us.”

For me, this question was answered when I asked myself whether the Bible itself is too restrictive for me. It certainly isn’t, and neither is a seminary that remains faithful to it.

2. Wouldn’t it be better to go to a more liberal seminary where you could oppose false teaching? Wouldn’t this have the double advantage of strengthening your own convictions and perhaps helping to change the minds of some professors and students?

I think the testimony of Scripture that I quoted above is sufficiently clear on this point. Let me add some practical considerations.

This argument assumes we should tempt ourselves and thereby tempt God (putting him to the test to see if he will preserve us even when we seek out adverse environments). But Jesus tells us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation” (Matt. 6:13), and says, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God” (Matt. 4:7). Our job is to obey God, not to make faith a “work” that we do to gain merit with him or to increase our self-confidence and pride.

This argument also falsely construes the nature of a seminary. The purpose of attending seminary is to learn through positive training. You don’t go to law school if you want to become a doctor. To do so might strengthen your conviction that you want to be a doctor, but where would it leave you? You’d waste a lot of time getting training that would not be of use to you, and you’d have no positive training at all in your chosen field. Similarly, you don’t grow strong by starving yourself.

The second “advantage,” the prospect of convincing others, is just not realistic. A man who has taught a particular brand of theology for twenty years has heard all the arguments any student could think of, plus a few more. He has come miles to get where he is today; if a student moves him a quarter of an inch, it’s pretty amazing.

The situation is not much more promising with students. For every fifteen minutes of conversation you have with a student, the school gets fifty to a hundred for teaching its position. And it has the advantage of the student’s background and inclinations, which made him choose that particular school.

If you want to minister now, then go minister to the hundreds of people who are eager to hear the Gospel. But if you want to prepare now so you can minister more effectively later, then it doesn’t make sense to choose a seminary for the sole purpose of trying to minister there. This could only be justified by some kind of extraordinary calling from God. I might add that God certainly doesn’t begrudge the time you spend preparing to minister. Remember Jesus, who “when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age” (Luke 3:23).

3. Wouldn’t an evangelical seminary give its graduate much less prestige, and thus less effectiveness for the Lord?

I think this is one of those questions that lurk in the back of our minds, never quite bringing themselves to verbal form. For to ask this question directly almost embarrasses us before God. Our job is to obey God, not to win gold medals for him.

I wouldn’t want you to go to an academically deficient school, of course, but I don’t think that is the case with most large evangelical seminaries today. On the contrary, it is the evangelicals, for instance, who have continued to insist on solid training in Greek and Hebrew. They care what the Bible says. Liberal seminaries have by and large thrown out the language requirements.

When we obey God, he makes us effective in the way he has chosen. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree, planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season [that is, it produces the specific results God ordained for it, at the specific time God planned], and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers” (Ps. 1:1-3).

Whose approval are we seeking, anyway? See Second Timothy 2:15, which in the King Kames Version reads: “Study [or “eagerly strive”] to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing [or “rightly handling”] the word of truth.

I’ll continue to pray that God will guide you to the right seminary, Jerry. Meanwhile, I want to encourage you to seek out more Christian men who know you and know the seminary situation, and get their advice. I hope to hear from you soon.



Wayne Grudem is a student at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia. He has the B.A. from Harvard University, where he was president of the Harvard-Radcliffe Christian Fellowship. This summer he is assisting at Grace Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Westfield, New Jersey.


Saturday, April 28, 2007

Looking for a Good Seminary?

I just added a new feature to my template that lists the different seminaries I recommend. Look at the right side of the page further down.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Spirit Church versus a Word Church?

I have been reading an interesting interview between Adrian Warnock and Wendy Alsup, who is a member of Mars Hill Church Seattle led by Mark Driscoll. Wendy is a mother of two, and Deacon in charge of Women's Theology and Training.

She says some interesting things about a church being a Word church versus a Spirit church.


Clearly it sounds like the Bible is highly valued at Mars Hill. It is often said that many churches seem almost as though they have chosen between being a "Word" church or being a "Spirit" church—do you feel that is true in the case of your church?


H-m-m-m-m . . . That's curious. That's really a very unbiblical concept. When Christ first instructs on the Spirit's coming, He says the Spirit will not speak His own, but will bring to remembrance the teachings of Christ. So the evidence that the Spirit is at work is that Christ, the Logos, is lifted up—which means a true "Spirit" church must be a "Word" church. I think the Spirit is working mightily at Mars Hill because I see Christ's name lifted up and lives transformed, and I know that only happens through the Spirit's quickening.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Contemporary Culture: A Christian Critique

Dr. Walt Mueller, president and founder of The Centre for Parent/Youth Understanding (CPYU) and an expert on contemporary Western culture, has put together an amazing list of books (with reviews) for responding biblically to our world. You can find it here. Many of these books are must reading!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Ten Great Christian Biographies

Dr. Albert Mohler reviews these must read Christian biographies here. Enjoy!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Velvet Theology

In Velvet Elvis, Rob Bell writes:

"And when Jesus died on the cross he died for everybody.
Every tribe, every nation, every tongue, every people group.
Jesus said that when he was lifted up, he would draw all people to himself.
All people. Everywhere.
Everybody's sins on the cross with Jesus . . . forgiveness is true for everybody.
And this reality extends beyond this life.
Heaven is full of forgiven people.
Hell is forgiven people.
Heaven is full of forgiven people God loves, whom Jesus died for.
Hell is full of forgiven people God loves, who Jesus died for.
The difference is how we choose to live, which story we choose to live in, which version of reality we trust.
Ours or God's."

Responding to this, pastor Phil Ryken says the following: "
I wonder, though, if all the people in hell are forgiven, why are they damned? Bell is promoting the love of God at the expense of his justice, giving us a God of unjust love rather than a God of crucified love and holy justice. This is velvet theology indeed: soft and cushy, and at the same time garish in its caricature of the character of God" (original post found here).

This is becoming increasingly popular in evangelical circles today, to emphasize the love of God at the expense of all the other attributes of God. However, many people do not know that this was and is the essence of theological liberalism. The result is the rejection of any Biblical/theological theme that does not fit into this system. This could be eternal conscious torment in hell, the wrath of God, the holiness of God, a misunderstanding of the biblical doctrine of repentance, and an embrace of forms of self-esteem combined with antinomianism (which can be defined as "an ethical system that denies the binding nature of any supposedly absolute or external laws on individual behaviour" - IVP Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms). Liberalism can be summarized by this statement:

"A God without wrath
brought men without sin
into a kingdom without judgment
through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross."

[H. Richard Niebuhr (d. 1962), describing theological liberalism in
Kingdom of God in America (1937), p. 193. (Thanks to Justin Taylor for this quote).]

May God help us to be faithful to Scripture even when it causes people to dislike us, to hate us, or to persecute us. This is the essence of love: to suffer for the other person's benefit. This is what Jesus did; may we imitate him in this. Amen.
I Heard God's Voice

John Piper writes a short piece in Christianity Today called: "The Morning I Heard God's Voice: I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that God still speaks today." This is a response to an anonymous article by a theology professor found here. I am interested in your perspective on this whole issue as well.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

How to Pick a Seminary

For those who are interested in going to seminary or if you know of any friends or family who are interested, this post by Dr. Mark Dever will be helpful.

P.S. John Piper also recommends the following seminaries. I will also post in a couple of days Dr. Wayne Grudem's perspective on this subject from an old article in Christianity Today magazine.
The Jesus Way by Eugene Peterson

In his newest book of his spiritual theology series, Dr. Eugene H. Peterson says the following:

"Jesus' metaphor, kingdom of God, defines the world in which we live. We live in a world where Christ is King. If Christ is King, everything, quite literally, every thing and every one, has to be re-imagined, re-configured, re-oriented to a way of life that consists in an obedient following of Jesus. This is not easy. It is not accomplished by participating in a prayer meeting or two, or signing up for a seven-step course in discipleship at school or church, or attending an annual prayer breakfast. A total renovation of our imagination, our way of looking at things---what Jesus commanded in his no-nonsense imperative, 'Repent!'---is required."
---The Jesus Way, p.9

Thanks to Professor Douglas Groothuis.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Tips for Reading Scripture

The ESV Blog has these Tips for reading and understanding Scripture:

  • Scripture as Story: “I read Scripture as a grand story, the story of Redemption. When all of Scripture is read in this way, we will not see the individual stories as moral lessons or as mere examples of what to do and what not to do in life.”
  • Christ-Centered View of Scripture: “The grand story of Scripture revolves around Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”
  • Never Read a Single Verse: “Read at least a paragraph of Scripture when you read Scripture. But also try to read a book in one (maybe two) sitting(s). These books and letters in Scripture were written as a whole and were initially read in whole. We should strive to read each book in whole.”
  • Scripture as Spoken Word: “I believe we must also listen to Scripture being read in our personal time. You will pick up things from Scripture while listening that you may not pick up so easily while reading. You will most likely have more time to listen to Scripture than you will to read Scripture. Take all the opportunities to immerse yourself in Scripture—It is also a good thing to listen to the Scripture while reading at the same time.”
  • Scripture as Prayer: “The many times that I do not know what to say in my prayer times, I turn to Scripture and pray passages back to God”
  • Knowing God: “The purpose of Scripture is not that we become holy. The purpose of Scripture is to know this Triune God Who has revealed Himself in Scripture. Becoming holy is a byproduct of knowing God through Christ.”
  • Spend MUCH Time and Effort Studying Scripture: “I believe the blood, sweat, and tears we pour into understanding the Scriptures is immeasurable!”
  • Listen to Sermons: “There are so many Gospel-Centered preachers out there that have their sermons on the internet. Seek them out!”
  • Practice What You Read and Learn: “Accountability is huge in this area…. Place yourself under accountability so that you may learn to practice what you learn and read.”
  • Rely on Grace: “Grace is the thread by which all of these are tied together.”

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Self-Esteem Movement Backfires -- When Praise is Dangerous

Check out this important report and article by Dr. Albert Mohler. This is must reading for parents, teachers, youth workers, and any others who work with children. See the article here.
A Random Post

The Great Tennessee Marijuana Cave

Law enforcement officers in Tennessee make the greatest underground discovery since Tutankhamen’s tomb was unearthed in the Valley of the Kings.


Under this ordinary house is a marijuana grow-op unlike any you have ever seen. Within the caves of middle Tennessee, growers constructed a complex of offices, living quarters, restroom facilities, and a climate-controlled forest of over one thousand cannabis plants.



Behind this vault door is Wonkaland for stoners.


The vegetative and flowering chambers each contained over 500 plants on a hydroponic irrigation system.







A 150-yard tunnel leads to a concealed escape hatch below a hydraulic rock!




Three men were arrested. The mastermind behind the operation was running it from Florida.

Thanks to Power of Change.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Leon Morris on the Cross

Given that it is Easter, what the late Leon Morris says about the atonement is appropriate:

“To put it bluntly and plainly, if Christ is not my Substitute, I still occupy the place of a condemned sinner. If my sins and my guilt are not transferred to Him, if He did not take them upon Himself, then surely they remain with me. If He did not deal with my sins, I must face their consequences. If my penalty was not borne by Him, it still hangs over me. There is no other possibility.”
— Leon Morris, The Cross on the NT

“It is an outstanding merit of the substitutionary view, then, that it does not gloss over the past. It recognizes it for the serious and significant thing that it is. But it affirms that Christ has taken care of our past as He has taken care of every aspect of our need. He has paid the penalty. He has wiped out the sin.”

— Leon Morris, The Cross on the NT

Thanks to Adrian Warnock