One of the first articles I read in this month’s Tabletalk magazine was the interview feature, in part because I always find these to be interesting, but mostly because the March interview is with well-known “Reformed pastor [United Reformed Church], president [Westminster West Seminary], and professor [of church history], Dr. Robert Godfrey.
Yesterday, because I was finished with all the other articles, I re-read this interview, and remembered that if I had the time and space, I would post a few parts of it here. You may find the entire interview at the Ligonier link above, but I found these sections of Godfrey’s comments on Seminary training to be interesting and edifying.
I find much of his comment and counsel relevant to our own Seminary setting as well, and trust that you will too.
TT: Why is seminary education necessary today, especially when the Internet makes so many resources readily available?
RG: As you cannot learn surgery on the Internet, as you cannot have a church on the Internet, so you cannot get a good pastoral education on the Internet. The Internet is valuable for various kinds of information, but it cannot provide the kind of personal interaction and mentoring necessary for seminary education. The community of faculty and students and the community of students interacting with fellow students are both crucial for learning academic and interpersonal skills.
TT: Is seminary only for men seeking ordination as pastors? Who else should consider attending seminary, and why?
RG: While our seminary is focused vocationally on the education of future pastors, it also offers education in the Bible, theology, and church history to men and women who are interested in learning. They then can use that learning for their own personal edification, to teach in the local church, or to serve churches around the world.
TT: What are two ways that churches can better prepare young men for the pastorate?
RG: First, seminaries need the support of churches to do their work. Prayer and financial support from the churches are vitally necessary for the seminaries to do their work of pastoral preparation. We work for the future of the church, and we need the help of the churches to flourish. Second, churches need to take on seminarians as interns to give them experience and encouragement. Seminary can teach many things, but the actual experience of serving and working in a church can only happen in the church.
TT: What is the main challenge that U.S. Seminaries face today? How is Westminster California working to meet that challenge?
RG: A great challenge that seminaries face today is the increasingly poor preparation that many students receive in their undergraduate education. Too many are not prepared to read analytically, to write research papers, or to study a foreign language. Many also are far less familiar with the English Bible than was the case in earlier generations. So our seminary has introduced a series of entrance exams that determine whether a student needs to take specific remedial courses. We invest a great deal of time in the careful teaching of Greek and Hebrew because they are so foundational to everything else we do. We are excited by the emergence of a college like Reformation Bible College, which we hope will send us much better prepared students.