Here is an article I wrote a while back about problems we are seeing at
some of our fundamental Baptist seminaries. Please note that I am not
condemning all the seminaries or attacking seminary education in
Recently a liberal divinity school published the results of a study that
surprised them because it seemed to indicate that pastors without a
seminary degree are more effective in their ministries than pastors who
have one! Of course, several factors might have influenced the results
this study, but nevertheless the indications are interesting. However,
is not higher education itself that is bad for preachers. Certain things
that creep into seminaries are what can be bad for preachers! Please
this article with prayerful attention. Make copies if you wish. Notice
the responsibility I say that pastors have to keep schools on the right
track. We don't need to be a school-led movement. Local churches should
be determining what and how preachers are taught.
Before you read the
article, let me tell you that the Indianapolis Conference on Revival was
wonderfully blessed of the Lord! You can order an album of the recorded
sermons from Burge Terrace Baptist Church, 9345 Brookville Road,
Indianapolis, IN 46239. Send them a check for $25 and request the
Conference tapes. This price includes the cost of shipping. Our speakers
included David Jaspers, Bill Rice, Ron Comfort, Morris Gleiser, John
Goetsch, Steve Pettit, and John R. Van Gelderen.
PROBLEMS AT THE SEMINARIES
The schools where preachers are trained are very important institutions,
but they can lose touch with the beliefs and interests of the churches
that send them their students. When this happens, the situation must be
addressed by pastors early, or else the unwelcome influences will
prevail. Many future shepherds of our fundamentalist congregations will
be men that are being trained in our seminaries now. There are problems
at the main seminaries of the fundamentalist movement that concern many
pastors. Not all the schools have all of these problems, but some do,
most of them are being influenced in at least one of these three wrong
1. Overcriticism of our English Bible.
Everybody knows that the Bible was not originally written in
However, the English Bible has held a uniquely important position in our
society and churches, and it has been the most influential form of the
Word of God the world has ever known. Of course, we are speaking of the
King James Version. Certainly things have been said in defense of the
Bible that ought not to have been said, but the seminaries have
gone too far in their efforts at reproving the extremists.
Much of the defense of the King James Version is based upon the
that God has preserved the text of His written Word for succeeding
generations. This conviction is based upon promises such as these:
"For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass,
one jot or one
tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled."
"Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall
not pass away."
"Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of
the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is as
grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass
withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord
endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached
unto you." (I Peter 1:23-25)
God has promised that His Word will endure through the ages.
the divine preservation of scripture is also based upon the assumption
throughout the Bible that accurate copies of divinely-inspired texts
always existed and could be authoritatively quoted. In contrast to this
way of believing, critical editions of the Old and New Testaments in the
original languages imply that the true readings of many passages were
lost to the church for generations and had to be reconstructed by
Many fundamentalists, therefore, have come to look
upon these critical texts with suspicion. The seminaries, however, have
generally used the critical editions and accepted the textual criticism
behind them. For this reason, they have defended them, and in this
defense, they have said and written things that unjustifiably cast doubt
and derision upon the long-trusted English translation. Some have gone
far as to deny that there is a Biblical doctrine of scriptural
preservation. "There is no statement in Scripture from which we can
establish the doctrine of the preservation of the text of Scripture,"
writes W. Edward Glenny of Central Baptist Seminary. People who believe
that the Bible was verbally inspired by God are now left in doubt as to
whether we know what the divinely-given words of scripture are!
regarding the "authorized" English translation is being answered with
skepticism concerning the old Bible's reliability.
As a result, some
seminarians are losing confidence in their ability to speak with
authority on the basis of what their Bibles say. However, the honest
scholar must admit that the King James Version is a wonderfully accurate
translation of the text of scripture that has defined Christianity for
least more than a millennium. Preachers who left the task of translation
and textual analysis to the learned men of 1611, and preached directly
from the King James Bible, have done very well in proclaiming the Word
God to the English-speaking world. Fundamentalist leader J. Frank Norris
used to say, "What is needed is a school that teaches the whole English
Bible." He was probably right! Albert Barnes in the introduction to his
famous Notes on the New Testament wrote of the King James Version that
"no translation of the Bible was ever made under more happy auspices;
it would now be impossible to furnish another translation in our
under circumstances so propitious. . .it is the concurrent testimony of
all who are competent to express an opinion, that no translation of the
Bible into any language has preserved so faithfully the sense of the
original as the English." May the students and teachers at our
fundamentalist theological institutions be reminded of the truth of this
2. Overinfluence of Calvinism.
For some reason, the Calvinistic system of theology has had a
attraction for many professors at higher schools of religion. Of course,
every teacher of the Bible has the right to interpret God's Word as he
sees it, and those who see Calvinistic doctrines such as total
unconditional election, and irresistible grace in Scripture have the
right to confess belief in them. However, a seminary owes to the
it serves a transparent honesty about its views of doctrine. Some
seminaries are considerably more Calvinistic than many of the churches
their circle of fellowship. Many pastors who support or recommend
such as this would be reluctant to do so if they were fully informed
about the seminary's theology. Everybody knows that Westminister
is Calvinistic, and people who go there for training are usually aware
its Presbyterian Calvinist foundation and theology. But some fundamental
Baptist seminaries are more Calvinistic than most fundamental Baptist
churches, and yet they influence people and recruit students without
being completely frank about their theology.
Strict Calvinism is not
for our churches, because it is not truly Biblical. Churches ought to
support theological schools that have a balanced, Biblical understanding
of Christian doctrine, and seminaries serving fundamental churches
restrain their faculties from going to extremes offensive to the
they serve. Dr. McCune of Detroit Baptist Seminary has written that "On
the issues of personal salvation from sin, there is no middle ground
[between Arminianism and Calvinism]. . .although many today try to carve
out some kind of synthesis in the interests usually of ecclesiastical
politics. . . " His theology is so thoroughly Calvinistic that he
the motives of those who think the Biblical approach is more balanced.
this the seminary president indicts most of the pastors who support his
school! Most fundamental Baptist preachers consider themselves to be
Biblicists who avoid both Calvinist and Arminian extremes. They ought to
support seminaries with the same viewpoint!
3. Overemphasis on Worldly Wisdom.
It is a fact of history that the improved academic training of
has been a mixed blessing. Preachers make fewer foolish mistakes in the
pulpit when they have had more "book-learning," but also good movements
have cooled and died as a result of the demand that ministers be well
educated. Nineteenth-century Methodist circuit-rider Elisha Caster said
of a new requirement that pastors have higher education, "When God's
called ones are rejected because someone is at the door who has been to
college and that is all he has to recommend him, then it is time for an
ecclesiastical funeral!" We all know what happened to the Methodist
church over time. It died of the liberalism that infected it through its
A good man who leads a fundamentalist seminary has said of
that we preachers "have to discern [a passage's] place in the canon, its
place in the specific book of which it is a part and its place in the
chapter where it is found. Then we shall have to probe further in order
to discover its historical, cultural and linguistic bearings. In
particular we shall have to lift out its key words-verbs, participles,
prepositions, nouns, adjectives, and adverbs and we shall have to parse
and probe them so that we understand the images and nuances of meaning
which they would have conveyed to their original recipients. It is only
then," says this man, "that we will be able to speak with authority."
While it is certainly true that the preacher must discern the true
meaning of a Bible passage in order to preach it with authority, it is
also true that thousands of faithful proclaimers of God's Word have
preached accurately and authoritatively without much training in ancient
languages, Biblical introduction, and Middle-Eastern history. Of course,
the Spirit of God does not speak to us contrary to the grammatical and
contextual meaning of scripture, but it is also true that there is a
subjective element in the interpretation of the Bible that calls for the
illumination of the Spirit.
"Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but
which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to
us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's
wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual
things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of
the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he
them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual
judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man." (I Corinthians
Preachers must pray with the Psalmist,
"Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things
out of thy
law." (Psalm 119:28)
Sometimes men in seminary get the impression that skill in the
of exegesis is the most important basis of proper biblical
and exposition. If this were true, a highly-trained unbeliever could do
this work as well as a Spirit-filled man called to preach! This is a
false impression. We wish that men in seminary were trained in the
practice of prayer, the work of witnessing, and the habits of holiness
diligently as they are taught linguistic parsing and probing!
An overemphasis upon intellectual accomplishment in school can
the student too much of an appreciation for the opinions of men opposed
to our fundamentalist stand. Sadly, good separatists have written too
books in our generation; nevertheless student-preachers should not be
encouraged to bow at the altar of non-separatist scholarship. It is
evident that many "young" fundamentalists are either worried about what
the compromisers are saying or unnecessarily swerving in their
Some of this has been caused by the academic respect non-fundamentalists
are given at fundamentalist seminaries. The emphasis at school ought to
be kept on preaching, praying, pastoring, personal evangelism, proper
doctrine, and practical service, rather than on rethinking policy,
changing society, broadening minds, and criticizing fundamentalists.
Pastors see how these three problems in theological education can
adversely affect a young preacher's approach to the ministry and
eventually ruin good aspects of the fundamentalist movement. A man can
to school trusting his Bible, zealous to win souls, and fervent in the
Spirit, and come out not sure what God has said, not sure whom God is
willing to save, and deader than a doornail! We don't send preachers to
seminary for this kind of result.
Let us all do what we can to bring the churches and the seminaries
A. Fundamentalist seminaries can take a greater interest in the
of fundamentalist pastors about the education they are offering young
B. Fundamentalist pastors can take a greater interest in what is
happening at the seminaries they have been inclined to recommend.
C. Fundamentalist pastors and seminaries can become more open and
about their theological views, and more willing to consider theology in
their decisions about asking or giving support.
D. Fundamentalist pastors and seminaries can join in seeking the
the Lord for spiritual revival, both on campus and in churches across
whole arena of our movement.
by Dr. Rick Flanders
currently Pastor of
Juniata Baptist Church
Juniata Baptist Church|
5656 Washburn Road
Vassar, MI 48768
Dr. Rick Flanders Biographical Data
Converted in 1963 through a radio ministry.
Earned B.A. and M.A. degrees from Bob Jones University.
Honorary D.D. from Pensacola Christian College.
Pastor at Juniata Baptist Church since 1973.
On BCPM Board, (Baptist Church Planting Ministry)
and also MACS. (Michigan Association of Christian School)
- Articles published in the;
- Sword of the Lord
- Baptist Preacher,
- Christian View of the News,
- Pulpit Helps,
- Maranatha Watchman
- Church Bus News,
- and other national periodicals.