Oden on the Faddish Seminary

Thomas Oden in his Requiem: A Lament in Three Movements (Abingdon Press, 1995) has some stinging criticism of the modern seminary: “Brilliant academics with no experience whatever in the actual practice of the ministry of the Word, Sacrament, and pastoral care are often those who compete best in the race to become teachers of ministers in the trendy, fad-impaired seminary. Should an experienced, godly pastor who had a distinguished Cambridge doctorate apply for a position in that faculty, that person’s extensive parish experience might well be viewed as a negative factor by PC purists who, having no experience in ministry, prefer colleagues who have not been contaminated by any exposure to local church practice or any strong tradition of piety. This is analogous to someone teaching dermatology in a medical school and doing grand rounds weekly, but who has never removed a mole, or one teaching contracts in a law school who has never drawn up a lien for a client” (40).

Interesting support, indirectly, for the intra parish model of pastoral education being worked out in Greyfriar’s Hall. Theology cannot be separated from the Church. But this does not mean we need to have low standards for pastors: Luther, Calvin, Bucer, Beza, Zwingli were all stellar scholars and pastors. As an aside, they all (except Luther) had a classical (humanist) education. Classical Christian educators should pray and labor in the hope of training up the next generation of reformers.


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