Contrary to Popular Opinion, College or Seminary Education is not Beneficial for Pastors
God is quite clear in many passages of Scripture, and through the example of Jesus, that higher education is not beneficial for pastors. Ignoring all that God has written about the subject, most churches require at least a college degree if not a seminary degree for their pastor. Subconsciously, the church has bought into the belief that the educated few hold the key to understanding the deeper things of Scripture and that Christians need to look to the educated, who are mere men, for answers to the difficult questions and for spiritual understanding of the mysteries of Scripture. In the church there is a PhD pedestal in which those who have a PhD are elevated with respect and authority above other Christians in spiritual understanding and knowledge. The subconscious perception by many Christians is that spiritual understanding comes from other human beings rather than it being a free gift from the Holy Spirit which is where true spiritual understanding actually comes from.
It is amazing that with a college or seminary degree being a requirement for the position of pastor in most churches, there is no Scriptural basis for it, even though we claim to be living according to the Bible and following the example of Jesus. The closest example in Scripture to a college or seminary education is the Pharisee’s education system. The result of their education system is pretty clear. They could not even recognize God when He came to them in person (Jesus). They really believed that they loved God, but in actuality they hated God (Jesus) because God did not fit the theology they had been taught in their schools. They refused to believe the truth. They went to Hell, because their education was a stumbling block. They were proud, arrogant, hypocritical, and looked for the approval and honor of men. God intentionally hid spiritual understanding from them. “At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.” (Matthew 11:25) The Pharisees education system was a failed education system and yet the church’s seminary education system is very similar to it.
Education by the church or seminary has the potential of being spiritually dangerous because it tends to lock a person into the particular theological belief system taught by the seminary. If that person is in your denomination or church you probably think it is something good. But think about all those people in other denominations or churches that you disagree with, who have bought into error and will not turn from it. The same thing can happen to those in your church. It is my observation that after a person is a Christian for several years they buy into a certain theological or denominational belief system. They will not change from that theological belief, with a few exceptions, even though they are given scriptural proof to the opposite. They will reinterpret plain passages of Scripture that show they are wrong, to fit their theology. The person’s theology becomes the filter through which Scripture is judged and interpreted, rather than searching the Scriptures to determine what is truth, and then patterning one’s belief to follow Scripture. The result is, with a few exceptions, that people will not change: a Baptist will not become a Pentecostal, a Pentecostal will not become a Mennonite, and a Mennonite will not become a Baptist.
Educated people tend to filter what they believe to be truth based on what they know and their own opinions rather than going to the Scriptures to see if it is true or not. They will tend to believe error to be truth until the day they die, and never check it out in Scripture because they trust those with a PhD who taught them. In my researching of various Biblical subjects, I have found many false teachings being taught as truth by those who were highly educated. They were merely repeating what they had read or heard from others who were also highly educated and they did not research the matter for themselves. Often it only took a little research to find out it was obviously error.
The example of Jesus and His Disciples
The way Jesus trained His disciples was totally different than a college or seminary education today. It was more of an apprenticeship, and could not be described as a formal education. At the end of their training with Jesus, they were still described as unlearned and ignorant men. However, their preaching brought thousands to a saving faith in Jesus and impacted the world. “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13) God Himself gave us the example that education is not important. Jesus did not even attend the “elementary” school for Jewish boys that taught them how to read. “And the Jews marveled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned? 16 Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. 17 If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. 18 He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.” (John 7:15-18) Jesus made it clear that He looked to the Father to give Him what to say. He did not speak from His own mind or from his education knowledge base.
Paul did not use his education and his educated vocabulary in preaching
Paul was a highly educated man in the teachings of the Pharisees. He knew the terminology, the reasoning, the jargon of the religious elite. But he put that all aside as worthless as a Christian. See I Corinthians 2:1-16
Moses had to be retrained
Moses was educated in Pharaoh’s house with the best education in Egypt. However, that did not qualify him to lead the Children of Israel. God had to humble him for 40 years in the desert, leading sheep, before he was ready to be the leader that God wanted him to be. When God called Moses, he did not feel qualified to be a leader or to stand before Pharaoh. He asked God to send someone else instead. In the end Moses obeyed God. He was one of the greatest leaders of all time. The Bible also says that he was the meekest man. “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” (Numbers 12:3) It was not Moses’ education that made him a great leader, but his meekness.
The Scriptural Basis of why college or seminary education is not beneficial for pastors
Read through all the following verses. They are not listed in order of importance. Rather they are listed in Biblical order so that you get the whole picture of what God is saying about education.
Psalm 62:9 Surely men of low degree [are] vanity, [and] men of high degree [are] a lie: to be laid in the balance, they [are] altogether [lighter] than vanity.
- God’s opinion is that poorly educated men and highly educated men are the same. We must not put those with a PhD on a pedestal and value them more than others. We must not show favoritism toward those with educational status.
Psalm 119:99 I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.
- At first glance this verse seems to support education but it is actually telling us the opposite. Teachers have a limited role in true spiritual understanding. Reading between the lines, God is telling us that education has a limited role in spiritual understanding. Greater spiritual understanding is not the result of education as many would have us believe, but the result of meditation on God’s Word. Almost every teacher will tell you that the teacher learns more than the student because the teacher has to do a lot more studying than what he has time to share, and the student only remembers a fraction of what he was told. What God tells us here is the opposite of what happens in traditional education, it is not the teacher who has the greater spiritual understanding but the one who meditates on God’s Word.
- We gain spiritual understanding by meditating on the successes and failures that God tells us about in the Bible. God has chosen the details of the accounts to share with us so that we gain the understanding He wants us to have.
Psalm 119:100 I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts.
- Greater spiritual understanding is a result of first keeping God’s commands, not the result of education. Obedience is a prerequisite for understanding. If a person waits to obey until they understand, they will not receive the understanding.
Psalm 119:104 Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.
- God’s commands give us understanding. It is not through the training of other human beings in higher education, or seminary training.
Proverbs 2:1-6 My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; 2 So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; 3 Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; 4 If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; 5 Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. 6 For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.
- At first glance it would appear that wisdom and spiritual understanding is received through education and the teaching of others. But look at it again. It is a person’s father that first trains the son or daughter to listen to instruction so that they will listen to God when He teaches them. It is the Lord who gives wisdom, knowledge, and spiritual understanding. Spiritual understanding is not acquired through education but by asking God for it and then seeking for it as for a hid treasure.
Proverbs 15:33 The fear of the LORD [is] the instruction of wisdom; and before honour [is] humility.
- College and seminary education by the very design of the degree system, puts the focus on attaining honor (the degree) rather than humility and attaining a servant's heart. Studying sheep and shepherding is a better method of training pastors than going to college and seminary because they learn the humility of a shepherd and serving others rather than striving for honor through a degree.
Proverbs 19:27 Cease, my son, to hear the instruction [that causeth] to err from the words of knowledge.
- Do not go to a school or a college that has instruction that will cause you to err from the truth. Most higher education has some education that is error. “Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not [in him] the lips of knowledge.” (Proverbs 14:7) This is a very important command to follow. Today in the information age, society views all information as good to know. The practice by Christians to study evil, error, both sides of an issue, and wrong philosophies has caused much error to be brought into the church with error being taught as truth alongside the Bible.
Proverbs 26:12 Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? [there is] more hope of a fool than of him.
- A person who has a degree from higher education, subconsciously if not otherwise, tends to think that they have greater understanding because of their education. Over and over in my research, I have found men who have stated things confidently as fact (wise in their own conceit) but in checking them out what they said it was clearly wrong. These were matters of fact not opinion. In sharing the information with them that showed the truth they over and over would reject the facts and continue in their error. It seems to be difficult for a highly educated man to admit that he is wrong. An educated man will also tend to give a hasty answer and give it authoritatively, rather than first searching the Scriptures to verify what is truth. “Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words? There is more hope of a fool than of him.” Proverbs 29:20
Matthew 18:1-5 At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? 2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, 3 And said, ‘Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.’
- College and seminary education and degrees do not help a pastor to become humble as a little child. A pastor must be converted in his thinking about what greatness really is. Unfortunately, a seminary degree and especially the title “Doctor” does not help a pastor become more humble. Neither can a man who is not humble himself help others to be humble so that they can enter the kingdom of heaven. (v.3)
- God’s design of the church structure is one of equality rather than hierarchy. Brotherhood rather than master and servant or professor and student.
Matthew 20:25-28 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. 26 But it shall not be so among you . but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; 27 And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: 28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
- The word “Minister” means: “to run on errands; an attendant, that is, (generally) a waiter (at table or in other menial duties); specifically a Christian teacher and pastor (technically a deacon or deaconess): deacon, minister, servant.” (Strong's Greek Dictionary) A degree of higher education is a great hindrance to this command for a pastor to view himself as a servant. Church structure is opposite of business or government structure. A pastor must not do things to receive honor of others – special dress, special seat, parking, fancy or high pulpit, or honorary title or degree. All of those are contrary to the attributes of a servant.
Matthew 23:8-12 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. 9 And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. 10 Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. 11 But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
- Jesus commands (It is not a suggestion) that a pastor is not to use a title of honor: “Reverend”, "Doctor", or "Ph.D." “M.Div.” “Th.D.”, “Senior Pastor”, etc. A person’s education must not be used in the church to elevate that individual above any other person. Everyone in the church are equals (v.8) Highly educated persons in the church are not be acknowledged as such in the church. It is not beneficial to them or the church. In addition, titles of honor tend to hinder a leader from being a servant and having humility.
- The Catholic Church is wrong to call priests: “Father”. The relationship of pastor to the congregation is not father to sons, but as brothers. v. 8
Mark 9:33-37 And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? (34) But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest. (35) And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. (36)And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, (37) Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.
- Jesus sat down to teach His disciples. Matthew 5, the sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke to the multitudes sitting down. Jesus in the synagogue in Nazareth sat down to teach. Jesus taught sitting in a boat. A pulpit is usually elevated above the people and puts the pastor at the center of attention and importance center stage. That is the opposite of Jesus' command to be servant of all.
- The heart of the pastor must be turned to the children. In Malachi 4:6 God tells us that the focus of John the Baptist’s ministry in preparing for lasting revival was to turn the hearts of fathers to their children. The purpose of the majority of seminary education is not to train pastors to receive children, but so they can teach adults. Thus the majority of seminary education ignores the important principle of the importance of children in the church. (v.37)
- A pastor needs to put every one else ahead of himself and make himself "last of all" v.35 Higher education does not help him accomplish this command.
Mark 10:42-45 But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. (43) But so shall it not be among you, but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister; (44) And whosoever of you will be the chiefest shall be servant of all. (45) For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
- We are not to pattern church leadership after the pattern of leadership in society. Jesus repeated this instruction that a pastor is to be the servant of the church. It is an important command that is often acknowledged but ignored. A position of honor and authority is not what the role of a pastor is. The administration of others and the church is not the primary job of a pastor. He is not to exercise lordship or authority over the church.
- We as Christians are not to aspire to positions of honor which is what James and John were requesting here. If a man is placed in a position of honor he is not to act or dress like he is in a position of honor. Clerical clothes, seats, parking spaces, etc.
Luke 10:21 In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.
- Parallel passage Matthew 11:25-27 “At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. 26 Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. 27 All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him”.
- Cross reference Matthew 13:11-16 “He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. (12) For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. (13) Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. (14) And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: (15) For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. (16) But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.”
- The Pharisees were highly educated in the Old Testament in the “seminary” of their day. But God hid spiritual understanding from them and revealed it to uneducated men. Note what Jesus said, that God knew that this was best to hide true spiritual understanding from the educated! In Matthew 13 Jesus further stated that the Pharisees, despite their high level of education in the Bible had nothing and further understanding of the mysteries of spiritual understanding would be hid from them on purpose by Jesus Himself! Since God chose to hide true spiritual understanding from the educated, why do pastors seek to be highly educated? If we took Matthew 13:12 “For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.” to mean that higher education in the Bible meant that a person had, and would receive more spiritual understanding as many interpret it today, then the Pharisees, or at least some of them, would have received more understanding and the poor uneducated disciples would have become more ignorant spiritually. Don’t forget that the Pharisees had not rejected God in their own opinion. Neither did others regard them as apostate Jews. They were very zealous in following the Bible as they had been taught and in making sure that others also followed it.
Luke 22:24-30 And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. (25) And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them , and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. (26) But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. (27) For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth. (28) Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. (29) And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; (30) That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
- Jesus instructs us that leadership in His kingdom is different than leadership in government or society. It is important that we understand the secrets of Christ's kingdom and how it works. To a large degree the secrets of the kingdom of God have been overlooked by the church. Understanding the nature and organization of Christ's kingdom is important because it is different than natural thinking and the examples around us.
- The pastor’s focus must not be on greatness and leadership but on serving others. V.27 The pastor elevates others to greatness by serving them and showing them how to serve others. We keep from focusing on being chief or being in a position of honor by focusing on serving others. It is the only way to keep a proper application of church organization and leadership. A pastor prepares a successor to take his place by not staying in the spotlight and serving others in training them to take his position of service. Too often we find a highly educated pastor or church leader who becomes popular and will continue center stage alone and not bring along someone beside him to mentor and take his place as he gets older.
John 7:15 And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned? 16 Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. 17 If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. 18 He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him. 19 Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?
- A pastor needs to follow Jesus’ example and teach God’s doctrine, not what other teachers, professors, or preachers have taught him. A pastor who teaches human reasoning or human explanation that they learned in Bible School, Christian college, or seminary about a Scripture passage to others is not able to speak with the same authority or to others’ hearts in the same way as a person who teaches the doctrine of God. “We see the goodness of God in giving us evidence of his truth that may be within every man’s reach. It does not require great learning to be a Christian, and to be convinced of the truth of the Bible. It requires an honest heart, and a willingness to obey God.” Barnes Commentary
- Jesus did not have any formal education. If a pastor desires to follow Christ and do what Jesus would do, why does he desire to have a seminary education? Why does the church desire their pastor to have a seminary education?
1 Corinthians 1:17-31 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. 18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. 20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. 22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence. 30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: 31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
- God tells us in this passage that preaching must not be with wisdom of words ( higher education) or it will make the preaching ineffective. Spiritual understanding is received from the Holy Spirit, not from human education (college or seminary). Therefore, seminary education does not make a pastor’s preaching more effective, the education actually makes the preaching worthless! A man trained in the education system of the world or in a “Christian education system” patterned after the world’s methods, is not qualified to be a pastor unless he views his education as worthless. V. 27, 28 say even clearer that education is worthless for spiritual training and preaching. It is foolish for the church to pattern spiritual education after the secular education model, but that is exactly what Christian colleges and seminaries are doing. As the church has increasingly valued higher education and the world’s system of degrees, the church has drifted further from God’s commands.
- A pastor with a Master of Divinity Degree or a Doctor’s degree has something to glory in his flesh. He hangs a title with his name that brings honor and glory to himself. A pastor must not use credentials with his name. V. 29 “That no flesh should glory in his presence.”
- God’s design for pastors is the opposite of one patterned after seminary training. God has chosen the uneducated, the foolish in the world’s eyes, the weak, the base things of the world, those that are despised. God has not chosen the educated to lead the church. Jesus followed this same principle in choosing the twelve disciples. Not one educated Pharisee was chosen. Later when Paul, a highly educated Pharisee became a Christian, he tells us how he renounced his education so that his ministry would be more effective for Christ.
1 Corinthians 2:1-16 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: 5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. 6 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to naught: 7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: 8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13 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. 14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. 16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
- Paul most likely had his doctor’s degree. He had the equivalent of a seminary education today. (Acts 22:3 “I [Paul] am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.” Acts 5:34 “Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people,” Luke 2:46 “And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.” Luke 5:17 “And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them.” )
- Paul rejected his education and made a conscious effort to keep his preaching simple and clear, and used the words that the Holy Spirit gave him to speak. Three times in this passage he states that he did not use words or the education that he had been taught in “seminary” – the Bible training he had received in his youth from the best Bible scholar of his day, Gamaliel. (v.1,3,13)
- An intellectual speech, or sermon using great and glowing religious terms reaches the intellect and entertains the hearer, but it does not help a person to put their faith in God (v.3). To help others put their full faith in God, a person’s words need to be the words that the Holy Spirit gives them. A pastor does not need higher education or seminary education. It does not help his preaching or understanding. Nor does it help others to put their faith in the power of God. When a pastor uses his higher education (human reasoning) in preaching, it leads the church to put their faith in the wisdom of men – the pastor and those he is drawing his information from. This subconsciously leads people to mindlessly accept the teachings of men because these educated men are put on a pedestal as men who know because they are more educated than anyone else in the church. As a result, higher education is more destructive to the spiritual health of the church than it is helpful. Both the pastor and the church need to be seen as equals when it comes to the ability to understand spiritual things.
- Excellency of speech and wisdom is reason, logic and illustrations. What God wants us to use are testimonies of how He worked, especially in our own lives. Those testimonies people can’t argue with or refute like they can reason, logic or illustrations. Paul was highly educated but he realized the irrelevancy of his education (v.1). He used his own testimony and the doctrine of Christ rather than human reasoning and logic.
1 Corinthians 3:18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. 20 And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. 21 Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours;
- God warns us here that it is easy for a highly educated person to deceive himself. The tendency with a college or seminary education is that with a degree to one’s name, that person has a tendency to feel that he is wise. Therefore if a pastor has a seminary degree, he needs to become a fool by renouncing it so that he can become wise. Otherwise his thoughts, though appearing to be wise, are vain in true spiritual understanding.
- The thoughts of the scholars of the world are empty and profitless. Many Christians are going to the world for college and post-graduate education, not realizing how foolish it is to God. A non-Christian, or worldly Christian professor can be expected to make error sound like truth or fact. There are two distinct education systems – God’s truth and the education and philosophy system of the world. The content and philosophies of these two systems is different. We cannot take some of the world’s education system and philosophy and mix it with God’s education system and still have truth. There will be error. It is no wonder that Christian colleges, Bible schools, universities, and seminaries almost always become more liberal or believe more like the world the longer they are in existence. They are patterned after the wisdom of this world and its education system. In addition, many of their teachers are educated by the wise of the world.
2 Corinthians 1:12 For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.
- A pastor’s preaching is to be in simplicity, Godly sincerity and by the grace of God, not from an education knowledge base. An educated pastor has more of a tendency to rely on his education and what he has been taught by men. God wants a pastor to recognize his own shortcomings as a pastor, to preach simply so that all can understand including the children, and rely on God’s grace to work through his preaching.
2 Corinthians 12:9-11 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. 11 I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing.
- God often uses a person’s weaknesses more that his strengths to accomplish the work that God has given him. Therefore, seminary education which by its very nature is designed to give a pastor strengths, is not necessary to accomplish God’s work. A pastor needs to have God’s strength and power, not his own because when he is weak then is he strong. God tells us that His strength is made perfect in our weaknesses, not in our strengths. God wants all the glory.
Galatians 1:10-18 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. 11 But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. 12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: 14 And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, 16 To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: 17 Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. 18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.
- A pastor gets a seminary degree to please other people especially a potential congregation that will hire him as a pastor and pay him more for his education. God does not ask for his servants to get a college or seminary degree, He instructs the opposite. When a pastor does things to please men he is not a servant of God (v.10).
- Paul did not receive his training in the Gospel from other people. He was taught by God. He went into Arabia and spent time with the Lord learning directly from God the things that God had to teach him. A pastor would be much better off following Paul’s example by spending a year or more in a cabin in the woods studying the Bible for himself and asking the Holy Spirit to teach him the things that He wanted him to learn, rather than going to other men and asking them to teach him. Who is a pastor to follow? Other men and their theology? Or Christ and His commands? Is Christ not able to teach a pastor the spiritual truths that he needs to know that he has to go to other people (seminary) for them to teach him?
Colossians 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
- The things we are cautioned about in this verse are things that are often taught by people that are highly educated or respected in the church. Philosophy, theology, denominational doctrines, doctrines named after men (Calvinism, Arminianism, etc.), systems of thought or belief, all follow after the tradition of men and are taught in seminary education. God warns us here that a person must be careful that his ministry for Christ is not spoiled by education. It’s foolish for a pastor to go to college where they can kill him spiritually and then to cemetery (seminary) where they bury him.
- It’s important that we don’t accept something just because that’s the way the church has always done it. Ex. Sunday schools, philosophy of Christian education.
James 2:1-4 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. 2 For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; 3 And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: 4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?
- When the church judges people according to their education and elevates a man to honor because of his university or seminary degree it is wrong. A pastor is not any more spiritual because he has a seminary degree, nor does he necessarily have the truth or spiritual understanding. In the church we are to treat each person alike regardless of their education or wealth.
2Timothy 3:7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. 9 But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.
- A seminary education is not an indicator that a pastor has the truth or has true spiritual understanding. There are many who have a Master of Divinity or Doctor of Theology degree who are ever learning but have not come to the knowledge of the truth. We need to be alert for highly educated people who have not come to know the truth, but who instead resist the truth. 2Timothy 4:3 “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;”
- A desire to learn does not mean that a person will eventually believe the truth. Those with corrupt minds will react to the truth and reject it. They want to learn the wrong thing and reject the truth.
1 Peter 5:1-4 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3 Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
- Seminary education is in direct disobedience to the command in this passage to not feed the flock for a payment of money. For a payment of a large sum of money, seminaries feed their flock of potential pastors religious information. After their time in the seminary feedlot, the seminary declares that the sheep, which they fed for that large sum of money, are now better than the other sheep in the church that they will be pastor over. The seminary gives the “fattened” sheep a status title depending on how well they were “fattened” and how many years that they paid the large sum of money. The fattened sheep (pastor) then goes to a church where he feeds that flock of sheep for a payment of money each week. The amount of his pay is based on how many years he paid money in the seminary feedlot. If the church that he is feeding for pay, doesn’t like what he says, they stop paying him the money and tell him to go somewhere else. The whole system of paying a person, in the seminary and in the church, to feed spiritual information is in direct disobedience to scripture.
Conclusion: Contrary to popular opinion, college or seminary education is not beneficial for pastors
After studying these verses I realized that God is very clear on this subject. If we are to have true revival in the church today the church needs to reject its focus on religious education and credentialing that is patterned after the world’s method of education. Pastor’s need to reject their education and go to God and ask Him to teach them. They need to ask God to give them true spiritual understanding in His Word. Until that happens, education will continue to be a big stumbling block in the church in taking away true spiritual understanding, just as it was for the Jews and the Pharisees in Jesus’ day.
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