What Seminary Education Ought To Be [Part Four]

What Seminary Education Ought To Be [Part Four] June 21, 2012

I’ve listened to a lot of lectures in my day. Hundreds, maybe thousands. And I’ve learned a lot in some of those lectures. I still listen to lectures, downloaded from iTunes U, when I ride my bike or walk the dog.

But never did I learn more than in the seminar format of a doctoral program. My two years in coursework at Princeton were, while rife with personal turmoil, simply the most wonderful learning experience in my entire educational journey.

I don’t doubt that there is subject matter that is best taught and learned in a didactic, unilateral way: professor talks, student listens.

But I do not think that theology is best taught this way. Theology is inherently personal. Students of theology aren’t just having what they think challenged. They’re having what they believe challenged.

Theology is too personal a subject to be taught via lecture. Students need to be able to ask questions, talk it through, and express their doubts.

In short, theology shouldn’t be treated like other academic subjects. It’s unique, and should be taught uniquely. Indeed, theology should be taught by methods that are inherently theological, and I think that there’s a strong case to be made that a conversation is more Christlike than a lecture.

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  • Charles

    I couldn’t agree more, Tony! My personal theology has evolved/morphed over the years. The last 3-4 years the shift has been dramatic. The process started with a discussion on the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. Discussion with others serious about religious/spiritual beliefs is rich and rewarding.

    Me thinks some don’t like to be challenged with hard questions in a classic classroom setting.

  • Charity Jill

    Your claim is supported by contemporary pedagogy! Our brains learn better when we learn in conversation with our teachers and fellow students.

  • Tim

    Really enjoyed these 5 posts Tony, especially this one.

    Can’t agree more – theology is so personal and therefore needs conversation. I do think that you need some type of a base line first so it would make some sense that your DMin students are better at this then say young under-grads but the truth is, younger students really need conversation as well, maybe not as much? Will have to think about that.

    Having gone through a cohort model at Biblical Seminary, I can’t say enough positive things about it. Not only was the program conducive for conversation, being with the same group of people for 3 years allowed us to build on our collective conversation. Was really interesting to see our personal and communal conversation evolve.

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