what is theological education for? (1) Criticisms

David Castillo Dominici, Freedigitialphotos.net

I thought it worth keeping going with some thinking about theological education after Alister McGrath’s proxy contributions to this blog 😉

Well I think about it all the time – preparing, teaching, reviewing and discussing with students how courses are going is happening continually raises questions.

And they point to the special demands of teaching the Bible – whether in church or in a theological college. For such teaching must be holistic if it is to be worth much …

And by holistic I mean it needs meaningfully to engage the affective, behavioural and cognitive elements of learning. And that is some challenge – one that reaches far beyond most other forms of teaching.

I plan a couple more posts on this engaging with some reading ..

But first some quotes of criticisms of the way much theological education is actually done. These are drawn from a very useful article by Perry Shaw, ‘Towards a Multidimensional Approach to Theological Education’ in International Congregational Journal 6.1, (2006), 53-63.

“the only similiarity between Jesus’ way of training and the seminary’s is that each takes three years” (Joe Bayly)

“our schools train academics not Christian leaders”

“the centrality of the mind and cognitive learning in our theological institutions is rooted in a faulty Enlightenment-based epistemology where knowledge is seen as some sort of object that needs to be acquired.” …  And this myth  “ falsely portrays how we know and has profoundly deformed the way we educate.”

Knowing God entails “a type of knowledge that speaks less of acquiring a masters degree in divinity as it does of being mastered by Divinity.”

“Most of our institutions of theological education are appallingly anachronistic. We decry secular rationalism while affirming through the hidden curriculum the basic tenets of rationalism in our almost exclusive focus on the cognitive domain.”

 Comments, as ever, welcome.


4 thoughts on “what is theological education for? (1) Criticisms

  1. I have to agree with each of the criticisms. I’m a lawyer by trade, so I’m no stranger to rigorous academic work. Further, I thoroughly enjoyed law school, so I’m not opposed to that kind of work per se, nor am I anti-intellectual. Still, with all that said, I still agree wholeheartedly with every quoted criticism. We simply must change our approach to how we train and ordain people for service in the Church.

  2. thanks Sean, I saw that video a while back and showed it to my older daughter who agreed it summed up much of the Irish school system with its high stakes end exam and rote learning (and not saying it doesn’t offer challenges beyond that!).

  3. Hi T
    the encouraging thing is that there is a lot of thinking going on and changes being made within theological training – it is quite different for example to when I was at college over 20 years ago … will come back to this in follow up posts

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