In the environment of higher academics, there are certain degrees that represent plateaus where further study isn’t necessary. An MBA is one such example, as many professions don’t necessarily require further degrees to maximize impact or income. Once that level is reached, the requirement for further degrees is greatly reduced. Similarly, once a candidate obtains their Juris Doctor, their remaining step is to pass the Bar Exam and commence a legal practice. Further degrees are not necessary to have a full career as a practicing attorney (CLE notwithstanding).
So the question arises: “If I already have a Bible Degree, why Seminary?” Which is really asking “Is a Bible Degree a plateau I can rest on?” The short answer: It depends on your goals.
While there are ministry positions that may only require a Bible degree from a Bible College, most students are encouraged to pursue either a specialty Certificate or higher degree with a specific designation (e.g. Education Certificate or M.A. in Youth Ministry) in order to broaden their opportunities within ministry.
True, there are those individuals who meet their calling in lower level occupations (this is not meant to disparage those without degrees or who feel no desire to advance to higher-level positions; God calls each of us for His own purpose. The best we can do is what He has called us to!). In this instance, higher degrees – or Seminary – would not be a benefit for the career/ministry path. Please understand, this is not ‘wrong,’ it is a matter of understanding God’s call on your life and responding in obedience in order to be used to your fullest for His purpose. If you fit in here, praise God that He revealed your calling so clearly to you and thank Him for His mercy to you for making it co clear! There are many examples of people who have a gift for this level of service and support and are truly engaged and fulfilled in a lesser role. The humility required to serve in this capacity over a long time is admirable – to the point of seeing more of God’s blessing on their lives over the term of their career than others! It is not secret that God richly blesses the humble; including those of humble career (served with a willingness and simplicity of heart).
However, if you believe you are called to more than support level of ministry, then Seminary should be on your path. Bible degrees are good – we need people well studied in the mechanics and foundations of Scripture to help us understand context, linguistics and translation nuances. This foundation is sturdy and necessary. Keep in mind that it only foundational (again, not to disparage the education, but a foundation is designed to support a larger structure!). Further study in a narrower direction (toward a specialty or specific area of ministry) will build on the foundation and better prepare the student for full-time work in that field. Seminary, with their typical broad scope of coursework, will provide that deeper level of study into Doctrine, History and Culture as well as providing instruction on interpretation and application in today’s culture.
In the secular workplace, a 4-year Bachelor’s Degree is sufficient to launch a successful career. Higher degrees are available but not required – few will earn their MBA. In ministry, higher degrees are expected to provide that level of credibility and value to the flock. It shows a certain level of commitment and passion for the ministry when higher, specialized degrees are earned. Also, coursework has changed over generations. This is not to say that the Reformers are not a valuable field of study, but Seminary programs have become more diverse and specialized as our culture has changed (particularly in the U.S.).
The bottom line is that culture has changed dramatically in the last 75 years. Where Sunday was observed as the universal Christian Sabbath, it is now a normal business day. Once “family” was defined as Dad, Mom, children and Grandparents; today “family” means a more diverse population. Respect for authority was once routine to the point of being taken for granted; today, respect for authority is not automatic (in fact, disrespect for authority is becoming more widespread year by year).
Our culture needs individuals to stand in the gap (Ezekiel 22:30) and be willing to speak Truth to our culture. Simply stated, a Bible degree alone will not provide the support to engage the culture in this way. A student with a Seminary education will be better prepared to show the culture that they are willing to stand against popular opinion in favor of God’s Truth. The culture believes that God is remote and detached (at best) and irrelevant or dead (at worst); a stricter study of Doctrine, history and admonition from God’s Word will provide the backbone required to stand against the tide of popular culture and call out wisdom in the streets (Proverbs 1:20, 8:1). Today’s culture is reaping the fruit of an evolutionary mind-set. Today’s younger adults have been brought up to believe that man’s origins are random and not deliberate. Even the ‘compromise’ of design is rejected. This belief strips all dignity from mankind – the dignity that was given to man when God breathed the breath of life into Adam’s nostrils (Genesis 2:7) and he became a living being (with a consciousness, conscience and soul). Our culture needs God’s truth and needs trained ministers to speak Truth without compromise or retreat.
This comes from more study and preparation than a Bible College degree can offer.
Review your calling. See where God will lead you. If you are called to engage in active ministry, seek a Seminary degree!