Seminarian v.s. Pastor: A Kind of Review

ImageLast Sunday evening after the service, my pastor and I discussed issues on the work of the Holy Spirit in one’s conversion, in other words, the question is “Is there any Christian/believer before the Pentecost day?” I was arguing that there is no Christian before the Pentecost day, since it is until the day of Pentecost, the Spirit came down upon those whom God had chosen, and made them understand clearly who this crucified Jesus is – the Son of God, and the suffering Messiah. My pastor challenged me a lot on such dangerous view, and helped me to rethink my understanding. Today, I had asked my New Testament professor about this question, and NT professor, Dr. P. Constant, explained to me that it is by the grace of God, people believe in God, both in the OT and NT; yet, the Spirit worked differently in the OT and NT, since it is after the death and resurrection of Christ, the Spirit was given as a gift and assurance of faith to those who believe in the risen Lord Jesus. Thus, for us, who are in the New Covenant made by Christ, have more privilege than the believers, like Abraham and David, in the old Covenant, that is we are able to see and believe in the Christ Jesus, and have the indwelling Spirit as a gift being given.

As the apostle John taught in 1John 2:27, “But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no life – just as it has taught you, abide in him.” The Spirit who was given and indwells in regenerated believers, teaches us the things about Christ Jesus, and teaches us to abide in Jesus the Son. With such teaching in mind, there are some reflections on theological studies and pastoral ministry.

I have been studying in TBS (Toronto Baptist Seminary) for four years so far, and according to the courses I have taken, I realize that within the seminary studying, there is no mystery in the study itself. Let me explain. The method of seminary education (most evangelical seminaries follow such method) is based on taught lecture and research. Through such methods of studying, the professors try to provide sufficient knowledge on specific subject, helps his/her students to have correct principles and ways of thinking on the subject, and inspires students for their future research and studies. Thus, a Hermeneutics professor will teach his students to be able to use the theological tools to study biblical texts in the future by the guidance of specific theological views (such as New Covenant theology, Covenant theology, Dispensationalism, Reformed theology, etc.) Therefore, such study in itself is open to everyone. And one of the purposes of such disciplines is to train students to discipline themselves for the sake of future studies. Therefore, it is just a start of the theological studies. As Paul Tripp criticized that many people today, think seminaries are factory of pastors and theologians, which sees the study is the end to itself. Tripp calls those people who have such thinking, “theologeeks,” who are “the guys who see theology as an end in itself rather than as a means to an end. They love the academy and would unwittingly drag the academy into the local church and preach sermons that are more theological lectures than gospel meditations.” [1]

Everyone (who is a regenerated Christian) can study in a seminary, and sit through whole series of theological lectures, but not every is being called as a pastor. Through his book, Dangerous Calling, Tripp repeatedly warns his pastor readers, that they have to fill in the gap between their private persona and public ministry. Surely pastorate is not an easy job, since pastors are not theological lecturers, rather, a pastor has to be a shepherd to the flock Christ has given to him. At the same time, a pastor also has to remember that he is also in the middle of his sanctification, which means he also needs to take care of his own relationship with the Lord (Tripp provides several valuable practices for pastors to renew their mind, pp 79-82).

Through the history of the church, our Christian ancestors have left us several good books on pastoral character and ministry, such as Baxter’s Reformed Pastor, and Spurgeon’s Lectures To My Students. Tripp’s Dangerous Calling is the most honest book on pastorate in our contemporary era, which inherited the major ideas of Baxter and Spurgeon, that is the pastoral success is based on his spiritual relationship with his Lord. [2]

Buy Tripp’s Dangerous Calling, through WTSBookstore.

Simple pages.

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[1] Paul David Tripp, Dangerous Calling: Confronting The Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 44.

[2] Bob Penhearow, Exploring C. H. Spurgeon’s Key To Ministerial Success (Guelph, ON: Carey Printing Press, 2011).

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2 thoughts on “Seminarian v.s. Pastor: A Kind of Review”

  1. On the flip side, I have frequently been in a situation where I am doing a lot of studying to the end of seeing, knowing, and loving God more and have had Pastor’s discourage my questioning because they thought I was theologeeking. I think we should be wary of study for study’s sake, but the answer is not to discourage study. The answer is to show how to study for the good of the heart as it encounters God in his word. Thanks for sharing your journey and the review. I always look forward to Paul Tripp’s blog posts on the Gospel Coalition.

    1. Peter: Thank you for your reply. By God’s mercy, the more we study, the more we turn to praise and worship this Triune God, and give glory to Him alone. Tripp’s Dangerous Calling is a great book, and is like Baxter’s Reformed Pastor, which cut into our hearts, yet point us to Christ who alone is able to heal. God bless!

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