Many ministerial students suffer from a non-faith syndrome

Theological education is harried in an age of doctrinal instability and social change. Uncertainty and tension grip the classroom, and many seminarians are inevitably bewildered by it all. Their opinions are molded by the attitudes of their institutions. Yet many seminaries communicate no answers. Some repudiate the absolute authority of Scripture and openly denigrate the value of theological systems. Many of the seminaries find it hard to challenge students and increasingly fail to win them for productive ministries within the Church.

Informed observers are struck by the failure of the seminaries to attract the best minds. Dean Peck of Andover Newton is rightly alarmed by what he terms the “brain drain” among university students. The brightest collegians are not drawn to the ministry, he notes. They are attracted to the professions that offer superior financial inducements; or, if they are idealistic, the Peace Corps draws them like a magnet. The churches, often mute or mouthing current trivia, do not impress these students. Nor do they normally confront them with the challenge of the ministry or articulate the nature of the divine call.

God does not always choose the smartest men to do Christian work, but church history shows that the greatest leaders have been endued with high intellectual gifts. Today the seminaries tend to recruit more second- and third-rate minds than ever before. And still they cannot enlist enough men to keep pace with the expanding population.

All too often those who are attracted to the ministry suffer from a marked uncertainty about their “call” to service, and many a seminarian goes into his first year of study uncommitted. He attends the ...

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