Maybe it’s just me. Really. I’ve wrestled with it for years, literally for years. Maybe I’m the one who’s insecure about what theological education means and what to do with it…wondering if faith is more like music or if it’s like medicine.
Because if it’s like music, then I can learn by actually playing with other musicians, I can practice way into the night working on particular piece, and learn it by listening to the music of others. I can set up gigs at a local Mexican cantina and play out on Friday nights. If ministry can be learned like music then theological education is as optional as Juliard would’ve been for Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, Arethra Franklin, et. al. I can go to school or not, because the measure of a musician is not the education, it is the music.
But if it’s like medicine, then learning it becomes a practice that demands a bit more than intuition or inspiration. It requires a few years of anatomy and physiology before I can get into practicum. Good medicine requires a constant review of journals, research, and methodology. Medicine is measured with outcomes, and consistent outcomes are brought about by evidence and firm conclusions. If a vocation in faith is akin to a vocation in medicine, then the doctor must earn a doctorate, it’s a simple and as certifiable as that.
I’m not sure which it is. I enjoy learning and study. I understand the importance of structure and of history, but when I stand back and look at the growing numbers of Asian Americans in seminary, and who look at seminary as a professional degree or a place to explore, I can’t help but wonder, do we have to go? And with as much emphasis Asians place on authority and degree and education, maybe the question really needs to be asked…
What is the role for seminary in the life of the Asian American Christian? Is it professional school? Are we musicians or clinicians?
Is seminary a potential idol because of what it offers to would-be pastors because it essentially becomes the ticket to a viable career?
Forgive me for the sacreligious tone, but I can’t help but wonder because in AA circles, especially where Christianity is seen in a positive light, to be a pastor can easily be seen as a white-collar profession, a cush job, a socially visible position in a cultural hub, and generally speaking as a highly educated, upstanding, and respected occupation in the community.
Stanley Hauerwas, leading theologian at Duke University, opened up a talk by saying most seminarians have screwed up in other careers before arriving on campus. But among Asians, that’s not necessarily the case, is it?
AAs aren’t known for failure or academic mediocrity…yet it begs the question. How do our seminarians fare? How do our pastors fare? How do our churches fare?
By the way, I’m looking at seminaries now…so if you think I’m being self-righteous, maybe it’s just me. Really, I’ve been wrestling with this years, literally years.