“For I delivered to you as of first importance….” I Cor 15:3a, ESV
Recently I heard a theologian address the question of the value of seminary education. Why should anyone spend years of his or her life pursuing a degree which has little cash value or cultural clout? We live, as the philosopher Charles Taylor argues persuasively, in “a secular age” which is defined by “exclusive humanism.” This means that the religious dimension of human life is increasingly sidelined, or even excluded. This is an age which focuses on the practical problems of the here and now and has little time to ponder the mysteries of the supposed hereafter.
How do we respond to such a critique of theological education? The theologian gave a simple and profound response. We pursue theological education because the scriptural gospel of Jesus Christ is true. Theological education provides the necessary time and space to think deeply about the truth of the biblical gospel and what it means for each of us personally and the whole world.
Everything we confess is dependent upon the veracity of the gospel. It would be difficult to exaggerate how high the stakes really are. St. Paul bluntly wrote, “If Christ has not been raised your faith is futile and you are still in your sins…[and] we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor 15:17-19 ESV). If Christ has not been raised from the dead, then theological education has been delivered a fatal blow.
However, Jesus Christ was in reality crucified, died, buried and raised from the dead. This is of “first importance.” He is Lord of the living and the dead. Through the Holy Spirit he continues to be present in the word and the breaking of the bread (Luke 24). The scriptural gospel is true — and powerful. It has the power to break our bondage to darkness, despair and other great and shameful sins. The gospel is “the power (dynamis) of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16). It is the power that draws us out of unbelief, sin and death into a life which glorifies God.
Good and faithful theological education grounds people in the verities of Christian faith. This is the goal of theological education and pastoral formation in the NALS. We equip pastors and lay leaders to proclaim the scriptural gospel with love, wisdom, knowledge, courage and grace. Nothing is more important. In order to make this happen, we need your prayers and financial support. We also need you to lift up candidates who are discerning a call to ministry.
It is an honor and joy to take part in the formation of those who will have the great privilege and responsibility of proclaiming the scriptural gospel of Jesus Christ. We invite you to join us in this endeavor.