Going to seminary is like “going to cemetery!” We’ve all heard that before. But there does seem to be a ring of truth to this. Many wide-eyed believers have entered seminary with a vibrant faith, only to graduate a few years later with an MDiv and a secular outlook. This is precisely what happened in the case of Bart Ehrman, who is now one of the most outspoken opponents of evangelical New Testament scholarship.
There are, of course, steps one can take if he or she desires to pass through seminary with their faith intact. But, for those who wish to follow the same path as Dr. Ehrman, I have constructed a simple 3 step list which, if followed carefully, should help you lose your faith in seminary.
1. Blur the distinction between essential and non-essential doctrines
There is a distinction that can be made between essentials and non-essentials of the Christian faith. While doctrines such as the existence of God and the deity of Christ are certainly essential, opinions on the age of the earth and the days of creation are good examples of non-essential doctrines. Perhaps these peripheral doctrines are more aptly referred to as dogmaticisms, while the word “doctrine” is best suited for central biblical teachings.
I any case, if you choose to ignore this distinction, your entire Christian worldview will, in effect, rest upon any, of many, peripheral doctrines. And, I assure you, many of these peripheral doctrines will be challenged in seminary. It is best to die on the hill of mere Christianity than the mountain of dogmas.
2. Expect that absolutely none of your presuppositions will be challenged
Studying theology, philosophy and the Bible at a graduate level will strip you of many long-held presuppositions. When I entered seminary for example, I was a dogmatic KJV-only, young-earth creationist, Arminian. I am not those things anymore.
However, I went in to seminary expecting that many of my presuppositions would be challenged. And so, adjusting my views on these peripheral matters did not disturb the core of my Christian convictions. Conversely, if one enters seminary believing that he will not be challenged on his presuppositions, then he may be in for an unpleasant surprise.
3. Avoid apologetics at all costs
Many Christians operate under the impression that apologetics is thoroughly unnecessary and divisive. Adopting this impression as you enter seminary will allow you to avoid podcasts like Defender’s, Unbelievable and Reasonable Faith; along with books like Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, and The Resurrection: A New Historiographical Approach.
The answers to difficult questions are out there, but more often than not, those questions are addressed in the apologetic arena. You will most assuredly run into bothersome issues in seminary and thus, by avoiding apologetics those bothers may give birth to children much more meddlesome.