What is a seminary?

A seminary is a graduate-level educational institution that prepares students for a career in ministry. The term seminary comes from the Latin word seminarium meaning "plant nursery" where conditions are maintained that are ideal for seeds to grow into hearty plants. The Council of Trent, a response to the Protestant Reformation in the mid-1500s, first called for the establishment of modern seminaries where a local clergyman's seed of faith and understanding could be grown into a strong and hearty faith that kept in line with Catholic doctrine and could then be used to nourish the faith of his parishioners. Catholicism, Protestantism, and Judaism all maintain their own seminaries today that prepare students for the ordination process to serve as clergy within the relevant tradition. Sometimes these schools are called a school of theology or a divinity school.

At seminary, students learn Scripture, ancient languages, theology, philosophy, and religious history among other things. Nowadays, classes are taught both in person and online, and most programs require two to six years of study to complete. For those who feel called to ministry as a career, these schools provide the preparation necessary to serve in a professional capacity.

However, every believer can benefit from studying Scripture, reading church history, and discussing deep theological ideas. God calls His people to love Him with all their minds (Matthew 22:37) and there are numerous examples in Scripture of this type of formal learning.

In Deuteronomy 17:18–19 Israel's future kings were instructed, "when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them." Despite the fact that the king was not a priest and would not be performing any religious tasks, his position of leadership required that he have a deep understanding of God that was to be gained by reading and writing down Scripture under the supervision of priests trained in the Law and then rereading and meditating on that copy of Scripture every day for the remainder of his life.

In the New Testament in Acts 19:9–10, we see Paul daily discussing Scripture in a lecture hall for two years to help others understand the word of the Lord. "[He] took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks." Earlier in Berea, the local people "received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so" (Acts 17:11). Thus, local people took the ideas that were being discussed and compared those ideas to a deep study of Scripture on a daily basis.

In this way, even those who do not serve in ministry professionally should be eager to engage their minds in loving God by knowing Him better. Seminaries offer one way for people to enhance their study and provide the training necessary for those who are called into ministry as a career.

Related Truth:

Christian ministry - What is it?

Vocational ministry — What is it?

Is a formal Bible education necessary for a pastor?

What is the significance of the command to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength?

Does the Bible make a distinction between clergy and laity?

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