Ten reasons to choose Moore Theological College to train for ministry
Posted on January 20, 2012 by recent graduate Andrew Errington (From: his Deacons and Dragons Blog)
I have just finished the bachelor of divinity at Moore Theological College. Four years of full-time study is a lot. It costs in time and money; and it’s something you only get to do once (unless you’re crazy). Four and a half years ago, I was seriously considering not going to Moore College. I was looking particularly at a shorter, fancier option overseas. I’m glad, though, I decided to stay here, and I thought I would take the time to explain why I believe Moore College is an excellent choice for those wanting to train for ministry. The following ten reasons are focused on the content and style of the Moore College program. There are other things I could have talked about, like the fact that Moore College is full of nice people. But I wanted to explain why I think Moore offers a good course of study for those heading towards church leadership.
1. There is more in the Bible than you think. Therefore, a program centred on Biblical Studies is a good thing. This may seem like a simple thing to say, but it’s important. It is the perennial failing of systematic theology to assume it already knows what the Bible says when it does not. The reason it does not is because we never do. God’s Word has and will always have fresh news for us. Our systems are never final. We are and can only ever be catching up with Scripture. The fact is, there is more in the Bible than you think; and because of this, it is good to have a program centred on Biblical studies. Not because Biblical Studies is all you need to read the Bible (see point two); but because there is a certain cavalier optimism to biblical studies that teaches you to wade into texts in all their historical embeddedness, cultural relativity, and linguistic complexity, and in the midst of it, very often, to hear something you haven’t heard before.
2. There is more to reading the Bible than biblical studies. Discerning what in fact the Bible says and how it relates to the gospel of Jesus Christ is not easy. We need help from those who have gone before; and we need conceptual clarification. It is a great strength of Moore College that as part of the study of theology it is committed to both church history and philosophy. Yes, philosophy; because like it or not, we have no choice but to articulate the truth of the gospel in human language and using human concepts, and in conversation with the world in which we find ourselves. It is, in my view, extremely naïve to think that we can get very far without a serious attempt to integrate what we read in the Bible, and think it together with the help of the language and concepts we have available.
3. Moore College is a theological college, not just a Bible college. Moore College is underpinned by a conviction that Christians and Christian churches have an interest not just in Bible study, but in theological synthesis. This is not in any way to denigrate the Bible; it is rather to take the Bible with the seriousness which it deserves: as a whole, a unified revelation from God focused on the person of Jesus, which demands of us the task of synthesis and conceptual articulation. Because of this, Moore College understands itself as a reformed theological college, which means that it stands in the theological tradition of the reformation, especially as it was articulated by Calvin.
4. Yet systematic theology is only any good when it is biblical. That said, as per point one, there is very little tolerance at Moore for a dogged allegiance to systematic formulations. Moore is a reformed college; but that’s not its first loyalty. Calvin is a hero; but he’s not the Messiah. Theology, the task of discerning the meaning and shape of God’s revelation in the Christ of the Scriptures, is not something that can ever be done very far from the Scriptures. Overall, then, you could sum up the intellectual goal of Moore College like this: Moore College aims to do systematic theology in as close proximity as possible to primary interaction with Scripture. This goal is what has given rise to “biblical theology”.
5. Biblical theology is more difficult and important than you realise. Moore College has a reputation for doing “biblical theology”. What is meant by this is the practice of appreciating the way themes and ideas unfold throughout the story of the Bible, with sensitivity to the diversity of Scripture. As such, Biblical theology is essentially a way of paying attention to the canon without denying the particularity of the different parts of Scripture. Biblical theology is deceptively simple — and the possibility of oversimplification is in fact a danger; but at its best, biblical theology facilitates an attentiveness to Scripture that is of fundamental importance for Christian knowledge. Too often, ideas in Scripture are detached from their actual presentation in the text, and from their place in the canon, in order to become proof-texts for dogmatic pre-commitments. I believe biblical theology is an essential tool for the theological task today. On my reading, protestant systematic theology today finds itself somewhat uncomfortably torn between a return to a fully-fledged classical reformed position, and an uncertain amalgam of reformation principles, Barthian insights, and patristic contributions. I do not believe either is a real option (though there’s a lot of good gear here!). The way forward can only be via a fuller and clearer attention to Scripture. Biblical theology is a tool to help us do that, and it’s a good reason to go to Moore College.
6. Ethics. Ethics is the Protestant way of talking about what Catholics call “Moral Theology”. Both are fine because both are inadequate. As if Christians ever really have an interest in some realm of “morals” isolated from the Christian life, from creation, from grace. Moore College has, I believe, a strong, healthy, and stimulating ethics course, which in fourth year can lead into Social Ethics. Ethics is one of the key places in which Christian faith converses and butts heads with the world we’re a part of. A careful, nuanced consideration of this topic is essential for a education for a ministry that will increasingly involve an apologetic element.
7. You don’t know what you need to know. One of my reservations about Moore College before I began was its very set program. There are no real electives until fourth year, and even then there are only a couple. This can feel a bit stifling of individuality! I still think there is room for a little more flexibility; but I have come around a great deal to the value of a set program. Why? Because I didn’t actually know what I needed to know. Left to myself, I would not have chosen some of the subjects I was called to study. But I’m glad I did them. So often at college I have realised after the fact that it is in fact very good that I learnt this or that, even though I did not necessarily see it beforehand. Young men (read over-confident young men) beware! You do not actually know what you need to learn in order to be a good minister.
8. Trying to be both confessional and academically rigorous is not easy, but is essential. Moore College aims to do a difficult thing: to be both a “confessional” place of learning, meaning one where certain truths are assumed and held in common, and an academically rigorous institution. For many people, this is in fact impossible. It’s either or. But Moore College does not believe this, and neither do I. For if God has in fact spoken; if truth has been revealed; then to simply put our faith in endeavour and investigation, in human reason, is a fool’s errand. Yet to assume we have fully grasped what God has said; to assume we now know all we need to know, is equally foolish and a failure of service to God’s people. If the truth that has been revealed really is the truth, then it is in fact the goal of academic endeavour, even if it may never reach it. Christians, at least some of them, are called to the difficult task of trying to show and articulate the truth in the gospel in the context of the intellectual community. This will at times appear foolish, at times feel frustrating; but it is not mistaken in principle.
9. Moore College attempts to educate people for serious engagement with intellectual questions, as well as for pastoral ministry. This is not an easy thing to do, and inevitably, there are frustrations. Not enough time is spent on this or that. Criticisms have been made in the past that Moore College does not adequately prioritise pastoral training, preaching, and so on. There has been, at times, something to this criticism. At the end of four years there are certainly aspects of the job I am going for that I don’t feel particularly equipped for. But I do not think I would want it the other way round. Christian ministry is not, first and foremost, a matter of technique, however helpful that may be. It is an activity that arises out of a deep engagement with the word of God. In a world where deep engagements are few and far between, I do not believe it will truly be useful, in the long run, to exchange that for a greater familiarity with ministerial activities. However tempted we may be to believe otherwise, the church will not grow simply through effective management or engaging preaching, but through a clear and deep response to the Word of God.
10. A lot of currently popular views about what is required to be a pastor, are wrong. To end, then, on a slightly polemical note, I am convinced that much currently fashionable rhetoric about pastoring, church planting, and entrepreneurial leadership, is mistaken. At the end of the day, what is required of a pastor is to have a deep and convicted attentiveness to what Paul calls “these things” (1 Tim 4:11). If you believe that — and it’s not especially easy to believe — then Moore College is a good place for you.