Wisdom, Ignorance, Knowledge, Seminary

Around six months ago I wrote a short review of this book: Excellence: The Character of God and the Puruit of Scholarly Virtue by Andreas Kostenberger.  To summarize that review, I really liked the book and recommend it.  As I was paging through it again recently, I found this section that I had marked up.  It’s on knowledge, seminary, and wisdom.  After commenting on 1 Corinthians 8:1, Kostenberger says,

“…Knowledge is good and necessary, but it must be accompanied by love and humility, or it will lead to pride and arrogance.  When I was a freshly minted Christian considering seminary training in the United States, an American missionary recounted the story of an aspiring student who was told by a well-meaning counselor, ‘God doesn’t need your education.’  To which the young man replied, ‘God doesn’t need your ignorance either.'”

“…True, seminary sometimes removes students from the real world, and, as one of my former professors never tired of repeating, ‘must be gotten out of your system,’ before effective ministry can take place.  ‘Now you k now what the answers are,’ he kept saying.  ‘Go and find out the questions that people are actually asking.’  To be sure, there are those who are so other-worldly that they are little or no earthly good.  But at the same time, there is considerable value in formal training in virtually any profession, and, certainly, education in studying the Bible is no exception.”

As a side, that reminds me of someone who, when defending the need for pastors to go to seminary, quipped that no one would fly on a plane where the pilot wasn’t trained or go to a doctor who skipped medical school.  So he wouldn’t go to a church where the pastor wasn’t trained.  Kostenberger continues:

“There is a need to learn the original languages, Greek and Hebrew, in order to interpret the Bible more precisely and to preach it more accurately and authoritatively.  There is the benefit of formal instruction in preaching, theology, and church history.  If you have a well-educated pastor, or if you are a well-educated pastor, don’t hang your head – be grateful that God has given you the privilege of receiving proper formal training in studying and proclaiming his Word.  Whatever people may say, ignorance is not a virtue.  Neither is knowledge, however, unless it is applied and put to proper use.  This application of knowledge to real-life situations is called ‘wisdom'” (p. 177-178).

Andreas Kostenberger, Excellence (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011).

shane lems

2 thoughts on “Wisdom, Ignorance, Knowledge, Seminary”

  1. As one who has done much self-study on my own over the years, I can vouch for the fact that seminary studies are a marvelous asset. I am in full-time ministry and now pursuing a formal education because I see the need for it. No self-study, no matter how diligent one is, can take the place of the systematic study of God’s Word. If one has the opportunity they should do it! After all, would you jump on a plane if you knew the pilot taught himself how to fly?


  2. I also enjoyed Excellence, I thought it was a great work on how the Christian life is a commitment to glorifying God through the very best of everything we do, such as our scholarship. Our greatest challenge is too keep from allowing our presence in the academy to puff us up in arrogance, but at the same time I agree that a systematic, formal education is one of our greatest assets in understanding the Word better. Personal study simply cannot replace the community that seminary and college fosters and the responsibility to study and work hard that are encouraged by having tests, exams and papers.

    You can check out my review of Excellence at my blog:



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