Why Major in Biblical and Theological Studies?

Fewer pastors receive the foundation they need.

Until the last 30 or 40 years, virtually everyone whom the Lord called to go to school to prepare for the ministry, and who believed that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, took as many Bible and Theology courses as they could cram into the program he or she was in. The logic until then was that it was much easier to learn all the other necessary ministry skills either by reading books or by the “on the job training” actually doing ministry.  The thinking related to that was, if you did not know Scripture and theology backwards and forward, you had nothing to preach, teach, lead, or counsel with as your authoritative word from the Lord.

Today, the situation has basically reversed, even in many parts of the evangelical, Bible-believing sector of the wider church: the focus is on ministry skills and the outlook toward the study of Scripture is that you can quickly find whatever you need in that area on the Internet. Forgotten is Paul’s exhortation to Timothy: “Be diligent to present yourself as one approved, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15).

This kind of sadly-lacking perspective—versus the biblical expectation that Christian pastors, teachers, and leaders are to be “mighty in the Scriptures”—is surely a significant contributing factor as to why, year after year, surveys of biblical literacy in Bible-believing congregations reflect that most are a mile wide and an inch deep in their knowledge of the Bible and of even basic Christian theology. Thus, is it any wonder that false teaching and major moral or ethical failures appear to be happening even more often? In too many cases, pastoral leadership and teachers do not possess the biblical depth to provide spiritual stabilization to help the baby Christians in their midst mature beyond the point of “being tossed to and fro” by false teaching (Eph 4:14).

So, to answer the question in the title to this piece, why should an entering student who is looking ahead to serving in ministry choose to major in Biblical and Theological Studies? From what was said above, obvious answers are: 1) to stabilize and maximize his or her own spiritual growth; and 2) through his or her ministry, to stabilize and maximize the growth of those whom the Lord places under their pastoral care—whatever type of ministry it turns out to be!

But, some might say, “I’m planning on going on to seminary after my undergraduate degree. I will be able to go deeper in the Bible and theology in my seminary program.” Sounds good, right? But, the reality is that most seminary degrees are professional degrees that are more focused on introducing practical ministry skills than promoting biblical and theological mastery.

In other words, unless a student chose a specialized Master of Arts degree in Old or New Testament or Theology as his or her seminary program, he or she would have been better off majoring in Biblical and Theological Studies as an undergraduate rather than to just assume that everything you need to know about the Bible and theology to be effective in ministry can easily be picked up later.

Of course, ultimately, each student must listen carefully to the voice of the Lord and wise human counsel in making such a decision. And, no matter what that decision turns out to be, the considerations laid out above can serve as a caution light that causes the prospective student to slow down and more carefully consider how the Lord might be guiding. Deliberate decision-making is far better than jumping into something that looks good at the time and later regretting the long-term consequences. In this case, the regret would be “settling” for getting less foundational training in God’s Word than you come to realize later that you need and, at that time, not having any clear route for going back and shoring up the foundation of your ministry.