Well-known theologians/pastors with no formal seminary training

Page 2 of 2 (35 items) < Previous 1 2
This post has 34 Replies | 4 Followers

Posts 256
Tony Walker | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Oct 13 2021 8:12 AM

John Bunyan?

A.w. Pink?

Posts 708
Kathleen Marie | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Oct 13 2021 9:40 AM

List of oldest universities in continuous operation


1180–1190[10] Italy
(teaching from c. 1088) University of Bologna

1200–1214[15] United Kingdom
(teaching from c. 1096) University of Oxford

1209–1225[24] United Kingdom University of Cambridge

1218–1219[24] Spain University of Salamanca

United States

Harvard University 1636

The College of William & Mary 1693 (continuously since 1888)

List of medieval universities


C. 1088 (1158 charter granted) University of Bologna

1150 (1200 charter granted) University of Paris

List of Islamic seminaries


737 Tunisia Tunis, Tunisia University of Ez-Zitouna
859 Morocco Fes, Morocco University of Al Quaraouiyine
970-972 Egypt Cairo, Egypt Al-Azhar University
Posts 217
1Cor10:31 | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Oct 13 2021 12:28 PM

Hi abondservant! 

I truly appreciate your pastor's heart in your message.


remembered this quote: “Listen, I'm against sin. I'll kick it as long as I've got a foot, I'll fight it as long as I've got a fist, I've butt it as long as I've got a head, and I'll bite it as long as I've got a tooth. And when I'm old, fistless, footless, and toothless, I'll gum it till I go home to glory and it goes home to perdition.”  

This is a good one. It is going into my Notes. 


The more we study the bible, the more our thoughts will reflect it. :). Bible College and Seminary will give you access to men who have spent their whole lives formally teaching, and preaching - basically thinking about and studying the bible. Helps us to stand on their shoulders in ways we couldn't otherwise. I think its extremely valuable - and I think the dearth of this sort of thing can lead to old heresies rising once more unintentionally. I stop short of my former roommate's (now PhD) recommendation that one should only serve in the church with formal PhD level education.

As a PhD myself, I totally see what you mean by standing on others' shoulders. Very few papers open up a completely new stream of research. Having had 23 years of schooling, I agree wholeheartedly with you on the value of education.

It is also my experience as a researcher that makes me realize that education can result in groupthink (I have a paper on that topic!), which can get in the way of connecting dots uniquely to unearth God's truths. I'll give you an example of what this means. When we have seminar speakers in an area that is not my specialty, the visiting speaker is sometimes surprised at the constructive ideas that I can give. It is not because I am uniquely smart, but I think this is because I am not seeped in the way people in that area think. You are able to think outside the box when it is not in your area.


However, you should do what God is leading you to do. If that's full time school, then praise the Lord, if its part time school, praise the Lord, and if its dive right into ministry then praise the Lord.

I am not sure what God's calling is for me. My best guess is that I blog on the logic of God: why God chose the doctrines that we believe in, which in turn helps decide what is truth and what is not.

Having said that, last week, I just bought my first 2 books on preaching (by John Piper). When I bought them, I was planning to read from a communication angle, but who knows.

I have considered taking online courses. We have a seminary in our city, so it has crossed my mind to take face-to-face. But there has been no strong pull thus far to go in this direction.


My dear friend was 10 for passion, 10 for willingness to serve, a 10 in hubris, and a 2 in preparedness for the task.

Thank you for taking the time to write about your friend. It benefited me and I'm sure others benefited from this example.

Hubris is related to overconfidence, and I am confident that there is some overconfidence in me! (I have enough overconfidence to recently write a paper that challenges conventional wisdom on overconfidence in my discipline)


If you don't seek formal education, find a great mentor(s) who are further down the road you want to travel and go through life with him/them for a time. Its time well spent. One can never underestimate the value of men further down the roads you want to travel investing themselves into you.

I hope you hear this pastors heart, and if your destination is ministry; don't follow my friends example. Spend time in guided preparation with a mentor if you haven't already. And you may have. I don't know. I can only go by what is said in that brief opening post.

Again, I thank you for your thoughts. I would be happy to give up my tenured job in a heartbeat. I am open to getting a seminary education, but I need to be sure that is what God wants me to do. God has abundantly blessed our family, so I don't have to worry about monetary considerations. I ask myself: what is the best way for me to obey 1 Cor 10:31?

I would love to be able to engage with someone who is open to my way of thinking. Iron sharpens iron, but I need to find a willing iron in the first place. What I've met in my church circles has been totally dismissive of what I'm trying to do or they do some hand waving. The way my God is characterized in my church and the broader Christian circles is all very religious sounding and spiritual sounding, but it makes my God look really really small or mean. I could write a blog articles with the title: "My God is not..." some at the top of my mind: My God is not a parasite, not a sadist, not a pimp, not a puppetmaster...I could go on. Nobody believes that our God is a parasite, for example, but the statements made by influential Christian writers/theologians/pastors would be consistent with the behavior of a sadist.

Since you sound like someone with a seminary background, I can add another place where I have difficulty getting through. While systematic theology is better than unsystematic theology, it is just not enough. Systematic theology is not enough to eliminate contradictory beliefs. As financial economists, we would term engaging in systematic theology as partial equilibrium analysis because you are trying to understand the role of, say, prayer, holding all else equal. But all else equal doesn't apply to God who has infinite intelligence. God didn't choose each doctrine, say, prayer, in isolation. Doctrines are chosen jointly to achieve His goal. What we need is general equilibrium analysis: how God chose the various doctrines jointly to achieve His goal. This allows me to ask questions like: why did God choose to reveal Himself as 3-in-1? Why not 2-in-1 or 4-in-1? When I pose this question to people at my church, they'll say God didn't choose, and He was and is always 3-in-1. But when I ask, “how do you know?” there is that "you're nuts" look that comes across their faces.  

Apologies to MJ and others in advance because I know this went completely off the rails, but abondservant's thoughtful response deserved a proper response. Probably this is me crying out for some help in finding a partner who will burn up the dross in my theology to let the beauty of God rise to the top. 

Posts 19576
Rosie Perera | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Oct 13 2021 2:08 PM

Probably this is me crying out for some help in finding a partner who will burn up the dross in my theology to let the beauty of God rise to the top. 

Probably a single dialogue partner wouldn't be enough. My studies at Regent College, where I was exposed to classmates from all different backgrounds (most had come from some other career -- carpenter, veterinarian, lawyer, software engineer, doctor, etc. -- some from missions or other ministry-related work), ethnicities/nationalities (South America, Africa, Asia, Europe, Australasia, and plenty from North America), perspectives (a wide plethora of Protestant denominations from high church to low church to charismatic/pentecostal, and also a few Catholics and Orthodox), genders (more than half men, but still a good number of women), and goals (some planning to go into full-time ministry, some into academia, some back into the marketplace, others into other non-profit work, and many not yet sure). It was great to see the breadth in the body of Christ and have my preconceptions challenged at every turn. The faculty were also all over the spectrum theologically, though not as ethnically and gender diverse as some would have liked. But I did benefit from sitting under a couple of really excellent female faculty members teaching, preaching at chapel, leading retreats. It challenged me to use my gifts in ways that I might have let sit under a bushel otherwise with the excuse that "women aren't supposed to do that."

Posts 35547
Forum MVP
MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Oct 13 2021 2:38 PM

Apologies to MJ and others in advance because I know this went completely off the rails

I can't speak for others but I only worry about those "off the rail posts" that are hurtful to another religious group or misrepresent a group I know well. If there are other posts that I consider off-topic or bombastic, I am free to simply ignore them -- no harm done to anyone.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

Posts 4165
abondservant | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Oct 13 2021 5:57 PM

There are other fields of theology beyond and around Systematics - Biblical, historical, etc. But I understand your position. Systematics seem to seek to squeeze all of the information in scripture about a specific topic into a handful of pages. Yet God's creation is incredibly complex, our creator even more so.

I think you could benefit from (and these guys have all written systematic theologies which is a bit ironc given the context) John Frame (he has a lot of books in Logos) - he taught at RTS here in Orlando for a time. Berkopf and Grudem (both in logos) were worthy reads as well. I second those who suggested Tozer, and Martyn Lloyd-Jones (whom I love to read). The Puritans (like Bunyan) are profitable as well. I imagine them living in a time when life was a little slower. No email, no cell phone... Just time spent with their Bibles, and with their thoughts as even short trips to the "store", took far longer than they do now.

Regarding your tenure, there is value in having believers in every strata of society. See where God leads you, but you might find that He wants you where you are. Are there many believers in your field? in your institution? Shaping the minds of tomorrows leaders is valuable to the kingdom. We need good Godly pastors; but we also need good Godly men teaching economics (etc).

I love your last line. To the extent that I am able, I'll make my self available. I do not have a PhD though; and I'm on the ten year plan for my M.Div (*chuckle*).

Sorry MJ, If I came across as Bombastic.

Rosie interestingly I had an opportunity to study under someone I deeply respected at Regent for a semester. One of my deep regrets is not taking advantage of that opportunity. My (also ten year) undergraduate experience was much as you described (minus catholics/orthodox) though. It had its weaknesses, but one of its strengths was the diversity in the faculty. I started at Trinity (non-denominational, with CMA roots) as a landmark baptist, charismatic, dispensational, arminian, studied under largely arminian faculty, a presbyterian, a few assembly of God folks, an Evangelical Free church guy, and graduated as cessationist, leaky dispensational, and amyraldian (fully distanced from landmarkism). Then I went to an Amyraldian seminary, and will graduate as credobaptistic, covenantal, cessationist, and full five points calvinist.

I agree that burning away the dross is a lifetime commitment, one I'm not sure we fully complete before eternity.

L2 lvl4 (...) WORDsearch, L9

Posts 35547
Forum MVP
MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Oct 13 2021 9:12 PM

Sorry MJ, If I came across as Bombastic.

Not you, abondservant. But there are a couple of people who often post in contentious threads who do. While I disagree with you theologically, you have earned my respect as have others I know only through the forums.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

Posts 610
Gregory Lawhorn | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Oct 14 2021 5:37 AM

Certainly, many great pastors and theologians like Charles Spurgeon lacked formal training, but they put in enormous time in preparation, and read well, deeply, and broadly. One advantage of seminary training is being directed toward meaningful resources, and forced to absorb them to some degree. I have deep respect for those who put in the time for preparation before venturing into ministry. There are men today who have done the same thing (Phil Johnson comes to mind). Sadly, there are also many who simply decided one day to be a pastor, and found themselves a pulpit, usually in a very small, often remote church, and had no idea of what they were getting themselves into.

I know of one man who was "made" pastor of a church after being a Christian for three years, without any sort of training whatsoever. Some twenty-five years down the line, he is now the leader of a small midwestern affiliation of churches, and is leading those churches slowly into aberrant and new age teachings, not because he is a heretic, but because he was never properly taught.

Posts 4165
abondservant | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Oct 14 2021 8:54 AM

MJ. Smith:

Sorry MJ, If I came across as Bombastic.

Not you, abondservant. But there are a couple of people who often post in contentious threads who do. While I disagree with you theologically, you have earned my respect as have others I know only through the forums.

I'm sure we will all be surprised when we get to glory, and God says "... so how did you arrive at that conclusion, weren't you paying attention when I said (...)". *chuckle*

I want to have as few of those kinds of things as possible, but know there will undoubtedly be areas where I am blind to things, and have stood on the shoulders of centuries of people who in the teeth of their exertion to do otherwise, still managed to misunderstood something.

Plenty of respect for you too MJ :).

L2 lvl4 (...) WORDsearch, L9

Posts 1516
Kiyah | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Oct 14 2021 12:15 PM

Granville Sharp (of Granville Sharp's Rule fame) apparently had no formal theological training. From Wallace's Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (pp.270-271):

"Granville Sharp, son of an archdeacon and grandson of an archbishop, was an English philanthropist and abolitionist (1735–1813). He is known to students of history as “the Abraham Lincoln of England” for his key role in the abolition of slavery there. Though untrained theologically, he was a student of the scriptures. His strong belief in Christ’s deity led him to study the Bible in the original in order to defend more ably that belief. Through such motivation he became a relatively good linguist, able to handle both the Greek and Hebrew texts. As he studied the scriptures in the original, he noticed a certain pattern, viz., when the construction article-substantive-καί-substantive (TSKS) involved personal nouns which were singular and not proper names, they always referred to the same person. He noticed further that such a rule applied, in several texts to the deity of Jesus Christ. So in 1798 he published a short volume entitled, Remarks on the Definitive Article in the Greek Text of the New Testament, Containing Many New Proofs of the Divinity of Christ, from Passages Which Are Wrongly Translated in the Common English Version [KJV]. The volume went through four editions (three English and one American)."

Posts 1033
Hamilton Ramos | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Oct 14 2021 5:41 PM

I'm interested in knowing the names of some well-known theologians/pastors/writers...with no formal seminary training (I have no idea when the first seminary opened) and their backgrounds.

Hi 1Cor 10:31.

Not sure, but how about C. S. Lewis?

One way in which I would approach this research would be doing a search in a collection containing some of the "God's generals" resources:


Some of the believers talked about in the books are really amazing stories.

Some basic search with something like "no NEAR ("formal studies", "academic training", "formal training", "academic studies")" maybe?

As far as the pastor theologian issue, in some of the articles about it someone mentioned that theologians are no longer supported in the local church as they were before.

So one answer to that is bivocational ministry. Paul was an example of it: business entrepeneur, disciples, apostle, theologian, he did many roles trying to do the most good.


In a secular book I browsed long ago, the question stood: "all those bright minds, that know so much, have a challenge to face: create entrepreneurial  initiatives that help with community, societal problems, and help create wealth for the good of those involved (sheep in need I insert)" [rough paraphrase pointing more to the concept than the exact words]

In Singapore, on top of buildings they are doing Aquaponics to deal with the "food security" issue, maybe an initiative like that coupled with a project like "A handful of rice" by Lutherans, is the answer to help people help themselves (christian responsibility), while at the same time getting top notch instruction from the bivocational minister.

Different angle on the different issues for further research, reflection, and constructive comment.

Posts 125
Bill | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Oct 15 2021 6:19 AM

Hamilton Ramos:

Some basic search with something like "no NEAR ("formal studies", "academic training", "formal training", "academic studies")" maybe?

Thank you Hamilton, very interesting search.

I modified this a little to narrow it down by adding; WITHIN 3 WORDS Religion,Theology,Bible*,Preaching

Posts 1033
Hamilton Ramos | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Oct 15 2021 6:59 PM

Hi Bill:

Thanks for sharing, indeed, more interesting information narrowed down to not be overwhelming.

Posts 217
1Cor10:31 | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Oct 17 2021 6:51 PM

Thank you for your responses. Appreciate the different viewpoints expressed here.


Tony and Kathleen and Kiyah: Thank you all for the extra resources.


Rosie:  I agree multiple dialog partners would be ideal. We have a seminary professor in our church who leads Bible study. I’ve loved interacting with her. I guess other than going to a seminary, my hope rests on me getting my blog up and readers willing to interact.


Part of my frustration is that, despite the fact that I basically spend all my time on professional research or Bible research,  I am doing neither particularly well.


abondservant: Thank you for more names. I seem to have a 1000-page (Theological Correspondence) book by John Frame, a name that I was not aware of. I’ll read it for sure.


In our profession, we have a small group of Christian professors who meet separately during conferences. One of the professors explicitly works on research that exposes darkness. I am not smart enough to be able to limit my ideas in such a fashion.


I can surely do a better job of being a Christian with my PhD students. As far as my undergrad/grad students, on the first day of class, I ask them to introduce themselves to the rest of the class by giving some non-academic information. When my students turn around and ask me the same question, I have many different ways to point out that I am a Christian.


Greg Lawhorn: I have no interest in becoming a full-time pastor. What I am convinced is that there are some unique truths that each and one of us can bring to the table. Here is George MacDonald (a favorite of CS Lewis): There is a chamber also (O God, humble and accept my speech)-a chamber in God Himself, into which none can enter but the one, the individual, the peculiar man-out of which chamber that man has to bring revelation and strength for his brethren. This is that for which he was made-to reveal the secret things of the Father. I want to make sure my propositions are truly truths before I put them out in the public domain.


Hamilton: CS Lewis is probably my all-time favorite (probably because I agree with him more, but mainly because I love his reasoning). Spurgeon is close, though I disagree with Spurgeon far more than with CS Lewis. Thank you for your search ideas. Much appreciated.


Blessings to all of you.

Posts 323
MWW | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Oct 17 2021 7:44 PM


I'm interested in knowing the names of some well-known theologians/pastors/writers...with no formal seminary training. 

The 11 that come to my mind are: Simon, to whom He gave the name Peter; James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, to whom He gave the name Boanerges, that is, “Sons of Thunder”; Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Cananite;

Time spent with Jesus seems to be the best training.


Page 2 of 2 (35 items) < Previous 1 2 | RSS