Well-known theologians/pastors with no formal seminary training

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1Cor10:31 | Forum Activity | Posted: Tue, Oct 12 2021 9:03 AM

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. The denomination doesn't matter to me at all. If I am not mistaken, Charles Spurgeon, didn't get any special training. The reason that I ask about their background is to see how their experience played a role in connecting dots from the Bible.

If I didn't attend my Men's group but had only a transcript of the discussions with all the speaker identifiers removed, I could still tell who made what comment. This is because we have people with different backgrounds (lawyer, entrepreneur, dance teacher, car repair guy...) and each one has their own angle given their experiences. So it is not tough to predict.

I read from a Faithlife blog that Calvin was a lawyer and, thus, organizing came naturally. As a financial economist, I feel I can connect dots that others can't, simply because our eyes are trained to look for certain angles (example: benefit-cost) that others don't necessarily think of. The frame of reference (or prism or whatever fancy term is used today) is different based on our experience. Hence, I would like to know the background of these well-known Christian theologians/pastors/writers. It will also give a clue to their presuppositions, something everyone has but that we may be blind to. Thus, knowing the background helps understand why they say what they say.

Thanks everyone. 

Posts 513
DMB | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Oct 12 2021 9:14 AM

As you know, we like to 'discuss'.

Statistically, the better question would be, (1) who were their parents (perspective growing up), and (2) their close relatives (genetics). Statistical prediction.

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David Thomas | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Oct 12 2021 9:53 AM

1Cor10:31:
, knowing the background helps understand why they say what they say.

D.L. Moody did not have any formal training, yet was not opposed to training because he founded a school. Billy Sunday was another revivalist from the late 19th/early 20th centuries, as I recall was a retired Baseball Player.

Modern era - do you want to poke the hornet's nest that is https://www.logos.com/search?query=Mark%20Driscol&sortBy=Relevance&limit=60&page=1&ownership=all&geographicAvailability=availableToMe 

Making Disciples!  Logos Ecosystem = Logos8 on Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (Win10), Android app on tablet, FSB on iPhone, [deprecated] Windows App, Proclaim, Faithlife.com, FaithlifeTV via Connect subscription.

Posts 155
1Cor10:31 | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Oct 12 2021 12:27 PM

DMB:

As you know, we like to 'discuss'.

Statistically, the better question would be, (1) who were their parents (perspective growing up), and (2) their close relatives (genetics). Statistical prediction.

DMB: Nature vs Nurture is always interesting to me. Logical reasoning has something to do with genes (Nature). People with good logical reasoning skill can sift through the complex cause-effect relationships in the Bible to highlight truths that others can't see.

Of course, God-given nature could be developed/enhanced by nurturing. If people choose their professional career based on nurture-enhanced nature, they would be good in what they do professionally. And this experience is what I had in mind. 

Posts 155
1Cor10:31 | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Oct 12 2021 12:31 PM

David Thomas:

D.L. Moody did not have any formal training, yet was not opposed to training because he founded a school. Billy Sunday was another revivalist from the late 19th/early 20th centuries, as I recall was a retired Baseball Player.

Moody is top shelf; thank you.

I found one book of Billy Sunday in Logos. Peeked inside and found a quote I really like: One hundred percent belief in the Christian religion is as necessary to a preacher as knowledge of mathematics is to an engineer. One of the outcomes of my musing over the question that has piqued my interests (why I believe what I believe) is to give certainty to my beliefs. If you asked my beliefs 5 years back, I could tell you what they were, but my confidence was never 100%. Now, I have 100% confidence in many of those beliefs. In some, the confidence went to 0% and were ejected!  

David Thomas:

In general, I don't like to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Every one of us is screwed up along some dimension, and we all could unearth some truths (which are all from God anyways) and, thus, contribute to society

Let me also contribute by doing some simple googling:

https://www.challies.com/articles/is-seminary-really-necessary/: Mentions John Bunyan, Charles Spurgeon, and Martyn Lloyd-Jones; pretty good names. Haven't verified if true but Tim Challies is a well-respected blogger.

Posts 513
DMB | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Oct 12 2021 2:02 PM

1Cor10:31:

DMB:

As you know, we like to 'discuss'.

Statistically, the better question would be, (1) who were their parents (perspective growing up), and (2) their close relatives (genetics). Statistical prediction.

DMB: Nature vs Nurture is always interesting to me. Logical reasoning has something to do with genes (Nature). People with good logical reasoning skill can sift through the complex cause-effect relationships in the Bible to highlight truths that others can't see.

Of course, God-given nature could be developed/enhanced by nurturing. If people choose their professional career based on nurture-enhanced nature, they would be good in what they do professionally. And this experience is what I had in mind. 

Actually, visa viz your point, the Bible most often points to the father/son relationship (daughters not often traced). And so also, Bible scholars look to the Apostle Paul's father .... after his feet-of seminary. Tent making? Have you looked at Luther yet?

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Oct 12 2021 2:10 PM

1Cor10:31:
(I have no idea when the first seminary opened) and their backgrounds.

I believe the modern seminary arose around the time of the Council of Trent (mid-1500's) but in another sense they go back at least to Antioch and Alexandria in early church history.

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

Posts 155
1Cor10:31 | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Oct 12 2021 6:58 PM

DMB:

Actually, visa viz your point, the Bible most often points to the father/son relationship (daughters not often traced). And so also, Bible scholars look to the Apostle Paul's father .... after his feet-of seminary. Tent making? Have you looked at Luther yet?

Thank you for pointing out Luther. I checked my library and I have lots of stuff on Luther - biography, his life, writings, commentaries, summary of his theology etc. I knew his Galatians commentary is famous. So I checked it out. Here is what he says in the preface: For the one doctrine which I have supremely at heart, is that of faith in Christ, from whom, through whom and unto whom all my theological thinking flows back and forth day and night.

It is clear from the above quote the thread that runs through Martin Luther's theology. That is what I am trying to infer from their experience. Because once you know the glue that holds a person's theology together, it is much easier to read their stuff.

Posts 155
1Cor10:31 | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Oct 12 2021 7:00 PM

MJ. Smith:

I believe the modern seminary arose around the time of the Council of Trent (mid-1500's) but in another sense they go back at least to Antioch and Alexandria in early church history.

Thank you MJ. I wouldn't have guessed 1500's for sure. So there must be plenty of non-seminarian theologians whose writings are well-known and respected. 

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Floyd Johnson | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Oct 12 2021 7:29 PM

Billy Graham has a degree from Wheaton with a major in Anthropology.  He also has a degree from a Bible College - but no seminary training.  

Blessings,
Floyd

Pastor-Patrick.blogspot.com

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Keep Smiling 4 Jesus :) | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Oct 12 2021 9:45 PM

1Cor10:31:
If I am not mistaken, Charles Spurgeon, didn't get any special training.

Spurgeon described John Gill (who read lots of books) => The Works of John Gill (19 vols.) in Lectures to My Students:

A very distinguished place is due to Dr. Gill.* Beyond all controversy, Gill was one of the most able Hebraists of his day, and in other matters no mean proficient. When an opponent in controversy had ventured to call him “a botcher in divinity,” the good doctor, being compelled to become a fool in glorying, gave such a list of his attainments as must have covered his accuser with confusion. His great work on the Holy Scriptures is greatly prized at the present day by the best authorities, which is conclusive evidence of its value, since the set of the current of theological thought is quite contrary to that of Dr. Gill. No one in these days is likely to be censured for his Arminianism, but most modern divines affect to sneer at anything a little too highly Calvinistic: however, amid the decadence of his own rigid system, and the disrepute of even more moderate Calvinism, Gill’s laurels as an expositor are still green. His ultraism is discarded, but his learning is respected: the world and the church take leave to question his dogmatism, but they both bow before his erudition. Probably no man since Gill’s days has at all equalled him in the matter of Rabbinical learning. Say what you will about that lore, it has its value: of course, a man has to rake among perfect dunghills and dust-heaps, but there are a few jewels which the world could not afford to miss. Gill was a master cinder-sifter among the Targums, the Talmuds, the Mishna, and the Gemara. Richly did he deserve the degree of which he said, “I never bought it, nor thought it, nor sought it.”

He was always at work; it is difficult to say when he slept, for he wrote 10,000 folio pages of theology. The portrait of him which belongs to this church, and hangs in my private vestry, and from which all the published portraits have been engraved, represents him after an interview with an Arminian gentleman, turning up his nose in a most expressive manner, as if he could not endure even the smell of free-will. In some such a vein he wrote his commentary. He hunts Arminianism throughout the whole of it. He is far from being so interesting and readable as Matthew Henry. He delivered his comments to his people from Sabbath to Sabbath, hence their peculiar mannerism. His frequent method of animadversion is, “This text does not mean this,” nobody ever thought it did; “It does not mean that,” only two or three heretics ever imagined it did; and again it does not mean a third thing, or a fourth, or a fifth, or a sixth absurdity; but at last he thinks it does mean so-and-so, and tells you so in a methodical, sermon-like manner. This is an easy method, gentlemen, of filling up the time, if you are ever short of heads for a sermon. Show your people firstly, secondly, and thirdly, what the text does not mean, and then afterwards you can go back and show them what it does mean. It may be thought, however, that one such a teacher is enough, and that what was tolerated from a learned doctor would be scouted in a student fresh from college. For good, sound, massive, sober sense in commenting, who can excel Gill? Very seldom does he allow himself to be run away with by imagination, except now and then when he tries to open up a parable, and finds a meaning in every circumstance and minute detail; or when he falls upon a text which is not congenial with his creed, and hacks and hews terribly to bring the word of God into a more systematic shape. Gill is the Coryphœus of hyper-Calvinism, but if his followers never went beyond their master, they would not go very far astray.

 C. H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students: Commenting and Commentaries; Lectures Addressed to the Students of the Pastors’ College, Metropolitan Tabernacle., vol. 4 (New York: Sheldon & Company, 1876), 21–24.

Keep Smiling Smile

Posts 469
Paul | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Oct 13 2021 1:37 AM

1Cor10:31:

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. The denomination doesn't matter to me at all. If I am not mistaken, Charles Spurgeon, didn't get any special training. The reason that I ask about their background is to see how their experience played a role in connecting dots from the Bible.

If I didn't attend my Men's group but had only a transcript of the discussions with all the speaker identifiers removed, I could still tell who made what comment. This is because we have people with different backgrounds (lawyer, entrepreneur, dance teacher, car repair guy...) and each one has their own angle given their experiences. So it is not tough to predict.

I read from a Faithlife blog that Calvin was a lawyer and, thus, organizing came naturally. As a financial economist, I feel I can connect dots that others can't, simply because our eyes are trained to look for certain angles (example: benefit-cost) that others don't necessarily think of. The frame of reference (or prism or whatever fancy term is used today) is different based on our experience. Hence, I would like to know the background of these well-known Christian theologians/pastors/writers. It will also give a clue to their presuppositions, something everyone has but that we may be blind to. Thus, knowing the background helps understand why they say what they say.

Thanks everyone. 

Hi there - You might consider A.W. Tozer who was a self-educated pastor, writer and theologian. His ministry over 44 years was with the Christian and Missionary Alliance.  His degrees were honorary only.  See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._W._Tozer

Faithlife has many of his books – and all are worth reading.  See   https://www.logos.com/search?query=Tozer&sortBy=Relevance&limit=30&page=1&ownership=all&geographicAvailability=availableToMe   Keep well Paul

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Sean | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Oct 13 2021 3:44 AM

Not exactly what you're looking for, but Karl Barth never finished his doctorate, which is surprising considering the influence he's had.

Posts 2200
Mark | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Oct 13 2021 5:31 AM

William MacDonald of Believers Bible Commentary had a business degree from Harvard, but no Seminary training.

Posts 2817
Jan Krohn | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Oct 13 2021 5:38 AM

Smith Wigglesworth was a plumber. No academic training at all.

Past IT Consultant. Past Mission Worker. Entrepreneur. Seminary Student (VIU).
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Paul Caneparo | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Oct 13 2021 5:54 AM

I don't believe Martyn Lloyd-Jones had any formal theological training. In many circles he's regarded as the finest preacher of the 20th Century.

Posts 4155
abondservant | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Oct 13 2021 6:54 AM

1Cor10:31:

I found one book of Billy Sunday in Logos. Peeked inside and found a quote I really like: One hundred percent belief in the Christian religion is as necessary to a preacher as knowledge of mathematics is to an engineer. One of the outcomes of my musing over the question that has piqued my interests (why I believe what I believe) is to give certainty to my beliefs. If you asked my beliefs 5 years back, I could tell you what they were, but my confidence was never 100%. Now, I have 100% confidence in many of those beliefs. In some, the confidence went to 0% and were ejected!  



He was actually a street preacher here in Ybor City Florida for a time, one of my (deceased) bible college professors apparently heard him preach one time as a young man, and 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.”

I like his energy. lol

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.

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.

At the risk of going off topic, and with a heavy heart I write this having just spoken to a dear friend from what seems like a life time ago. Being protestant, he was one of those where to sit with him for long was to hear his testimony, and a clear gospel presentation. He had a year of bible college and no more. He has a very dynamic personality, and kept strangers he'd never met entranced when he spoke. He modeled a lifestyle of evangelism that I deeply respected. Every time we spoke when he still lived here, he was telling us about people accepting christ, forsaking drugs, sexual immorality, and so forth, and embracing the Lord. He was daily in his bible, and had a verse memorized for every situation it seemed like. However he had little formal education (ged, 1 year of word of life), and hadn't really been mentored/discipled that I was aware of. With that level of study, he decided to eschew every system of counseling that exists (Not just secular, he also included nouthetic (Jay Adams and others) in that - all of which he rejected without knowing anything of substance about them), and decided to design his own - new - untested, unrelated system, without having the formal education in counseling to guide him in what works, and without the wisdom that comes from studying long under those with experience in counseling. I warned him against it. Counseling is hard. It isn't for the unprepared. Its dangerous not only to him but to those he wanted to help. Burnout is a very real risk for those trained and mentored in counseling. Suicide is too.

Today I learned he's abandoned his family, and "retired" at 35 (I knew him from 20-25 or so). Left the ministry. Isn't paying child support to his wife for their four kids.

That kind of flame out can happen to any one. But the ones that seem to last longest and make the best most positive impact are (generally, clearly not always) those that have been prepared well by people who have experience in the field, and a deep love of the Lord, and His word.

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

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.

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abondservant | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Oct 13 2021 6:56 AM

Spurgeon (one of my favorites) is also a phenomenal example of the heights that can be reached without (much - just a year of academy, which isn't seminary) formal education.

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abondservant | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Oct 13 2021 7:09 AM

Floyd Johnson:

Billy Graham has a degree from Wheaton with a major in Anthropology.  He also has a degree from a Bible College - but no seminary training.  



Florida Bible institute, now Trinity College of Florida. CMA turned Non-denominational. Now largely Calvinistic. Interestingly. All bible centric degrees. Bachelors of Arts in Biblical Studies.

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Posts 155
1Cor10:31 | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Oct 13 2021 7:55 AM

Thank you Floyd for suggesting Billy Graham; his wiki seems to suggest that he had some sort of formal training

Thank you Keep smiling 4 Jesus for suggesting Spurgeon (one of my favorites too). The few times that I've read Gill's commentaries, I've come away impressed. I might have picked up Gill's name from Lectures to my Students, though can't recall for sure now.

Thank you Paul for suggesting Tozer. I've read his book on Attributes of God, which is really good. I will try to read other books of his.

Thank you Sean for suggesting Karl Barth. Sometime back, I started reading Church Dogmatics. That is a tough slog and I am not sure I'm going back to it. Charles Hodge's systematic theology is a lot easier. Vos was easy too. Calvin was a little hard; not as much as Karl Barth.

Thank you Mark for William MacDonald. I've never heard of his name, so I'll add him to my list.

Thank you Jan for suggesting Smith Wigglesworth. I've never heard of his name either.

Thank you Paul for suggesting Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Others suggested his name too. It is time to read some of his work.

  

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