Theological Education Overseas

I recently wrote a short article for The Fellowship of Baptist Educators. The article is located Here.

This particular organization supports American seminary professors giving of their time to teach at Bible Schools and Seminaries overseas.

Missions that focuses on theological education is a bit controversial.

  • For some, it is a poor use of resources. A few years ago, a major mission agency that I had some tangential involvement in, began to decimate, and then destroy its program for seminary training overseas. The argument was that focus should be on placing resources into work with Unreached People Groups. The lack of logic here seems stunning to me. If one is seeking to reach unreached Asian groups, the best use of resources seems to me to be training Asians to reach them. Perhaps the underlying logic is that they could get more giving from supporters if they got some quick numbers (and training pays off in the long-term more than short-term). Or perhaps there was the underlying belief that Jesus is “returning any day now.” But if Jesus is returning very soon, our role is to serve faithfully and with excellence, rather than focus on short-term projects. And if Jesus is not returning soon, then education makes even more sense.
  • Others, however, can be concerned about theological imperialism. This appears to me to  be a more valid concern. Often theologians go overseas and do more in terms of indoctrination than education. Here in the Philippines we find people arguing about KJV versus NIV, or whether Halloween is a good or bad holiday— things that really should have ZERO relevance here. Others seem more interested in promoting their own denomination or their own theological spin (Whether it be some form of Pentecostalism, Reformed Theology, Complementarianism, Nuothetic Counseling, and so on) rather than empowering locals to have their own contextualization of the Christian faith.

While this second point has some strength, I still feel that theological educators are a good thing.

  1. If we accept that the church has a spiritual unity, then we benefit from communication, in instruction from each other. We grow through each other. This occurs, however, if their is humility from all parties, and mutuality (all sides learning from all sides).
  2. Theological imperialism occurs with or without instructors. Horrible theology flows from 1st world countries to majority world countries continuously via TV preachers, radio preachers, books, brochures, podcasts, and websites. So often friends of mine here quote some TV preacher and talk about how wonderful they are. Even when the person is not so bad, it becomes clear quite fast that their trust in this talking head has short-circuited their own Biblical and Theological process. I end up giving some vague response that I hope will cover up my real feelings about the preacher and his/her beliefs without actually lying. A good theological instructor can help a student develop tools to analyze and develop their own theological perspectives. Sadly, in this globalized setting, localized theology will not develop by removing instructors. Someone will fill the void… often someone who should be critiqued and found wanting.


2 thoughts on “Theological Education Overseas

  1. AMEN on training Asians to reach Asia! How many Americans are willing to become a housemaid in Saudi Arabia in order to reach a single family with the Gospel? I know a Filipino engineer who has memorized the entire New Testament in order to minister to Pakistanis, Nepalese, Indonesians, and fellow Filipinos in a nation that has outlawed possession of Bible. Training is what these passionate believers need, not some stale, bone-headed plea to memorize a different translation.


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