I know this is already two-week-old news and therefore is considered by some bloggers to have been unworthy of posting about 335 hours and 59.5 minutes ago, but since some of us here at SBC Voices have rejected the blogger wisdom of being quick to speak and slow to listen, and since nobody has said anything about this yet, I wanted to offer a quick overview of some changes going on at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS).
On February 17, 2016 SEBTS announced that its flagship graduate degree, the Master of Divinity, has undergone considerable revision. The major changes are as follows:
- The total number of hours required has been reduced from 90 to 81.
- The core hours that must be taken by all M.Div. students has been increased from 60 to 69.
- As a result of the above, the maximum possible elective hours was reduced from 30 to 12 (from 10 courses to 4).
- The stand-alone “Hermeneutics” course has been removed (it appears to now be incorporated into the OT and NT introduction courses, as well as into “Bible Exposition I”).
- “Church History I” and “Church History II” have been combined into one course (“Baptist History” is still its own course).
- “Historical Theology” was added to the core.
- The 3-semester “Christian Theology” series will now be a 2-semester series.
- “Personal Discipleship & Disciple-making” was added to the core.
- “Biblical Counseling” was added to the core.
- A practicum in missions or a mentored internship must now be selected as part of the core.
- A course on leadership must now be selected as part of the core.
For a more thorough breakdown of the changes I have provided the following tables and charts. To help analyze the data, I have divided the core classes into seven categories, which allows us to look at the changes graphically (please don’t comment just to haggle over these categories, as I considered a number of different options so I know it’s not perfect).
Also, note that I have selected a specific course in the two cases where selections are possible. I chose “Missions Practicum” for the first and “Pastoral Ministry and Leadership” for the second. Scroll down to read my observations after you’ve had time to look over the tables and charts.
Based on the charts above, several shifts in the curriculum are worth noting:
- The amount of time given to the study of history has been reduced.
- The amount of time given to missions has increased significantly.
- The amount of time given to pastoral ministry has increased infinitely. (Don’t believe me? Go try the math for yourself.)
So, enough with the data, here’s my take on all this:
- I’m a bit skeptical whether “Hermeneutics” should have been removed. It is certainly possible for those principles to be reinforced in other classes, but I’m having a hard time imagining them being taught as effectively alongside other important material. However, it may be that “Bible Exposition” and “Hermeneutics” were becoming redundant, so perhaps it will work out fine.
- I am very grateful for the stronger focus on missions. This goes along with SEBTS’s motto of “GO” really well. However, I would have preferred to see some electives here that included topics like church planting, contextualization, etc.
- Building off my last point, it seems a little odd to require (not offer) a whole course on discipleship. This is not to trivialize such an important topic, but this is the sort of thing that should have happened before you get to seminary. This is what the local church should be doing week in and week out. And from talking to my PCA buddies at places like RTS, that’s exactly how they’re skinning this cat. Their M.Div. is way more theological and then most of their guys do internships in local churches where they get the practical stuff (and did I mention their M.Div. is over 100 hours?).
- Requiring a couple courses in pastoral leadership and counseling is an excellent idea.
- I am sad to see the electives go. I was looking forward to taking a few more electives in various areas to tailor my M.Div. to my context. That won’t be possible now if I switch to the new plan (though I would be uber-excited to finish sooner and spend less money).
Overall, the new M.Div. looks a lot more holistic and should be well-suited to produce well-rounded ministers of the Gospel. And despite my love for robust academics and theology, I do appreciate SEBTS cutting back the hours to make this degree more feasible, both in terms of money and time. So I welcome your thoughts and insights on the recent changes, but as you share those, please join me in praying for the future of SEBTS.
P.S. If you would like to see where this information came from go here and click on “View catalog description” underneath the “M.Div. Core Curriculum” section.