Audio File Download: Episode 009
In this episode I want to discuss the topic of attending seminary, or, more specifically, why not to attend a formal seminary and why and how to self-study a seminary education instead.
Many of the reasons I will cover have been relevant to the topic for years, but a few have only become an issue in the last year or two, so this is an important question to ask and really dig into, especially for those who are just graduating high school or who are in undergrad and are thinking they might want to go on to seminary at some point.
So, let’s just jump in and see what we’re talking about.….
Reasons to Not Attend Formal Seminary
There is a bizarre disconnect it seems between the cost of education and what it will do for you. Traditional college as well as Seminary is all balled up with tradition and family or church obligation and can really cloud your path forward. I’ve seen people graduate from unaccredited schools land impressive jobs in ministry and are compensated very well while others graduate from top notch seminaries who seem only to flounder for years without much success. I imagine it is the same for every profession, college is not really what you learn but who you know in the end. And then there is the narrative that is fed to the masses to extract tens of thousands of dollars from them in their futile hopes of competing with the elites.
The reality is, most Seminary degrees are worthless. There are a select number of jobs at churches, fewer in para-church organizations, and jobs in Christian academia are nearly non-existent. Yet, Seminaries continue to pump out PhD’s and DMin’s and MDiv’s in droves every year to prop up the current system with little to no regard for the reality that they are saddling students with massive amounts of debt who have little to no chance of finding gainful employment in ministry.
The narrative for me started when I was a young child. My parents hammered college while I was growing up. They didn’t care what kind of degree I got as long as I got a degree. That was the end all, be all of everything. I was told to follow my passion and a job would be waiting for me on the other side.
Bottom line: it was a lie.
The truth is there are a select lucky few who are born into influence or who lucked into it by chance and then there are the rest of us – the masses. For us, the Seminary is nothing more than a scam.
It wasn’t always like this, though. At the turn of the century, ministers were being produced to do something. To become educated. To pursue knowledge. Seminary was created to produce men of God (though this is also tied into the professionalization of the clergy as well, so it was not a universal good). Individuals emerged from their seminary education well versed in every book of the Bible, in the original languages, in exegesis, and in hermeneutics.
Those days are long gone.
Today, a seminary graduate with a PhD in Biblical Studies most likely hasn’t even gone through the entire Bible book by book. Many haven’t had study in the original languages except for maybe a semester or two on how to use LOGOS or Accordance. Typically, an advanced seminary education required courses in Genesis, John, and Paul’s Epistles. The rest focus on counseling, on missions, on church growth, and marketing, etc. It’s no wonder churches being started today are all the same, with watered down theology, compromised clergy, and a passive congregation.
2. Theological Compromise
This is an issue that has become widespread in the last few years with the infection of woke ideology sweeping through seminaries, especially in the West. But, this is not the only compromise that has plagued modern seminaries. Issues pertaining to the reliability and divine origin of the Bible itself has rendered much of what is taught in these school ineffectual and in some instances outright heretical. Additionally, there is the inclusion or scaffolding of tradition, or otherwise known biblically as the doctrines of men, that limits biblical Christianity from its full and original potential.
3. Cultural Hostility
Increasingly, those who hold to a biblical orthodoxy are finding hostility from within and from outside the church. Pastors do not want people rocking the boat or offending their parishioners with the truth of the Bible out of fear that it will jeopardize their incomes, their positions, and their influence. Rising atheism and pluralism and secularism all gnash their teeth at anyone who stands on the foundation of the whole counsel of God and who refuse to compromise on its teachings. It has been said many times that the persecution to come in the end times against biblical believers will come from the external, non-believing world, but will in greater intensity come from the so-called church itself.
4. Negative ROI
Unless you already have a position waiting for you when you graduate, it will be difficult to nearly impossible to find gainful employment with a seminary degree. I’ve said it before several times, I’ve applied for positions that were at unaccredited seminaries that paid $200 a month and there were over 200 applicants! Positions at prominent institutions are near impossibilities for anyone but the elite. Add to this the poison pill of intersectionality, CTR, and woke ideology that is now running rampant at most seminaries in the US and jobs at said universities would, in reality, be a nightmare to have if you could even get one.
Because of this social and economic climate that is hostile to gainful employment of anyone who holds to a biblical theology, the ROI on a seminary degree is almost always zero or negative. You would be better off becoming a plumber.
5. Impending End Times
As the events in our culture, country, and around the globe unfold and the signs of the end begin to appear with greater and greater intensity, it is clear this is no time to operate on the assumption that life is or will ever be business as usual. There is a very good chance that we will never return to the normalcy of five years ago as the world powers and the elites consolidate their authority and influence. Additionally, if one makes a stand today on the violations the new regimes are committing against the populous, if you stand against them on biblical grounds, you will quickly find yourself out of a job, with no money and no means, unable to participate in the new system and new economy. This is all quite serious and indicates either the beginning of the end or at least its precursors. If these hazards against the biblical Christian continue or even intensify, a seminary education in the future will look dramatically different than it did 5 or 10 years ago. Unfortunately, seminaries as they exist today will not be able or willing to meet the challenges the body of Christ will have to face.
Alternative Options Available Today
There is good news, though, at least for the immediate to possibly foreseeable future. With the prominence of the internet and plethora of learning options available today, a quality seminary education can be had for next to nothing or even absolutely free. As I’ve discussed in previous episodes, I spent about $30,000 total on my education from my Associates degree to my Doctorate with each degree costing less than the previous one, until I got to my ThD, which cost me nothing.
The ROI I’ve experienced is, of course, next to or is completely zero and will most likely remain so at least on a financial basis. This is because there simply are no employment opportunities for me as someone who is without denominational connection or academic influence. But, the reality remains the same whether I’m employed by a religious organization or not. With each and every one of these jobs, there are elements that have nothing to do with the calling of Christ. This is encapsulated in my secular work as well, which I secured not by a particular degree but because I have computer and reporting skills (which are entirely self-taught). Because I’m willing to work in a remote community (not in a metropolitan area), for less money than is typically garnered by IT/Computer/Administration workers, and because I’m willing to work part-time with no possible career advancement opportunities, I can allocate 40+hours a week to Bible study and theological research as an avocation while full self-funding my personal and research expenses via my secular part-time job.
But, let’s talk a moment about the need for certain types of degrees from certain types of schools for certain types of situations. First, if you want (or think you have a way to land) a teaching position in academia, you must have a formal degree from an accredited seminary. With such a position, though, comes long hours for little pay, and virtually no job security, and often today a purity pledge you must take in the name of intersectionality in order to be or remain employed. Increasingly, academic jobs are ad hoc, temporary, contract positions that pay even less, provide no benefits, and your employability is entirely dependant on class enrollment and student evaluations. Keep in mind, if you are able to secure said job, there’s an army of unemployed seminary graduates waiting for you to quit or get fired. But, such jobs require accreditation and increasingly reputation to be of any use.
In the professional church world this is less the case. Depending on the denomination, you will or will not be required to have a degree from a particular institution. Many modern churches no longer require a degree at all, or simply request you have some kind of training (i.e. BA or MDiv). More importantly, they want to hoist up a teacher that will tickle their itching ears, or someone who can grow the church in numbers and revenues. As a caveat, if you are divorced (no matter the reason), for most churches you are automatically disqualified to be a pastor. Which is odd since anyone can start a church from scratch and such restriction simply don’t apply.
For personal study or self improvement there is no need for accreditation at all. Accreditation has no bearing whatsoever on the quality of education, except to say that an accredited school is certain to be influenced or infected one way or another with liberal theology or compromise. It seems almost inevitable. Unaccredited schools are not necessarily so hamstringed, though there is no guarantee either way.
There is a growing (or there appears always to be an attempt) to provide seminary education for free at some corner of the globe at any given time. Nations University was free until it became accredited, though it still boasts a fraction of the cost of any other seminary. There was Bible University back in the early 2000’s as well as North American Theological Seminary (NATS), but these have folded due to lack of faculty willing to volunteer. There are always the for-profit institutions that are typically run out of church buildings and are often used as a means of supplementing the pastor of a church or churches. Such institutions like Columbia Evangelical Seminary, or Master’s International University of Divinity, or the School of Biblical and Theological Studies, to name a few, all charge tuition but are much less than a fully accredited seminary like Liberty University.
If you must get a degree from an accredited or some kind of formal seminary, your best bet is to do so with a program that is fully funded or on 100% scholarship. Of course, not everyone can do this, but if you can, it is optimal to take advantage of it. My doctorate program was fully funded, so there was no cost to me at all. The alternative would have been Liberty University’s PhD in Biblical Exposition program, which would have cost me $14,000 (and be just about as useful – or useless – as my ThD degree).
There is one more option, though, that I think is superior to all the other options discussed thus far. It is the option I’m using to finish my ThM degree and it is the option I’ve used to get an “education” in areas that I’ve actually been employed with (i.e. computers, reporting, office management, administration) over the years and the ROI has always been highly positive.
The option? Self-Study.
Best Option: Self-Study Seminary
I’ve personally always been a self-directed learner. Even in school I would find subjects that interested me and would pursue them even in the stead of my regularly assigned schoolwork. As I’ve mentioned before, some of my teachers would basically allow me to design my own curriculum for their classes rather than do the traditional cookie cutter approach. In high school I immediately fell in love with an independent study I took with my English teacher. I spent the semester being able to do whatever I wanted, with a folder in his office where I would periodically turn in whatever I produced (short stories, poems, etc). I loved the freedom, the self-direction, the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, exploration, etc. Unfortunately, I learned the harsh reality of how out of place I was in the age I was living in when I went to my guidance counselor and, with great excitement, asked for independent studies in math, science, philosophy, etc. I basically wanted to replace all of my classes with self-directed studies so I could work out of the library every day instead of going to class.
She laughed, told me it was impossible, and sent me back to class where I simply gave up and stopped trying altogether.
It wasn’t until I became a Christian, though, that self-study took on its fullest meaning. Ostracized quickly by the orthodox and their traditions and doctrines of men, I discovered I could learn on my own, with my Bible and the tools available (exhaustive concordance, bible dictionary, etc). By the mid 2000’s I was connected to the internet with high enough speeds to have access to lectures from seminary and I was hooked.
So, what exactly is self-study Seminary, you might ask? It is basically designing your own study program (strategy), collecting the necessary resources to be studied (curriculum) and then holding yourself accountable to learn that material. It can be done with or without the internet, with books, tapes, podcasts, lectures, formal or informal courses, or a combination of all the above. The greatest element is that it is student-directed, designed, and executed. There are no teachers other than those resources you are leveraging.
Downsides are a few, though, in some contexts, quite important. The greatest downside is there are no degrees to be achieved. You might be able to get an ivy league education for free on the internet, but you will not receive a degree or the credits showing you have said education. Thus, self-study has limited application for most employment requirements. I say most because at least two jobs I’ve gotten substantially based on the knowledge I acquired from self-study. So there are exceptions. But, you cannot self-study a medical degree and apply and be accepted as a surgeon. You cannot self-study a degree and become a professor (unless you start the school yourself). But, you can self-study and get a job as a programmer and as I did, in reporting/administration. Some jobs like nursing or counseling require licenses that require formal, accredited education.
Another downside to self-study is not having the necessary motivation pushing you to finish. I got all my degrees from online courses. Yet, everyone I’ve spoken to over the years have all told me they could not do strictly online courses. They needed the instructor there in the flesh to tell them when things were due, classes with lectures, etc. And I understand what they’re saying. I’ve wanted to self-study mathematics for years. But I’ve never really been able to get out of Algebra because, despite the desire to do it, the push to do it is not there. It’s simply easier (and funner) to watch the Big Bang Theory.
There are definite benefits, though, to the self-study approach, especially for seminary subject matter. First off, this was the original approach of the early church and throughout much of Church History. Small group study, self-study, discipleship. It was only later in history that formal universities and colleges and seminaries organized and eventually supplanted the more organic learning formats.
Second, self-study is highly flexible and customizable. You are in charge of your education. You decide what it is you want to learn about, when you want to learn it, how you will learn it, and what materials you’ll want to use during the learning process. Especially in the modern world today, we have access to more information, more archeological data, more seminary and advanced academic material than ever before, and much if not most of it is available online for free or at a relatively low cost compared to the cost of traditional tuition. Instead of being limited by whatever lecturer or professor that is available at your particular institution, you now have access to some of the very best professors and experts in any given field, and at your finger tips. Now you can literally learn from the best and for free.
So, the questions I most often get is: how does one self-study through seminary? Where do you begin? What materials do you use? How do you know you’re not missing anything?
The answers to these questions are as myriad as the the people asking them, since most self-study programs are best designed by the individual learner in question. The answers, of course, depend on what you’re wanting to accomplish in your studies, what you hope to achieve. But here are major strategies to explore:
1. Flipped Classroom Approach
The first strategy is to use a flipped classroom approach. This idea is typically utilized in K-12 schools in an attempt to fight against increasing class sizes and to reduce workload for educators. But it can be used naturally, almost necessarily, for self-study learners as well. In fact, we leverage this approach naturally.
Flipped classrooms, in a nutshell, replace live lecture with recorded lecture and assign the watching/listening of the lecture as out of class work (homework) and then the class time with the teacher is devoted to activities, assignments, and one on one help and encouragement from the teacher. It also includes peer-to-peer instruction assistance, and carries with it a work-at-your-own-pace approach.
Naturally, the self-study student is learning primarily in a home environment (though not always) and can utilize the vast array of lectures available on Youtube and other sites. Seminary courses are a plenty on the internet, often for free, though they do vary greatly in quality and theological position. But more on this later. Self-study students can leverage online forums for interaction with other “students” and if you’re lucky you can form a productive study group (actual mileage varies). You can join existing Bible Study or Small Group studies online from any church you like and implement this as part or all of your study plan. With the plethora of self-study materials in print, especially in theological subjects, you can test yourself with discussion questions, and with automatically graded quizzes and exams.
2. Leverage Free Material
The major benefit of the self-study approach is the reduced or eradication of cost for your learning. By leveraging free materials found online, you can get most if not all of your learning done for free.
3. Frequent Check-Ins and Updates
This is a kind of self-testing, motivational tool used to keep yourself honest and moving forward. This can be done with as simple a system as a notebook or as elaborate as a website or blog or a full-blown eportfolio system online. I personally use a research notebook to contain all my notes and research data, along with a website, blog, podcast, eportfolio, and ultimately publish my work in fiction and non-fiction books. The eportfolio (maintained on my website) is a full study plan with all the courses and materials I intend to complete, with a running monthly semester schedule and all assignments completed posted as articles or assignments on my blog, linked to the corresponding course they belong to.
Let’s now talk about tips and practical ideas for self-study seminary students in particular:
1. Online Resources
I hate to recommend Youtube, but it hosts a large repository of Bible related lectures and course material. Recognize as we proceed into the End of the Age (if indeed that is what is occuring), this and other resources online will be censored and removed. So the best advice I could give is to locate the resources you want to use and download them to external drives for save keeping, even if you don’t think you will use if for a year or two. I have all course materials for my systematic study (KI courses) stored locally so even if such material becomes illegal in the future online I will have more time to go through it on my own (and can also distribute to others via thumb drives or on smart phones).
Sermon Audio is a great resource for podcasts, etc. But it is important to develop the habit of going to the original source for updates instead of aggregators. These aggregate sources will be the first to go. There will eventually be developed an encrypted, non-centralized system to host such material, but until then the best option is to download while it is available now for future use.
Archive.org – I have found many full courses stored on this site by students or other individuals. It is rather anonymous, allows for quick download or streaming. I found four JP Moreland philosophy courses on this site, which was wonderful, since there are no courses by him available online and Biola does not allow non-students to audit online courses.
You can utilize full learning programs online and incorporate this into your larger self-study learning plan. You can use free resources or even paid ones. With self-study, you have the flexibility to focus in any direction you like. You might even desire to take multiple courses at a seminary because of the speciality of the subject matter or because you want to learn from a particular professor. By leveraging free courses in general subject matter you are free to use all your financial resources to avail material not easily accessible (i.e. summer trip to an archeological dig, or to Israel for hands on mentorship, or on a cruise because of a particular evangelist).
2. Software options
There are a number of really good software packages available for the basic user but only a few for the student and even fewer for a researcher with robust needs. Instead of listing all the programs available, I will cover the ones I’ve used or use and why.
LOGOS – this is the program I use currently. I have invested about $700 into it. I currently use the web app and the mobile app. Unfortunately, since switching to android, I no longer use the desktop version, despite it having the most features. This program is by far the best in class for academics and serious researchers. It also has a modern look which is helpful. The Word Study, Exegetical Study, and Passage Study tools are wonderful. The search features are extensive. The dynamic interlinears are also very useful. The greatest downside to the program is the company holds resources hostage at ridiculous prices. I purchased 2 commentary sets and the Church Fathers so these would be searchable or linked to the Bible reference. I already had an existing library of theological resources as ebooks and simply got an external program on my phone to search the contents of these rather than repurchase/purchase these same titles in LOGOS. This has saved me thousands of dollars.
The Word Bible Software – this program is the very best in free programs. You can find just about everything you need, and even the more popular modern commentaries are cheaper than they are for programs like LOGOS. Unfortunately, it not only has an antiquated look and feel, it is very limited on serious search capabilities and it cannot match LOGOS in its Word/Exegetical/Passage Studies. It’s interlinears are also very static.
Accordance – I mention this program simply because I tried it first before going to LOGOS. This program and the people running the company are abysmal. They have major bugs in the program itself and are extremely limited in the functionality of the products they sell. Their dynamic interlinears are a kind of bait and switch as they do not work as advertised or do not work with all but a few translations. The most used response I received when testing out the program from it’s tech support or the online forums was, “Accordance doesn’t do that.” Recently I tried the online app and it is so far behind Logos’ mobile app I was shocked. They simply have no comparison with a serious Bible program and do not even compare to TW5 in feature or customer service.
3. Libraries or Google?
Libraries used to be all the rage. Now they are community centers for children and for the ever increasing homeless population and for gamers who can’t afford computers. As a new believer overseas, I would spend hours on my weekends at the local library, pouring over theological texts to find answers to my questions. Those days are over. With the advent of Google and the internet there really is no reason to go to a brick and mortar…well…anything anymore. Everything you need is online and searchable. Most commentaries are available online for free, such as at places like the BlueLetterBible or Biblia or Bible Gateway. Just searching questions in Google can produce incredible results. Some places like Liberty University require only that you apply for admission and you receive a student ID which grants you all access to their library resources, including use of their academic article repository. If you are quick on your feet you can find that and more completely free elsewhere as well.
4. Electronic Portfolios
There are several reasons to use an electronic portfolio and several options to pick from. An important reason is to record your progress for both yourself and for others. Currently there is little to no usability for eportfolios to help with job applications, though this could change in the future. Unless your future employer is forward thinking they simply will skip over any website address you provide. This may not be the case for contract positions or consultancy positions. But, the other side of this is, once you have recorded your work, including progress notes, artifacts, assignments, research, etc it will be available as long as the website service hosting it is available. It is easy, convenient, and provides the best option for recording and collecting your notes/results/data.
There are several different kinds of serves available online specifically for eportfoilos, though I think most are geared for K-12 learners. I have not found one that is geared specifically for homeschoolers or for the self-study crowd. These speciality sites come and go, so I have avoided using them.
Instead I use wordpress.com service. This is a website hosting service that is all in one, free, and seems quite stable. WordPress software is built in, highly customizable, and easy to construct a portfolio system. I implemented mine for my uThM program into my existing website for my fiction books under a main tab, Study. This provides a page listing all of my resources, courses that I plan to use. As I complete the requirements for each, the link for the title of each item goes to a collection of assignments/work I’ve completed, and the link for the source goes to the external source for the material if available. So far I’ve been able to source all learning materials completely free, either through the availability of the material online, through the lending service at the local library, or through Liberty University’s online library, or various other online libraries (this excludes the $700 I paid for the LOGOS program which is used extensively in both my dissertation and my regular research).
5. How to do independent research?
The ability to do independent research is not difficult, but doing it in such a way that it remains objective and reproducible is. Independent researchers have a much higher hurdle to jump over as they are not only struggling with the work but also fighting simultaneously with peers in formal academia and other seminary students and the professional clergy in the church. Independent research is somehow viewed as lay or unprofessional, untrained, or somehow less-than that of the professor or formal seminary student, even though it is not. This stigma never really goes away, the independent researcher simply, eventually gets used to it.
If you are doing research that will be submitted to an academic journal, it is imperative that you cite all your sources accordingly. If you are writing a blog post or a book that will be self published this is not so necessary. In fact, one of the reasons I opted to pursue fiction writing instead of non-fiction was the reality that in fiction you do not have to worry about citing sources (even though just about everything in the background of fiction writing is lifted from real life or other writing). In my blog posts and my books I cite what is needed for the reader to find it again if they desire. If it’s a quote I mention who it’s from and the quote. This can be used in google to find the actual source. If it is an indirect reference I typically try to cite in the text the author and where it was published, but do not bother with page numbers or journal data, etc since most people will use Google to look it up (if at all). Unless it is a free source available online I do not provide a link to it.
Another important tip for conducting research is leveraging the use of technology. If you’re stuck on a question, use online forums or Quora to ask your question and elicit an answer from the public. If you have a question about a comment made in a book, write to the author. They often love to dialog with readers. The same goes for groups. I emailed the translators of a popular English translation to ask about their choice of translating a particular passage a certain way. They responded within a few days and shed a great deal of light on my question. Unfortunately, this is not always consistent, as I recently emailed a ministry with a number of questions about postmillennialism and their position on uprising and civil war within a country and received zero responses. The same can be said for online forums. I have several that I use regularly, but often find the results of these conversations rather disappointing.
I cannot stress enough how important it is, when conducting serious research, to develop a research process and have it in place before you begin your actual work. Know what you want to collect, how you will collect it, and what you plan to do with your results. I remember a research project I did several years ago where I was collecting references in the NT that quoted OT references and I began categorizing them under the four Jewish interpretative rules. Unfortunately, once I was finished with the data collection and started to analyze my results, I realized the four categories were not detailed enough for what I wanted. Instead, I had to go back into each verse and resassess, then assign a new, more detailed schematic to the data. If I had worked through this beforehand it would have saved me a lot of time.
Also, determine what you plan to do with your research once you complete it. Are you studying simply for self-gratification, self-fulfillment, self-edification? Or do you plan to teach either in a formal setting or informal one? Do you primarily think your research will result in a series of blog posts or as a possible book or books? All these are important since you can include in your research process the necessary steps to organize your data toward your ultimate goal.
Lastly, one of the great benefits of self-study is that you are free to pursue whatever it is you desire to pursue at any given moment. Do not berate yourself for hopping around from subject to subject or leaving assignments or courses undone. This is a benefit. Yes, you do want to finish a course you’ve started (unless it’s simply terrible), but you have all the time in the world to finish it (be sure to download the material in case it disappears in the future). I’ve been working on the Theology Program for probably 10 years now. I’m two courses away from finishing. It might take me a few more years before I get to it. But I eventually will (unless the rapture or death come first).
In my opinion, self-study is the very best option in this day and age, especially for Seminary subjects like the Bible and theology. Traditional formal education lacks the flexibility, the sustainability, or even the economic and employment prospects that it once did, rendering it virtually useless to 98% of the population.
Self-study provides freedom of academic pursuit where the student can follow the research wherever it goes rather than be beholden or hamstringed by perceived orthodoxy, or denominational limitation.
In today’s advanced technological world, study and acquisition of knowledge is simply a click away, with the entire repository of human knowledge available, with 98% of that knowledge being free to anyone at any time in virtually any location on the planet.
I personally have found self-study in philosophy and theology immensely rewarding over the years and it has served as a tremendously enriching and economical avocation. I often find myself hanging in my hammock in the nearby woods with my phone and bluetooth headphones and keyboard, enjoying the natural world in peace and quiet and solitude while listening or watching or reading a book from an expert who has spent his entire life studying a specific aspect of doctrine or theology, who’s class I could not afford if I saved for three lifetimes. Yet, for me, his entire corpus is available to me at no charge.
It is a great time to be a life, a great time to self-study, and a great time to prepare for the end of the world as we watch the prophecies of the Bible unfolding all around us!
So, let’s shift gears now and answer a few questions that were sent in this week:
My wife wants a divorce. What should I do? (Jeremy T in Los Angeles, CA)
Hi Jeremy. I’m very sorry to hear this is happening to you. It is difficult to provide an answer with no additional information as the context changes dramatically if you have children together, if you both are believers, and why your wife is requesting a divorce. My wife blindsided me after we had been married for five years. We’d gone into the marriage with the agreement that divorce would forever be off the table. About four years in she finally confessed to me that she’d lied and just told me what I wanted to hear. My wife decided she no longer wanted to live as a Christian. She wanted to sleep with other people, but still wanted me to take care of our business and her kids. I tried counseling, tried talking with her, tried to solve the supposed problems she said we had, but it really was for not. She wanted to get rid of me but just didn’t have the guts to tell me. I finally gave her an ultimatum and said either we pursue a solution together as a married couple or she needed to tell me to leave. That was that.
I will say I’m thankful she finally showed her true nature and what kind of person she really was. If she had kept up the lying I would have stayed with her forever. But a marriage cannot survive on a lie indefinately. It will eat at both people like a cancer.
I will tell you that you need to pray (which I’m sure you’re already doing) continually about this. If there are specific reasons (infidelity, etc) that are within your power to correct, make those adjustments. Get into counseling, but be careful of pastoral counseling as they can have agendas that have nothing to do with the survival of your marriage. Also be cautious of secular counselors. They will typically tell individuals who are talking about divorce to go ahead and get a divorce instead of trying to work things out. In the fourth year, we tried going to a Christian counselor but after the first session he said he couldn’t help us, my wife had too many childhood issues. It took a lot for her to go to that first session and to be rejected like that really scuttled future attempts.
I will tell you, Jeremy, you need to brace yourself for some pain ahead. I was fortunate not to have any children with my wife, to escape before the 10 year mark when alimony kicks. I did lose the business I built and the house and the cars (but I also didn’t get the debts either), and I lost three step kids (she quickly turned them against me). But I did make it out of the marriage with my life and with my faith. But it took several years before I thought I would be remotely ready for a relationship again and then I made the decision not to pursue it. The best of relationships are terribly difficult and often thankless, and have terrible ROIs.
But God wants you to remain married if you can. Try to work it out with your spouse. Try to die to yourself more than you already have. Try to listen to what she’s saying. If you’re in a situation like mine, my wife just wanted out of the Christian “lifestyle.” Our marriage was built on lies from the beginning and it had finally become too much for her to live every day. She didn’t believe. She couldn’t trust. She couldn’t submit. She could not sacrifice for Christ because her relationship was either non-existent or malformed on deceit. More than your relationship with your wife, you need to double your work on your relationship with God. No matter what the outcome of your marriage it will be God that saves you. He will be the one with you in the dark during the nights of pain and loss and fear and hurt. It will also be God that reunites you and your wife if you’re able to work it out. It will take both of you. God is ready. It will be up to both of your to meet him where the work and the repair is needed. If just one of you shows up, the marriage will not be fixed. I wish you the best of luck, Jeremy. I truly do.
I feel called to be a monk, but I’m a protestant. Are there any protestant monasteries? Is it wrong to think this way?(Lawrence A in Richmond, KS)
Hi Lawrence. This can be a very difficult call. Answers will be different depending on your circumstances. Monasteries typically want new initiates to be young and healthy, college educated, and without debts. When I wanted to test a monastic vocation I had student loans to pay off. Once I got those paid off (took a few years) then I became ill (heart attack). Now I’m right on the age limit and so the monastery is pretty much out of my reach, though I am convinced (at least for me) the monastery is the closest model we have today for a new testament fellowship.
Another consideration you will want to take note of is the fact that monasticism is dying in the United States. Even famous monasteries (like the one Thomas Merton lived at) have lost so many monks over the years that they’ve resorted to importing them from foreign countries. New generations have little interest in formal religion and even less in a vocation like monasticism. It is possible you will settle into a monastery only to have it closed on your, leaving you homeless and without any other options but to rejoin the rest of the world. I had a short list of 5 monasteries I was interested in and since that time 2 of them have closed their doors. One is Catholic (so I’m automatically disqualified). The forth has an age limit that I’ve already reached and the last one I was hesitant on to begin with.
I chose instead to pursue testing as a eremitic monastic hermit, without public vows, much like Jovinian who was considered a “monk or…solitary” since, like many during that time period, he “took private monastic vows without entering any order or monastery” (Jerome). There is also a tradition of idiorrhythmic monasticism in the Eastern Church where monks are self-regulating. They lived separately, held property, worked individually to support themselves and were not under direct daily supervision of a monastery or abbot.
This was the best option for me for a variety of reasons:
1. My poor health would put unnecessary strain on a monastery.
2. Monasteries today do not provide stability as they once did.
3. My call is eremitic in nature, aligning closer with the Desert Fathers than with the later cenobitic expressions.
4. I already have the perfect land for testing my vocation.
5. I’m financially/vocationally equipped to support myself.
6. My theology is protestant and most monasteries are catholic.
If your heart is set on the cenobitic form of monasticism, you will certainly need to find a monastery and your selection is slim as a protestant. Most Catholic monasteries require you to be Catholic. There are several “protestant” monasteries in the US (episcopal). If you are conservative this might not work well since episcopal churches and monasteries tend to be liberal in their theology and practice. There was only one modern protestant monastery that I knew of in Virginia called Living Stones Monastery. But it lost its lease on the convent it was housed in and has not found another location. It appeared as if they were rebuilding back in 2017-18 as they received land, an old house, and some donations to restart. But their website is still not live and their facebook page has nothing posted since then. I’m assuming it is a dead stick.
There is only one other protestant monastery in the US that I know of which is St Augustine’s House in Oxford, MI. They are loosely affiliated as Lutheran and have a strong community supporting them. They have accepted a married couple as monks, so I’m not certain where their theology lies. They are also linked ecumenically with the Catholic Church.
There was an episcopal monastery in Santa Barbara California that I really liked and considered several times. But they did seem rather liberal in their theology and practices (though the grounds were beautiful) so I never went further in testing there. They recently announced they were closing their doors and the order would no longer be serving that area.
Overall, the concept of a monastery has fallen on hard times in the west. If you have connections in a foreign country, you might find better options. But there are not many protestant monasteries even globally, since Protestantism was founded on the Reformation and the reformers were quite hostile to monasticism in general. I heard of a Baptist monastery in Australia but could never find any information on it.
In the age we live today I found the individual expression of monasticism to be much more expedient, more dependable and sustainable, and the flexibility to define our own rule and implement what you feel called to do is extremely attractive.
I wish you the best on your journey. Please keep me informed as to your progress.
That is it for this episode. If you have any questions about the podcast or one of my books or if you have a Bible or theology or philosophy question you would like to ask me, or just want to leave me a comment you can do so by emailing me at email@example.com or your can leave a comment on the show notes post on the website at isaachunterthewriter.com.
Until we meet together again…..be well.
Please consider supporting this podcast by purchasing one of my books on Amazon or from my website at isaachunterthewriter.com. Let me read you an excerpt from one of my novels.
Excerpt from Our Daughter:
“Okay, mom,” Randy said.
“You behave yourself and be nice. You’re lucky to have company while you wait for the doctors.”
The woman turned and started back the way she came.
“The nurse said it would be twenty or thirty more minutes, so we’ll eat quick and be back up here before they take you in, okay?”
“Sorry for him,” the woman said to Katie as she walked by.
As the woman left, Katie noticed the boy moving around again on the bed. Before she realized what was happening, the tiny lump disappeared and she could hear the faint sound of bare hands and feet on the tile floor.
He was low crawling under the beds toward her.
A moment later, Randy popped his head out from under the nearest hospital bed, craning his neck around to look up at her.
“Hello, there,” Katie said.
Randy disappeared back under the bed, the bed sheet draping down almost to the floor. Katie could still see three little fingers pressed to the tile.
“What are you here for?” Katie asked, readjusting her seat in the chair, trying to get the ache in her chest to lessen.
For whatever reason, the wheelchair was really uncomfortable.
“Why are – ”
Randy’s voice trailed off for a moment as he looked around.
“Why are you here?”
“I’m getting my leg fixed,” Katie said. “See?”
Randy poked his head back out from under the bed and looked at the leg she was pointing to.
“What’s wrong with it?”
“The doctor said it’s broken,” Katie said. “Shattered.”
“Can you feel it?” Randy asked, able to stay out from his hiding place.
“I can feel it, but it’s not too bad,” Katie said, then tapped the IV in her arm. “This thing is giving me medicine of some kind for the pain. At least that’s what the nurses said.”
“Why are you – ”
Randy stopped mid-sentence.
He scooted out from under the bed entirely and slowly crept over to er on all fours.
“What are you, some kind of spider?” Katie asked, giggling a little.
“What are you?” Randy echoed.
He was now only about a foot away from her chair and sat there, his legs folded up under him, gawking up at her.
“What are you staring at me for?”
“I’ve never – ”
Randy put out a hesitant hand and ever so gently touched her arm.
“Are you some kind of ghost?”
He looked around again.
“Are you – ”
He leaned in, talking in a whisper.
“Are you dead?”
A nurse came around the corner and stopped abruptly, spotting the empty bed in the far corner where Randy should have been.
“Randy Andrews,” the nurse said, her hands now on her hips. “You get right back into the bed and you stop playing around, please. They are ready for you in surgery.”
Katie watched as Randy scrambled on all fours under the beds and back up onto his, pulling the sheet back over top of himself again.
She started to ask him about his question, but couldn’t get the words out before his parents appeared at the door.
Katie sat there quietly, watching Randy stare back at her from under his sheet. She glanced over at his parents and the nurse, noticed Randy’s dad had no hair on the top of his head.
Are you dead?
What kind of question was that?
The snap of the wheel locks being disengaged on Randy’s hospital bed jarred Katie out of the confusion she was in.
The doctor she’d first seen was now at the door, waiting for Randy.
He was his surgeon.
They wheeled Randy out of the room, his parents following right behind, disappearing to the left, heading for his operating room.
The pre-op room was empty again.
Are you dead?
What kind of crazy question was that?
The nurse came back through the double doors.
“It won’t be long now,” she said.
Katie tried not to think about the dull ache growing just behind her sternum.
The nurse disappeared around the corner as Katie watched the double doors to the operating rooms slowly shut.
Buy my book Our Daughter and begin the adventure of a lifetime, as you uncover the mysteries behind Katie Cadora’s new life after the horrible accident that stole her mother away from her. Will she find sure footing again? Will the pain ever stop? Will she discover the secrets her new foster family are keeping from her? Is the boy’s question right? Is Katie Cadora actually dead?
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