In this post I wanted to talk about Death and the Intermediate State, which is a subject I’m always very excited to talk about as it is one of the main topics in my research focus.
It’s actually been a subject of interest of mine since I was young. In fact, I’ve always had a kind of passion if you will for death, despite most people thinking such things is a bit macabre. Personally, I think it is an essential aspect of life that an individual should seriously and soberly consider. If not, then there really is no way to actually live in this life we have been given (or by which we have been cursed).
In undergrad I spent much of my self-directed time studying the Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest, most specifically a particular tribe on the western coast, and a subset of that tribe that lived on a natural lake. This subgroup of natives all died before whites ever stepped foot on their lakeshore, having died from small pox years before their lands were ever colonized. It was the same lake that my parents had a cabin when I was a child and we would spend summers there with family and friends. After my cousin one day found a stone cooking bowl when we were out exploring I was from that day forward mesmerized by the idea of these people who had lived on that same land so many lifetimes ago. Their death and their unknown and unknowable lives would serve as inspiration for me from then on.
In my Master’s Program, I moved away from the Native American focus toward more general definitions and descriptions of death and more specifically the Intermediate State, that period butted between death and the resurrection of the dead. Such an oft forgotten or blatantly ignored subject by the pews of modern Christianity, it is a core component to a biblically grounded worldview. It would later become a central theme in my dissertation and, as I said, it now holds a crucial place in my independent research.
So, let’s jump in head first and explore all there is to know about death, about the intermediate state, and what it means for you and me….
What Exactly Is Death?
Growing up I was taught that death was a natural process and counter balance to life. Thought it was never directly or seriously discussed in my family. Death really had little impact on me for much of my child hood, aside from the occasional pet dying on the road in front of our house or getting old and sick. I was assured it was just a part of life, but I would not die, could not die. It was not something young boys should even talk about or think about. There was too much living to do for such somber things.
But I did think about it. In fact, I thought about it a lot as a young child. I thought about my own death. About the death of others. I thought about how cruel a God could be to give us life only to take it away again and sometimes so soon. To burden those who survive. To leave those dying in such darkness and chaos and confusion and dispair. It was a major thrust in my desire to escape this world and the death it brings by becoming a Buddhist at 14. I meditated every day, hoping to somehow reach enlightenment and escape suffering and death and that I started to see all around me.
But, when I became a believer (not by choice mind you), I discovered from the Bible that death was not actually natural as everyone seemed to think (or wanted to believe) it is. In fact, death is just about as artificial as something could be. A kind of parasite or virus or disease. It’s certainly genetic and seems to encompass everything (since everything dies with rare exception).
But, death has been with man for so long, we can think of no other time when it has not held a tight grip around our throats. But, that really is the juxt of it: being held hostage.
We see the first mention of death in Genesis 2:17, “…of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” This word, θανάτῳ means you will “die; the return to dust; cessation of life” but most importantly and so indirectly referenced in Scripture, “the untethering of soul from body and spirit from soul and body.” Paul refers to it as “being unclothed” (2 Co 5:3-4) and it is often referred to as being asleep (Ps. 76:5; Jer. 51:39; Acts 13:36; 2 Pet. 3:9). It is clearly seen as a “departing” of the individual (Phil 1:23; Gen 35:18).
It was apparently Satan’s plan all along, knowing the command given by God to Adam, to not eat of the forbidden fruit. And, as with most biblical stories, there is a litany of information left out. We aren’t told what these two trees actually are. We’re not told why Satan did what he did, if he had a grievance with God or with humans or had issue with God about humans. None of this is ever explained. It is not really explained what exactly it was that was lost by Adam and Eve when they fell from grace or their original habitation, nor are we told what kind of transformation the whole of creation undertook as a result of the curse.
So, not only is decay and death unnatural for humans, it is an unnatural process for everything else that lives on earth or in the universe or in this existence physical dimension. It is quite possible that there are a race of non-earthly raccoons living on Jupiter that keep dying generation after generation and have no capacity to recognize that their deaths are caused by the indirect actions of two human immortals who existed at one point on earth, in the Garden of Eden.
We also know that death (and all those things that bring about death such as illness and disease, sin, and the wickedness of human hands, and natural disasters) is utterly distinct as a state of existence from what the Bible terms the “second death” (Re 2:11; 21:8). This second death (which would insinuate that physical death would be the first death) is that which describes the existence of those cast into the Lake of Fire which the Bible references frequently (Rev 19:20; 20:10, 14, 15; Rev 21:8).
In neither case is there any kind of annihilation as is presumed by some universalists and annihilationists. This can be argued firmly based on 1. There is no annihilation spoken of in conjunction with the Lake of Fire 2. Logically, with death removed, which is the captor of the living in separating the tether between body, soul, and spirit, reducing the “living being” or “living soul” to simply a soul that exists but is not living.
Without the power of the captor, all individual who have ever lived or are living or will ever live are returned to the state of living through resurrection of the dead. We see this clearly in the great white throne judgment in Revelation 20:11ff.
Death is, for all intents and purposes, an illness of unknown mechanism or origin (other than what is known as “the curse”), and once the source of Death’s power is lifted (i.e. the curse) then we see everyone who ever lived “standing before God, the great and the small” (Re 20:12). From John 5:28–29 we see the whole of the world (all who have ever lived) being raised from the dead, some to the resurrection of life, and others to the resurrection of condemnation.
There is, despite the becry and bemoaning of the allegorists, no mention anywhere in the Scriptures of a so called “spiritual” resurrection. This typically originates from a fundamental misunderstanding of “spirit” or the nature and essence of supernatural beings, assuming that to be a spiritual beings is equated directly to being an intangible being (which is not so).
It is certain from the text: 1. Death currently holds power over the living and the dead of everything in the physical dimension 2. Death’s power has been defeated by Christ’s work on the cross 3. Once Christ comes into his Kingdom, the curse will be lifted and the power of death will cease 4. There will be a resurrection of all who ever lived in two parts – first those who are the church and then those who are resurrected for the Lake of Fire (whether these are separate and distinct resurrections rests on Re 20:5-6).
What Death Does
It is truly a peculiar and bizarre thing, how death comes to the living. Nothing seems to be outside of its grasp but for the jellyfish Turritopsis dohrnii, lobsters, turtles, flatworms, whales, some backerium, and tardigrade.
But, an important point that is often overlooked about these creatures, they are not actually immortal, but are instead just really good at repairing themselves. This can be seem across the spectrum of life, from lizards who grow back their tails to humans who continually clip their fingernails, toenails, and endlessly cut their hair.
There are no actual living creatures in existence (or that have been found or recorded) that are truly immortal in that they cannot and do not die. Death appears to be a universal authority, a plague, a blight on life. It has short-circuited the living as they were meant to be, and has seemingly (by the curse) introduced into the nature and mechanism of creation the law of entropy and decay. Everything born, everything that springs to life, appears to suffer the same fate of death. Seemingly, some things die and cease to exist while other things appear to journey onward (Ecc 3:21) into prison, for there are apparently at least two kinds of distinct spirits that animate the living.
Whichever kind or type of spirit the living does possess, death seems effective in severing the tether between that spirit and the soul of the individual thing. Intended as a punishment for humans, death has come as a consequence against all of creation unwillingly and irrespective of guilt (Ro 8:20). To annihilation do go the animals and the plants and the insects that exist on earth’s but to prison go the souls of the living human beings who would otherwise have remained immortal had it not been for the fall and sin and the curse.
Into captivity are men sequestered from the first man to the last man, and all men in between. However, it remains unclear, how the spilling of Christ’s blood removes the penalty of sin, which is death (Ro 6:23). We can be certain, though (if anything be true), that death is somehow permanent without the propitiation of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Without it the human condition is utterly and forever corrupted and severed from its original function.
Again, we are not informed as to why this needed to be done. We have no knowledge of Satan’s motives, what God’s intended purpose was for the human race when he created them save for the brief and rather cryptic account in Genesis 1:26-28.
If prevailing interpretation is correct, Satan stood at least partially motivated to exact his own kingdom in the supernatural realm (Isa 14:13-14). But, even the context of this development is shrouded in ancient secrecy, unclear if it is even related to his interference with the destiny of men.
Of what we do know, God placed a curse on both human beings and all living things on the earth, as well as on all of creation (Ro 8:20-22), on account of mans’ sins. Only the death of God himself can atone for this blight that has now infected each and every one of us, has produced power and authority in the “last enemy” (1 Co 15:26) which is death, to trap and subdue and hold in captivity for eternity all who ever lived.
What is it exactly that moved the devil to ensair us in such a way? Why is it so important to get humans out of the way? What plan of his did our creation thwart? In what have humans done to so offend? For all these questions answers remain forever unclear.
Where We Go After We Die
Where is a much clearer question concerning death than why. In the Bible we are told not only where the dead go once they’ve died but we are also given at least a glimpse of what it will be like for us to be dead.
In the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man we see clearly that death comes for us all universally. Regardless of our station, our wealth, or happenstance, our life (our soul) at some point is required of us (Lu 12:20), and the angels come for us and carry us either to Hades or to Paradise (Lu 16:22) to await the end of time.
These are, as far as can be seen from Scripture, the only two dispositions available to men who die once they have lived. The angels deposit the individual soul either at Abraham’s side in Paradise (Lu 23:43) or they will be deposited in Hades under uncertain torment (Lu 16:23). Though it must be mentioned the process by which the Rich Man found himself in Hades (in torment) is not specifically stated. It is, thus, unclear that angels delivered him.
Of Paradise we know very little:
1. The individual (or, at least Lazarus) will be or can be in the presence of Abraham.
2. The individual in Paradise receives “comfort” while there.
3. Those in Paradise can see (presumably) those in Hades and can converse with them.
4. There is apparently some form of spatial relation and a bodily form of some kind (Lu 16:24).
5. It is unclear of the conscious state of those in Paradise, only that Abraham is conscious.
Of Hades we know very little as well:
1. There is torments there.
2. Those in Hades can see those in Paradise and can converse with them.
3. Those in Hades have apparently some kind of spatial relation and a bodily form of some kind (Lu 16:24).
4. Those in Hades are conscious to some degree.
We are given by Abraham a seemingly cryptic and really unhelpful rationale for the disposition of each individual. The Rich Man had received good things and Lazarus had received evil things during their lives. But, while in Hades and Paradise, the tables had been turned and each received the opposite. There is no indication that the Rich Man was in some way responsible for Lazarus’ condition while alive, though this could be assumed by the fact that Lazarus begged at the Rich Man’s gate and was given the Rich Man’s scraps.
Additionally, we are given but bits of information concerning the location humans spend their time as non-living beings. We are informed by Abraham that there is a μέγα χάσμα or “great gulf” established between the two residences of the dead, which prohibits passage between the two destinations. This gulf is a yawning, a hollow, a chasm either within Hades proper or appending between Hades and Paradise. In the few instances that these two dispositions are mentioned in the text, none describe clearly its or their essential nature(s). Is Hades distinct from Paradise? It would not necessarily appear to be so since, as temporary repositories for dead souls, only Hades is cast into the Lake of Fire in the end (Paradise is not spoken of again – Lu 23:43; 2 Co 12:4; Re 2:7). It is important to note, the location of Lazarus is not described as “paradise.” This is an assumptive based on Jesus’ declaration in Lu 23:43, “…today you will be with me in Paradise.”
There is the briefest connection between this Hades (wherein which the human dead are held captive by Death) to the location of the fallen angels “who sinned,” where God has imprisoned them in “chains of darkness” until the judgment. This location described by Peter is ταρταρώσας and appears only here in the NT, but in the LXX it appears in Job 40:15; 41:23; and Proverbs 24:51, indicating “deep place,” “netherworld,” and “nether world” respectively. It is only through extra-biblical material, though, that the first century definition of Tartarus becomes clear: i.e. Enoch 20:2. The Church Fathers have 63 instances of the word in use, often describing it as a place “below the earth.”
There is nothing else known about our residence as captives to death. It is an ancient state of existence, nearly as old as humanity itself, yet is still quite fleeting in context of eternity.
What Will Our Experience be Like in Hades or Paradise?
There is very little in the record by which we can gauge with any kind of accuracy what the dead experience in that period of time between their deaths and their resurrection. We know from death itself, or the process leading up to death, there is often pain. Either pain from a disease or illness that is leading the body toward death (i.e. 64% of those with cancer at their last month of life cited pain). Of those who spent their last month in the hospital, 20% cited pain on some level. Yet, overall, only 1 in 5 will experience intense pain at death or in the dying process. 30% of people will experience no pain at all.
There is a great deal said in the Bible about the grave which is often considered a kind of sleep, or viewed with negativity, as if the individual is being deprived in some way. This is reiterated by assumption in the account of Lazarus and the Rich Man when the Rich Man appeared to have no knowledge of current events pertaining to the living world (likewise, Abraham makes no indication as well of such relevant knowledge).
Overall, we receive only two indications of experientiality in the text: comfort and torments. Torments in this case is the Greek work βασάνοις or “torture,” “punishment,” “agony,” “trial,” or even “the touch-stone of justice” or “inquisition.” It is the equivalent of a dark colored stone according to IGEL.
I think it’s important to point out there is no direct description here of Lazarus’ condition in the Intermediate State. He is certainly in Paradise, and is in the company of Abraham (and possibly other saints or others of the dead who are sealed for the day of redemption), but we do not actually see any interaction or dialogue from Lazarus himself. The Rich Man saw Lazarus in proximity to Abraham, but this is all.
Additionally, there is no clear description of Lazarus’ conscious experience. All we know of it is that he is παρακαλεῖται or “comforted,” “to call to one’s aid,” “to call in,” or “urge,” “encourage.” For myself, this is a concerning word, that always seems to move an individual to reconsider their current or past condition, to ease the pain or distress of an individual.
What exactly would the dead who are in Paradise need to be comforted? It does not mention they are in bliss or that they are happy or confident or satisfied. Certainly they are not in the afterlife as described in Revelation 21 and 22. This is utterly separate and different and does not appear to be something of inherent good.
Of what is known about the unnatural nature of death as already discussed, it should not come as a surprise that those who have experienced it would stand need to be comforted. I would imagine the tearing apart the three halves that make the whole of the living being is not endured easily, but would be more oft abrupt, sudden, tragic, traumatic, chaotic, and altogether an unpleasant affair. It is of little comfort to the dying or those fearful of death to lie and claim “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” means the dead go to heaven and live in bliss until the day of judgment.
I would imagine the knowledge of being sealed for the day of redemption is in itself a comfort that dead believers rely upon in their unnatural state. How much more terrifying would death be knowing there is nothing now that can be done to change their individual or collective fates (Lu 16:27-31). They cannot pass over into Paradise, those in Paradise could not pass over to render aid (certainly there will be at least some who will want to). The severity and sober dread that must take hold of the lost in Hades must be a soul crushing kind of defeat.
Of their perception of time, we have no indication. If they remain still bound by time, what an awful way to exist, experiencing the recollection, the considerations, the regrets, the self-incrimination, all the while knowing full well that even this torment is not the end of the judgment that yet still awaits.
How long it must have been for Cain or the Pharaoh, or any other who have since death discovered their impending fate. To exist 1000, 2000, 10,000 years, captive to death, existing yet not truly living, knowing that everything that could have been done has already been done, and that the fate of their souls is sealed and set.
I predict that death is a surprise to everyone who experiences it. I don’t think it is ever the surprise people were hoping for.
One question that often comes to mind, at least for me, is there a way to escape this process altogether? Unfortunately, solutions in that vein are few and far between. In fact, there is but one escape form the curse while it is still in effect.
In 1 Corinthians 15:51-54 Paul states:
“Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
He argues that there is an escape from death for a select few. It will occur “at the last trump” (which can either be assumed to be the seventh trumpet at Re 11:15 or a separate set of trumpets we are not privy to – I would argue for the former and a mid-trib rapture/1st Resurrection) and those who are still alive at this time will skip over the deprecating process and end result of death and will subsequently be transformed along with the dead who have first risen from their graves.
There are only two other individuals who have escaped the ravages and carnality and brutality of the state of the dead. The first was Enoch (Ge 5:24), which is sum totaled in this singular verse, “And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” The other was Elijah in 2 Kings 2:11, when he was taken up into heaven in a whirlwind.
It is unclear the final destination of Enoch or if this event is the same or similar in nature and result as the one Paul spoke of. The same is true of Elijah’s departure, other than it at least posits his destination to be the supernatural realm (i.e. heaven). But, regardless of the mechanisms at play to accomplish either feat, the end result is the same for all three – the escape of death.
So, there are exceptions to the power of death. God does have authority over both the dead and death itself and can exempt the individual from its experience if he so chooses. The question remaining would be why he would not then exempt all individuals from the power and destruction of this result of the curse?
In the end, death is a real and subtle and dangerous and all consuming predator who seeks relentlessly its prey. Sadly, there is no escape. Some creatures in God’s creation have devised (if at all by their own will or not is unclear, but doubtful given the examples) shortcuts to circumvent death’s grasp, but none have been able to overthrown death’s sting but one individual, the God Man. By his death we are promised a return to our rightful state of immortality, by grace through faith. It is not by anything we have said or done or merited of ourselves. It is a free gift from God and available at our choosing. But, it must be chosen while the living is, indeed, alive (for whatever reason we are not told), for man is appointed to die once and then the judgment (He 9:27).
There is no escaping, then, what is coming for each of us. There really is little information available to form any kind of opinion about it, or gauge the sanctity and solemnity of this singular life we are each given, to exist, to live, to move, to breathe.
I, personally, have no desire, no aspirations left for this world or the land of the living. I despise it. I hold it all in contempt as the corrupt and debased creation that it is (or at least has become). I, instead, await whatever is set for me, whether it is my own death and my time in captivity, or if it is the rapture and the escape to the sky to meet my King, or slipping off into the final abyss into the nothing that is non-existence, if those who are materialistic are correct. I view all alternatives as better than the suffering that is experienced and prospered on this earth among men. I despite the creation of humanity. I abhor its continued existence and I pray today, at this very next moment, for God fire to burn and judge the works therein.
Q & A’s
So, several new questions this week and I’m excited to provide answers if possible. Keep in mind, these are just my educated opinions, so please do not establish your own personal doctrine, beliefs, or theologies on what I say, but be worthy of the task and search the Scriptures daily to see if what I say is true.
I’m looking at enlisting in the military this next summer. Is this a good idea? If not the military, what should I do with my life? (Terrence K in Torrence, CA)
This is an extremely difficult subject for many people, especially given the nationalist pride that so often is passed generationally through families in America. I, too, was born to a family that thought service to the country was a good thing. My grandfather served in the military in WWII. My father in Vietnam. I subsequently spent four years in the US Army, but was fortunate enough not to do so during war time.
When I enlisted at 17, I was promised several things by my family, by my recruiter, and by people I know (advisors, extended family members, etc). I was promised that it was an honorable thing to serve my country. I was promised that doing so would be a great benefit to me and would aid me in bettering my life. One way that was constantly talked about was money for college. The second was free health care for life. Third was the VA Loan for a house.
After enlisting, I pretty much immediately regretted it. But, I stuck it out, struggled through four years as an indentured servant to a government that really doesn’t care about honor or integrity but more about its political and ideological (and certainly financial) agenda. That was okay because it was a well learned lesson for me.
After I got out of the military, I had several things from the experience that I concluded were worth it. I had some great memories (from sharing in lives with other soldiers and their families and the people I met overseas). I also had, as already mentioned, free money in the form of college tuition and living expense. I later found out I also had work study that I could tap into. There was also, as also mentioned, free healthcare.
After settling back into life at home I went to the VA and signed up for service. And life went on. I used as much of the tuition money as I could (I found college to be quite a disappointment and quit after two years). I think by the time I quit I used about $18,000 of the $30,000 promised. By the time I went back to finish my BA degree, the 10 year limitation had already been reached and that was entirely my fault. I had some pretty bad advisors both in my teen years and also in my 20’s. Needless to say, it would be another important lesson learned.
Fast forward 30 years and I found myself learning a 3rd lesson about the military (which was less about the actual military and more about the government that stands behind it and is supposed to live up to the promises it makes). I had a heart attack and ended up in the hospital. Despite their empty promises just a year before, after I was discharged, I received word that the VA was refusing to pay. After much discussion with the powers that be in the government, they were using a loop hole they and congress has conspired to put into place in the 90’s to circumvent the law and renege on their promises.
In the end, after over a year of fighting and denials and appeals, the military simply denied having any responsibility to provide for my medical care. Afterward was even worse, as they claimed they would provide medical care, but then time and again, after paying a claim would turn around and bill me for it. I finally had to simply abandon the VA altogether (which, of course, is the entire purpose of their system to begin with) and seek alternative coverage.
I was fortunate, though, much more than many I’m afraid. I have alternate coverage because of my reduced income after the heart attack. So, basically the government is still paying for my free medical care, just out of a different bucket. I’m waiting for them to say no to that one too, as I no longer trust the US government to keep its word on anything. Two, because of my reduced income, I luckily qualified for 100% bill reduction at the hospital and medical clinic that I went to with my heart attack. The bill was simply written off in full. There is no reason for this other than God was watching out for me through the whole thing, while simultaneously still wanting to (I can only assume) teach me the oft not learned lesson that we cannot trust the government or other men to provide for us or protect us in this life. The world is truly out to get you, and they take no second thought to destroy your life if it means they can benefit from it.
The most important thing, though, that I got out of the military was my faith. I’m not certain why God chose to use the military to ground me in Christian belief. He took me from Buddhism when I was 17, just before I enlisted. But, I did not come to a saving faith and submit to Christ as my Lord until about 6 months into my indentured service. My other options at the time were going to college (which I did not want to do) and entering a Buddhist monastery. I’ve thought a lot about those options over the years. It’s possible there was no other way to bring about a saving faith in Christ without going through that experience.
I learned years later that my parents really could care less about my “service” to the country as much as they cared about selling me off to the government so they did not have to be responsible to pay for my college. They had already paid large sums for my sibling to go to school and they were not interested in doing that again. In hind sight. I’m glad they made the decisions they did. It’s better to know the kind of people you are around than to be tricked or fooled by false sentiment or lies.
Is it a good idea to enlist? I would argue no. There is never a good reason to sell yourself into slavery. At the time I went in, there was much less risk involved. Yet, they still screwed me over in the end. Today, if you enlist in the military I think you are doomed. You will be in service to a god forsaken country that is doing its best to propagate the worst kinds of heresy imaginable. On top of that, the promise of tuition is a waste. There are no degrees worth the money any longer. College is no answer anymore. In fact, I would argue there is no answer to anything anymore. The society has a whole is collapsing in upon itself, unable to perpetuate any longer the lies it’s told for two hundred years.
What should you do instead? If I could do it all over again, I would find a trade job that I at least half-well enjoyed doing (translation: something I didn’t hate doing) and worked as much as possible, maximizing my income as quickly as I could until I reached the cross-over point (listen to my episode on YMOYL), where my savings or the interest off my savings matched my income needed to live.
I would then recommend you take Thoreau’s advice to heart: learn to live without things rather than learning how to afford them. Learn to live comfortably in the woods or in the desert and then eventually, once you no longer have to work your day job, move there. Invest the most of your talents and abilities and your youth into skillsets that have nothing to do with the artificial system they’ve put in place and especially having nothing to do with the new system they are now building: the NWO. Spend your free time studying the Bible (if you are a believer, if not, find out what that means and buy from my Master the true, eternal water so you never thirst again), and disappear from society altogether.
I would not recommend buying property unless you can do it cheaply and in remote locations where there are few people, few crimes, and fewer interest to draw people in the future). I would not recommend taking on a spouse or having children, as I like to quote from the show I’m currently watching, “The night is dark and full of terrors!”
Take the advice of the Lord concerning your life. Be watchful. Pray. For you do not know when the time of his coming is.
This world is evil. It is best to avoid it while you remain here.
If there are no jobs after Seminary what should graduates do? Not go to seminary? Be a pastor? (Eric G in Albuquerque, NM)
This is a tough question, especially for the individual who is already in the middle of their program or about to graduate. Maybe you are finishing your undergrad degree and want to know if you should go on. Maybe you’re finishing your Master’s and are seeing for the first time the dismal prospect you have in the job market. Either way, there is some hope, but also a great deal of dismay, too.
First off, recognize, “seminary” or learning about God and studying theology and the Bible has (or should have) less to do with getting a job at the end of your studies than it does with making your call and election sure. Yes, you can do these latter things without any kind of seminary education. In fact, I would argue there is really no justifiable reason to go to seminary today. It’s not worth the often exorbitant cost, and if you go to a school that is reasonably price, it is most often view negatively so you won’t have many job prospects anyway.
But I say this primarily about academia. Ministry is a little different (in some respects). Luckily for me, I’m not wanted in either arena. I went to two seminaries, 1 that was nationally accredited and the second one that was non-accredited. This means my degrees are worthless in all regionally accredited institutions for jobs. But, the reality is, unless you are graduating from an Ivy League school, you have little to no job prospects even if you graduate from a regionally accredited seminary today. There are simply too many applicants for the positions available.
But, we’ve pretty much established this already. The question was, if this is the case, and there are no jobs, what should seminary graduates do?
Okay. Here’s my take on this, and I’ll be doing a future episode soon on how I’m implementing this in my own ministry efforts in the near future. But, here’s the short answers.
If you want to teach or do research in academia, especially in theology or the Bible or in philosophy, you will need to go the entrepreneurial route, much like the ancient philosophers did who taught in the public gardens. The hard reality is, such a profession is falling into disrepute. You will sooner be a hobbit-king than a well respected (or well paid) theologian or philosopher in academia. But, you might still be able to make “a go of it” on your own. Technology is your friend. But also recognize, you will be parlaying your wears to the lowest common denominator (the general public).
Another alternative (which I actually think is much, much better) is self-funding your research or teaching. This can be done easily in the freelancer, ad-hoc job market of today. If you reduce your expenses as much as humanly possible, then you can live quite comfortably off very little, even a part time job flipping burgers, while freeing up the bulk of your time to pursue you subject of interest. Want to philosophize about god and parallel universes? You can do this while working as a security guard on the weekends.
The third route is if you plan to become a Pastor of a church. I would not recommend this route as the professionalization of the clergy in evangelical America is akin to the doctrines of the Nicolatians mentioned in Revelation (of which the Lord hated by the way). But, if you are wanting more to teach than to research, this still might be an option for you, especially if you can get a job as a teaching pastor or pastor of small groups.
In the end, you have to make the decision on where God is calling you. I personally am led to believe that God has called me to a solitary life, to a life of research, to study, and to communicating to the church primarily through writing (and this uncomfortable podcast). It is not for everyone. But, as the culture and the times in which we live shift under our feet, we need to be sensitive to how and to what we are being called.
Until my next article….
Please consider supporting my writing, my unschooled studies, and my hermitic lifestyle by purchasing one or more of my books. I’m not supported by academia or have a lucrative corporate job – I’m just a mystical modern-day hermit trying to live out the life I believe God has called me to. So, any support you choose to provide is GREATLY appreciated.
Excerpt from In the Meadow:
A second later, the engine roared to life, and Dawn glanced back, one last time, at the trailer she’d grown up in.
The empty yard.
The trail she’d blazed through the blackberries.
That gaunt looking trailer.
Everything she saw now looked so dirty and run down, almost a shambles.
It was like a dream.
Paul circled wide, then threw the truck in reverse and backed up. As he braked and put it back into drive, Dawn could see Harold’s place a few slips down.
Paul gave the truck some gas.
As they went by, she could see Harold standing outside, near his front door, motionless, watching them.
She didn’t mention the earlier conversation to Paul.
Why would she?
He was just a creepy ass guy, and one of the handful of things she didn’t have to deal with anymore.
They drove out the front gate of the trailer park, down the side street to the corner, Paul stopping for a moment as he waited on the traffic to clear.
He took her hand and smiled at her, then pulled out onto the highway, heading west.
They drove past the Ray’s Grocery Store, past the gas station, where Bart was out front, talking excitedly to the Desmond boy.
Paul kissed her hand and she smiled, laying her head back against the headrest.
There was nothing else standing in her way now.
As Dawn began to relax, she watched as her old life quickly dissipate into vapor in their wake.
For the first time in her life, she was leaving Oakridge. She was moving to an entirely different state, a new home, with the man of her dreams.
She’d never even been out of Oregon before.
“Now or never,” Paul said, as they drove past the trailhead sign, on the right.
Dawn tightened her grip on his hand.
She’d finally gotten her wish.
She was leaving Oakridge.
Buy my book In the Meadow to find out what Dawn will do as her perfect fairytale life begins to unravel. Are the girls calling out from the banks of the Skagit River trying to help her? Do they want to hurt her? What secrets will she find?
But, trust me when I say, this is going to be a roller coaster of a ride. People are dying all around her, and you have no idea what evil lurks in the meadow! Get started in this thriller story today and find out why they’re warning her…calling out to her….trying to tell her…to RUN!