What can you expect from seminary and what kinds of questions should you be asking? We've pulled together a few tips on looking for seminaries and some advice from current students who were in your same position not too long ago! If you want to know more about Westminster, we can also send you that information. And if you want to visit the campus during one of our Prospective Student Days, we'll take care of that, too! Here are a few thoughts you may find useful when beginning the application process.
"Take no shortcuts..." We’ve provided an online version of the catalog here. If you'd like a printed copy of the WTS Prospectus, which contains some of the information from the catalog, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll send one out to you.
Take a look at the degree programs and the class descriptions of each course. One of the most helpful things in looking at seminaries is comparing catalogs. It gives you a snapshot of the priorities of each degree program.
What does the seminary emphasize and will those emphases train you for doing ministry both while you’re in seminary and once you graduate? Westminster’s philosophy of education is to have you graduate as competent as you possibly can be in the areas of Biblical Studies (Old Testament and New Testament), Apologetics, Systematic Theology, Church History, and Practical Theology. In our M.Div. program for example, you won’t see Systematic Theology I and II; you will see Prolegomena (Intro to Systematic Theology), Doctrine of God, Doctrine of Man, Doctrine of Christ, Doctine of the Church and Doctrine of Salvation – SIX classes on doctrine. We take no shortcuts in our curriculum because we want you to leave here with no regrets. For a lifetime of ministry, you want your money’s worth - and you get that at Westminster.
"Choose content over location." Philadelphia is an incredibly diverse location that offers you almost any choice of ministry opportunities while you’re here. Many people come to Westminster for that very reason. What we prioritize, however, is not the geographical location of our institution but the content and quality of our teaching. If Westminster was located in a remote location in a midwest state, we believe it would still be the best seminary in the world because of WHAT is taught, not WHERE it is taught. You will have the rest of your ministry life to hone what you (and more importantly, God) prefers for your geographical location. Your time in seminary is a time that prepares you to take that content to an urban setting, a suburban setting, an international setting, a college campus setting, or a completely rural setting. Fortunately, Philadelphia offers all of the above!
Ask every seminary – “What makes you distinct?” One very important question to ask any seminary is, “What is your view of Scripture, and how is that view applied consistently within every department?” In other words, does Scripture ultimately inform and ground every discipline and the content of every class that is offered? Scripture actually has a lot to say about itself – its God-breathed character (II Timothy 3:16), its ultimate authority over all of life and experience (II Peter 1:16-21), even the Christ-centered nature of the entire Old Testament (Luke 24:44f).
Does the seminary’s counseling program teach that Scripture is the ultimate authority on who man is, how our behavior works, what our relationships are supposed to look like under God, etc.? Does the seminary’s apologetics department take seriously what Paul says in Romans 1 – that all men know God, that they are in a relationship with God (either in Christ or in Adam), that God’s invisible attributes are clearly perceived but that sin causes us to suppress that clearly-perceived truth? Even semiaries that fly the banner "Reformed" can disagree on core disciplines. It is one thing to be Gospel-centered and Bible-centered, or even Reformed, but it is quite another thing to apply that consistently through every single class in every single department. Westminster can confidently answer each of the previous questions with a resounding “YES!”
Seminary is not just transferring information. The current age is one in which the vast majority of information is customized and delivered right to your desk on a screen. Driving directions, the news, the weather – it has become a place we go in order to seek information, but not necessarily knowledge and certainly not wisdom. Knowledge, wisdom and training happen with people face-to-face, interacting with personal questions. The trend in distance education can be helpful to some, especially at an undergraduate level, but Westminster’s philosophy of education sees the irreplaceable value of not mere information-transfer, but genuine mentoring. So a physical presence in a classroom, asking questions, discussing classes within the seminary community, developing relationships with a world-class faculty – these are priceless facets of education that become impossible to replicate through a computer screen.
Having said that, we do recognize that non-credit education is also crucial for the church’s growth, and not taking advantage of the ease and inexpensive benefits of online education would be simply irresponsible to the church throughout the world. So we have offered a number of free lectures and full classes through iTunesU.
Whether you are already in ministry and want to brush up on certain topics, or you are a potential student wanting to know something of the unique character of Westminster, I invite you to discover a small taste of campus through iTunesU, our YouTube channel, our Facebook page, and our Twitter posts. Feel free to email us at email@example.com if you want to experience even more! We look forward to seeing you on campus…