By Daniel Roberts,
Prior to attending seminary, I pursued a Bachelor’s degree that was intended to prepare me for a career as a medical professional. After graduation, I decided to take the necessary steps to become a licensed physical therapist. Due to my college athletics, I didn’t have the clinical hours necessary to apply to PT School. So, I decided to get a job at a private clinic to accrue the hours necessary for applications. Little did I know that this job, combined with working in my local church, would ultimately lead me to a seminary education. Through my relationship with the patients at the clinic, I came to realize the incredible opportunities afforded to medical professionals. These experiences and my seminary education are the basis for my reasons listed here. I hope that this blog encourages doctors and other medical professionals to pursue a formal theological education. If you are a doctor and you think of more reasons, follow and message us on our Facebook Page! Happy #NationalDoctorsDay!
I can recall leading a small group study through a study called The Truth Project. Our group was made up of many young and aspiring professionals i.e. doctors, lawyers, physical therapists etc. About half way through the study, I noticed that many were losing interest. Several seemed to have an attitude that implied, “I thought the church was supposed to handle this kind of stuff.” I explained to them, “Many of these people will feel inclined to speak to you about spiritual and personal matters because you have already earned their trust in your respective field.” Hoping to drive the point home, I proceeded to share with them about my experience.
Throughout my time at the clinic, not a day went by that patients did not have a question about God, heaven, hell, the problem of pain and evil, their family life, or any other personal issue that caused them to question their faith and their purpose in life. As the “professional”, I was viewed as a “reasonable” person and someone who had proven to the patient that I was trustworthy. As a result, they would not only ask me how to do the prescribed exercises, but throughout their therapy session they would ask deep and perplexing questions. The challenging questions were enhanced by the fact that many of these conversations were happening during a painful recovery program, making the conversations and the meaning of these conversations more visceral. Thus, with a proper theological education, a medical professional can ensure that he speaks from his mind to address the needs of the patient’s heart.
It is no secret that modern man is obsessed with science and all the wonders it has afforded us. Joseph Owens, a Catholic philosopher, says this about the “quantitative procedure”:
“In modern times [quantitative procedure] has culminated in astounding achievements throughout the varied branches of what is known as Science with a capital S. Not only in the world of nature, but also in the fields of psychic phenomena, of speech, of reasoning, of artistic activity and of moral and political conduct, have its techniques made possible the progress of which the twentieth century is justifiably proud.” (Joseph Owens, An Elementary Christian Metaphysics, 19).
Indeed, regardless of their theistic or atheistic beliefs, people seem to think that a person who has demonstrated himself to be an expert in the material sciences is automatically an expert in other abstract realms of thinking (philosophy and theology). This is evidenced by the popular following of Richard Dawkins, atheist biologist and author of The God Delusion. Apologists are quick to point out that Dawkins is not a philosopher or theologian, and therefore should not be considered an authority on theological or philosophical matters. I agree. However, intellectual consistency demands that we recognize that medical degrees do not afford Christian doctors the qualifications to speak on theological matters —even those associated with the theological purpose of pain and suffering. Let me be clear: I am not saying that to have a good “bedside manner”, a doctor needs a theological education. What I am saying is that medical professionals equipped with a theological education will be more effective in living out Paul’s command in Colossians 4:5 – “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.”
While it may be true that medical professionals do not have the same theological knowledge base as the professors at Southern Evangelical Seminary or any other seminary, they do have something that many in the theological field may lack—their experiential knowledge of the problem of pain and suffering. The fact that this knowledge of suffering is not merely read in a book (knowledge by description) makes medical professionals inoculated to the risk of “losing their humanity” throughout their studies. One merely needs to look at the work of Christian humanitarian organizations to know that God has endowed medical persons with a unique mental and physical tenacity to endure and treat the trauma and maladies of the human experience. Whether you’re a doctor, a nurse, or a theologian in the mission field, your experience with pain allows you to bring a unique perspective to the seminary classroom.
In Beyond Opinion, Ravi Zacharias discusses the requirements for development of Christian character and a winsome apologetic. Zacharias writes,
“Included in the development of character is the discipline of study, particularly balanced study. This is the best resource for building intelligent and coherent answers…The ability to slow down and take time to study and pen thoughts is seen as a luxury when it should be seen as a necessity” (Ravi Zacharias, Beyond Opinion, 308).
Those who have endured the medical education system are uniquely equipped and prepared to endure the challenges of a theological education. This does not mean that your time at Southern Evangelical Seminary will be easy, but it does mean you have the potential to do well in our courses. SES is not so much about memorization and regurgitation, but about the acquisition and precise dissemination of truth.
Prior to working in the clinic, I assumed that if people had a question about God, the Bible, the meaning of life, or the Problem of Evil, they would consult their church leaders. I had a “video” of a person in my mind, down trodden, seeking answers, stumbling into a church where he happens to come across a wise, sage like, religious mentor who shares answers to life’s deepest and darkest questions. While this does well in comic book movies (#ManOfSteele Goes to Church), my perception changed while working in the clinic. The patients were seeking treatment and needing more than mere physical mending. Whether I liked it or not, when they found out I was a Christian, they expected me to demonstrate the same excellence in my faith that I had demonstrated in my knowledge of physiology; they trusted me to provide answers to their questions, both biomechanical and spiritual. Therefore, medical professionals who choose to pursue a theological degree will be afforded the privilege of uniting their medical knowledge with a deep and rigorous understanding of their creator and His creation. Furthermore, they will be able to speak with confidence and wisdom into the life of their patients, and transform their medical practice into a medical ministry.
To all the doctors who serve the sick, sacrifice long hours, and follow the Hippocratic Oath: on behalf of the staff and faculty at SES, we thank you for your service, and hope to see you on campus or online in the coming semesters.
Daniel is Web Content and Social Media Manager for SES. He is also the Managing Editor for SES’ blog. Daniel is an SES Student pursuing an M.A. in Philosophy at Southern Evangelical Seminary.
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