Why Southern Seminary?

On the heels of the YouTube video of John Piper, it is worth reminding ourselves of another important statement(s) which he made, namely the dangers of attending a school like Southern Seminary. There is no question that Piper endorses and supports SBTS 100%, but that does not come without a warning to us as students as we study, work, and live in such a "posh" environment.

With that said, yesterday Mark Dever shared some good advice for criteria for determining what seminary one should attend. His five points were:

1. Confession of Faith
2. Quality of Education
3. Cost
4. Church
5. Connection for Life

(Click here to read the entire post)

Over the past couple of months I have been asked this question both in the blogosphere and in person as my wife and I have hosted prospective students when they visited our school. I will add my thoughts later, but first I would like to get your take.

Should a prospective student visit this blog and query you about why they should attend Southern Seminary, what would you tell them?

Do you agree with the list provided by Mark Dever?

Would you keep them in that order or change it?

Would you add anything to the list?

Share your thoughts on why you have chosen to attend Southern and why others should too.

- Posted by Timmy Brister, April 3, 2007


Scott said...

I agree with all the points on the list. But, they are all one sided in that they encompass only the things of man.

The choice of seminary involved hours of prayer. Frankly, I didn't want to go to seminary. If not for God, I wouldn't have gone.

While it is unspoken and most likely thought to be considered understood to be in all points, God is missing.

Put God back in seminary.

In His Word,

Tony Kummer said...

I seems like Dr. Dever would have to put SBTS at the top of any list.

1. Confession - Abstract of Principles

2. Quality - Our professors are leading in almost every discipline.

3. Cost - near the lowest, thanks to the churches giving to the Cooperative Program. As students we should be more thankful for the CP than we are.

4. Churches - I don't think there is a Capital Hill, but many are moving that way because of 9Marks & SBTS. There are hundreds of churches that love and encourage Seminary students.

5. Life Connections - That's why were here right?

I personally came Boyce in 1999 and Southern in 2003 because I'm from Southern Indiana. It was the only option that made sense for my family. But thank God for his providence!

Tony Kummer said...

I wouldn't consider confessions of faith, finding a local church as "things of man"

And the other three definitely have their place in a God-centered life. Example Cost: Go to a cheaper school. Be debt free when you graduate. Have the freedom to plant churches with little or no salary.

I might move "Church" to the top of the list. The longer I'm in FT ministry the more I see the benefits of churches training their own people like Capital Hill does. That can work in Louisville, but only when churches are willing to invest in SBTS students. I sometimes get the feeling that churches see Seminary students as "just passing through" and avoid building lasting relationships with them.

Joshua Chavers said...


Obviously, Souther Seminary & Boyce College is cheaper than several other options, but how have you found it possible to maintain debt-free living while attending even just the minimum hours of classes each semester?

The most recent tuition rate for Southern is set at $158/ hour. With fees and books, a 9 hour semester could easily push a student close to $2000/ semester or $4000/ year for only 18 hours of classes. At this rate, a 90 hour M.Div program could take close to 5 years to complete.

Not only this, but if it can be assumed that a family of 3 or 4 could scrape by on $1500/ month ... when education costs are factored in, it would be necessary for a student to bring in somewhere around $22,000/ year or $1833/ month or $11.50/ hour working 40 hours/ week which is of course, an added stress for a student in addition to their studies.

The current tuition for Boyce College is set even higher, at $220/hour or $2500/semester for 9 hours or $5000/year, allowing a diligent student to graduate, at this rate ... in 7 short years.

This would assume, of course, the undergraduate student would be able to make around $12/hour at that same full time job.

I agree with you, that church should maybe be the top priority, as I am learning that local church training/shepherding far outweighs what can be learned in the classroom, at a rate of $35,000 for undergraduate or $20,000 for graduate school.

Prospective students should understand the reality of these financial concerns, especially those planning to raise a family in the process.

Cheaper than the rest it may be, but affordable ... I'm afraid not.

Tony Kummer said...

Ouch. It sounds like your are feeling the FACTS payments.

Actually, I came through BOYCE with only a 5K debt in four years. Most of that was lifestyle and family related debts. Now at Southern I am taking only 6 or 9 credits a semester. God has placed me in at church that supports us well, so the tuition crunch is a lot better now.

SBTS is cheaper than most other 'real' schools and you get some of the best professors and writers.

I've heard that UPS covers most of the cost if you work there - and they have health insurance.

Timmy said...

A couple of months ago, I shared these reasons in the comments section of one of my posts. The purpose was to explain why I believed SBTS was the "best seminary in the world," so the reasons are a little different than explaining why someone should attend SBTS.

While I suppose that I could delve into any number of matters, I will simply speak selectively for the sake of time.

1.SBTS has quickly become one of the largest seminaries in the world. There are reasons for this!

2. SBTS has amassed on of the most prestigious and prolific faculty of professors around, hands down. Evidence of this can be seen in the ETS annual meeting where more papers have been presented per year by Southern than any other school represented.

3. SBTS has a rich history, including its founders in Boyce, Broadus, and Manly, and continuing with Robertson, Henry, Stein, etc.

4. SBTS has continually led all schools in papers presented at the annual ETS meetings, denoting the continued excellence in scholarship.

5. We have a solid theological and confessional framework which we hold fast to (Abstract of Principles)

6. For all that our seminary offers, it is really affordable (compared to TEDS for example).

7. SBTS has a great network and relationship with other leading organizations, such as IX Marks, Desiring God, Sovereign Grace, etc.

8. Regarding some disciplines, we have the most prominent scholars around (for instance, Ware on Open Theism, Trinity, Providence; Gentry on linguistics, Greek/Hebrew, Hexapla; Schreiner on NT, Exegesis; Pennington on Greek; Mohler on culture; Nettles on Baptist history; Whitney on Spiritual Formation/Disciplines; Fuller on Hebrew; Scott on Biblical Counseling; Parker on Apologetics, Magnuson on ethics, etc.).

9. SBTS exists as a servant to the Church and to advance the Kingdom of God, thus making it a means to an end, not an end of itself.

10. Three words: Boyce Centennial Library.

On another blog, I gave a shorter, three-point answer:

1. Faculty - all around the best in the world

2. Cost - most affordable (that is, if you are Southern Baptist)

3. Reformed - Historic Southern Baptist theology

Having said all that, when I chose to attend SBTS three years ago, very few of these entered my mind, many of them I were not aware of. Every school has their strong points, no doubt. But a better way to look at it is to see how many weak points a school has. With this perspective, Southern is without comparison.

Furthermore, the most glaring weakness of Southern has more to do with being in the SBC than Southern, that is, being in a highly political and bureaucratic ethos which provides so many conflicts of interest and frustration. However, most students and faculty ignore this and are better off as a result.

Tony Kummer said...

Great comments. When I read that it raises my self-expectations about seminary. Since God has blessed me with all this, I ought to do all that I can to benefit from it. Not only for my sake but for the church, for the world, for the glory of God.

Almost every week when I come back to campus (I'm Monday only this semester) I am built up and encouraged by my classes and friends at Southern. I go back to my church with a fresh urgency to preach, teach, counsel and live the Word of God.

- New Question -
Do any of you pray for your teachers? This is something I've been thinking about since Dr. Piper was on campus.

Joshua Chavers said...

Well stated Timmy.
Praise God he has placed us all here!
Your comment should be edited and put in THE TIE back near the "Look how much money I gave" section to motivate more giving to support all the po' folk like us ...

5K not so bad. Be sure to constantly thank the Lord for the support he has now provided for you.
Yeah, you're right. FACTS time is never fun. And uh ... UPS .. Been there. Done that. And do not recommend it for any student with wife and kids ... who wants to keep his marriage and sanity that is ...

Tony Kummer said...

I could never do UPS. I actually interviewed there once and when they gave me the tour it was too creepy.

I took the Security Guard route and studied my Greek and read theology all night. That was definitely hard on the family. I think students need to count the cost before they come to SBTS or any school. But God pulled us through - rather is pulling us through still.

Timmy said...


When I graduated from college and entered in ministry full time, the first thing I did was buy a house. There were severals reason for this, not the least of which was to eventually use the equity to supplement any meager income I had when/if I attend seminary. That proved to be especially providential over the past couple of years.

Secondly, I would say that I could not continue to attend SBTS were it not for UPS (well, maybe I could, but it would be financially very difficult). For a normal full-time schedule, UPS covers about 70-75% of the tuition/fees per semester.

But the financial assistance provided via UPS is just of it in my mind. Having left a ministry position where I had my an office where I was required to work 40+ hours a week, I wanted to get back to rubbing shoulders with unbelievers and labor in their lives with the gospel. The great thing about UPS is that it gives me over 5,000 reasons to work third shift, and I am reminded of that every day I get on the tram.

Danny Slavich said...

I came to Southern from the Bay Area, where I grew up in a MacArthur-influenced Bible church.

My reasons were:

(1) Confession: SBTS is the best for a Reformed education, if you don't want to baptize babies... I was VERY close to going to Westminster SD. But the baptism issue was just too big.

(2) Quality: Southern had (and has) arguably the best faculty of any seminary in the country. Though we might sacrifice some personal involvement/bigger class size, it's worth it.

(3)Connection: All the other seminaries I considered were small. And, while I know that SBTS isn't exactly a love connection, it has a lot more girls than others. (And providence saw that this part of my decision was the right one. I'm getting married in June :)

(4) Cost: I couldn't sign the SBC covenant deal at the front end, so my first semester wasn't a great deal. But now I belong to an SBC church, so the cost is insanely low.

(5) Church: Honestly, this didn't factor in too much. But I've been glad to discover a ton (almost overwhelming, really) of great churches to choose from.

Alex 1.0 said...

Tony & Timmy,
Thanks for sharing your responses!

I am glad to have chosen Southern and look forward to coming down on Thursday!! I've been accepted for M.Div (Biblical & Theo) - but I'm already contemplating switching concentration to NA Church Planting, after talking w/a couple SBC pastors up here.

I don't know if it's possible to meet any of you as the schedules a bit tight, but I'm anxiously waiting to have my imaginations blown away =D

Have you 2 ever met Shuling Lee, but he's a good friend of mine who went to SBTS for a year (2005-2006 I think) and he's commended that it suits my Reformed/Baptist leaning very well:)

Anyways, if you know anybody I can connect with about Southern, PLEASE contact me @ aleung at sixsteps dot org!

Future SBTS student from Toronto,
-Alex Leung