I went to law school. I went to seminary twenty plus years later. Which is better? Seminary of course!
I attended Candler School of Theology at Emory University and received a Master of Divinity. Many years ago, I graduated from Georgetown University Law School. In my seminary class, there are at least five people that were lawyers or are still lawyers. Someone recently asked me for my input on both degrees.
Which is more difficult? Both give professional degrees but I think seminary is more difficult because it is deeply personal. You cannot go through seminary like a zombie. Your classes impact you and cause you to grow. You will not be the same person you were as when you started. For me, seminary has been a right-brain experience: creative, messy and emotional. Law school trains your left-brain. It is analytical, sequential and logical although it teaches you how to argue.
In addition, given my age, I find that I have more of an interest in seminary than I had in law school back then. I was so young; I barely knew what I was doing. I came to seminary, in a sense to develop the self I was discovering. I went to law school to get a degree that would help me get a good job. The motivations are different but very important. In seminary, people come for many different reasons. However, in law school, most people come for the ability to get a job after school.
Law school was much more competitive than seminary. Don’t get me wrong; there is competition in seminary. However, we try and clean it up and not be so overt about it. However, in law school, it was cut throat. People made scathing comments. Some were judgmental. No apologies were required. The only requirement was to achieve the goal: Pass the bar and get that six-figure salary job. In seminary, we try to support each other and show care for each other. We are trained to see the world around us and not see only the goal ahead. For instance, for extra points on an exam recently, a professor asked for the name and job description of at least two maintenance staff at the school. Students were in shock. Lesson learned: The people around you are just as, if not more, important than your grade.
I love seminary. I am sad that is over. What I discovered in seminary is that I was able to engage my strong curious intellect in my spiritual life. Prior to seminary, I was unable to do this. As my faith sought out understanding, I have become more integrated and whole. I no longer compartmentalize spirituality and pit it against my intellect. Seminary has stretched me, yet defined me. It has increased my intellectual capacity, yet I recognize how little I do not know. It has deepened my spiritual life not by gaining more knowledge but by helping me have more consistent practices.
If you are not interested in your spiritual life, don’t bother with seminary. However, if you have a highly developed intellect yet you have a burgeoning faith, then you will love seminary. If you choose to attend law school, recognize that it does one thing very well: prepares you to be a lawyer (whether or not you become one is irrelevant.) That is it. It really does not develop you ethically, psychologically or spiritually. However, law shcool helps you develop thinking skills which will serve you in any capacity you choose.
Why do I write about this? These two experiences speak to very different things in my life. One developed a role for me while the other has developed my soul. As of today, I do not plan (you never know what the future holds) to be a pastor. However, seminary has helped me develop my soul and shape my intellect in the process. Law school did nothing to feed my soul. It instead gave me a role in society to fill. While law school helped me get a job, seminary helped craft my vocation.
Leaders do well to categorize their educational experiences and determine their end goals. This society focuses on training the mind. However, making space for your soul to thrive is equally important.
How has your education helped your soul to thrive?