Monday, 30 July 2007

Real Estate Examination and Theological Education: A Correlation?

In one of my earlier posts, I highlighted some of the concerns affecting the real estate industry in Malaysia. As someone who was involved in the industry as Registered Valuer and Registered Estate Agent in the 90s, I am naturally concerned and saddened that there has not been much progress in the professional development of the industry over the past decade. It was reported that there are now more than a staggering 10,000 unlicensed real estate agents in Malaysia. According to the statistics of Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents, this figure represents equal number of negotiators that work under registered real estate agents. In other words, for every real estate negotiator, there is one other illegal real estate agent. It is very sad to witness the present situation. This caused the Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents to issue an urgent appeal to the government. If this is any indication of the health of the profession, it suggests that the battle to weed out illegal real estate agents has not only been unsuccessful but the problem appears to have ballooned overtime.

I could not help but to see a very close correlation between the profession of estate agents and full-time Christian vocation. Since my return from the UK last October, I have been in conversation with a significant number of church leaders and pastors who questioned the relevance and necessity of theological education for pastors and those who desire to serve in full-time Christian vocation. I wonder whether is this an emerging trend in the Malaysian Christian scene where increasing number of church leaders and pastors are now arguing against the need for theological education?

As a former "insider" of the real estate industry, I am all too aware of some of the reasons why many illegal real estate agents exist and why many of them do not see the need to acquire the necessary professional qualifications. First, these unlicensed real estate agents feel that it is simply a waste of time to take up professional training. To be a registered estate agent, the route is often long and time consuming. On average, it takes an average of 4-5 years before one can be registered as a real estate agent. Secondly, to be a registered estate agent, the process is rather complicated. One has to pass the 2-part written examinations comprising a total of 12 papers if the candidate does not possess an undergraduate degree in the filed of valuation, property or real estate. After passing the qualifying examinations, this is followed by a minimum of two years supervised practical training under a Registered Estate Agent, at the end of which, the candidate may sit for the Test of Professional Competence (TPC). It is only after successfully passing the TPC that a candidate is qualified to apply for a licence to practise as a registered real estate agent. Another reason that is often cited for not seeking professional qualification is that the syllabus covered in the qualifying examinations is too broad and theoretical. Most see the requirements to study Land Law, Estate Agency Law, Property Taxation, Principles of Valuation, Building Technology, Principles of Economics, Land Economics are simply a waste of time. Finally, the most frequently cited reason for not acquiring for the professional qualification is this: if there is a short cut in which plenty of money is to be made, why bother and be burdened with acquiring the necessary professional qualification?

When I reflect on the reasons often cited against acquiring a professional qualification for real estate agent, I could not help but to notice a very close correlation with the same reasons why many believe that theological education is also not necessary for pastors. For those Christian pastors and church leaders, theological education is a waste of time. A typical period taken for completing a Bachelor of Divinity/Theology and Master of Divinity is 4 years and 3 years respectively. Why waste time in theological education when many people are dying without the knowledge of the gospel? The urgency is to preach the gospel now and to "save souls." Secondly, like the real estate qualification, theological education is also complicated. It is often assumed to be dry. It robs seminarians of their joy, zeal and passion in serving the Lord. It may also lead seminarians to become "liberal" in their theological understanding. Some may even lose their faith in seminary. Thirdly, like the real estate agent written examination, theological education is often described as too theoretical. One is required to do a broad curriculum. If a pastor only wants to preach Christ and the gospel, why bother with church history, christian education and counselling? Why waste time studying about the synoptic problem, the quest of the historical Jesus, the problems in identifying Paul's opponents, and whether 2 Corinthians is a unified letter or a fragment of 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 letters? Why bother with Greek when one does not even refer to it after graduation? Finally, if one is able to preach, lead people to Christ, teach the Bible, and this causes the church to continue to grow statistically, why bother with theological education?

We will be celebrating our 50th year of nationhood in one month's time. Our political leaders have often said that we have achieved much development and progress as a nation since independence. Can we also say the same as far as theological education is concerned? Have we also made significant progress in tandem with other areas of development and progress in the nation? Or, like the real estate professional qualification, is theological education no longer deemed necessary and relevant for the training of clergy, pastor and those aspiring to enter full-time Christian vocation?


At the end, I wonder which vocation is better for me: to be a seminary lecturer or practise as a valuer and real estate agent? Hmmm...food for thought...

10 comments:

pearlie said...

Interesting post.

I could be wrong, since I am not in the real estate industry but the dissimilarity I can see though
between the 2 is that the subjects you mentioned, i.e. Land Law, Estate Agency Law, Property Taxation, Principles of Valuation, Building Technology, Principles of Economics, Land Economics are really quite set and stable, that is, more often than not the experts (and non-experts) would agree more or less on it. This is not so with Theology. Put together just a group from different denominations and there you have it, endless debate easily just on one topic alone, say baptism for example.

So there is so much more the need to trash all this out in a classroom, in a safe environment so to speak, to come to an understanding where one is in relation to another and be at rest that there will be differences.

But I suppose those who has the opinion that this is not necessary prefers to learn on-the-job. To me, all kinds of jobs and skills can be learnt on-the-job. It would only take a longer time and it will only take you that far, to the detriment of the people you serve.

Anonymous said...

I could also be wrong ......

1) To me, a secular job is different from a spiritual job (unless we treat the spiritual job i.e. a pastoral job as a secular job)!
I believe that the separation of spiritual and secular is man-made. But if we believe that a secular job is different from a spiritual one, then a secular job cannot be compared to a spiritual job.(Although we may also argue about what is spiritual. Problem I see is that we are not always prepared to hold a principle all the way). If we insist on separation between clergy and laity, are the disciples clergy or laity? what about apostle Paul who works? Or is it once you graduate from theological seminary, you become clergy?

2) Maybe Jesus should have selected His disciples from the among the pharisees and scribes or from the priesthood of His day. Why didn't He do so? His disciples were not educated.

3)Formal education is always good and beneficial, but is it a must? It is better to have, but is it deadly not to have? It can be deadly to have. However, one should ask if formal theological education (in its current state) is making a difference for the advancement of the God's work on earth. If theological education is the one major single parameter that differentiates between a good pastor/worker and a bad one, we should all insist on having theological education. But is it? Can we attempt to measure the difference? Does a masters degree graduate make a better pastor/worker than a diploma graduate?

4) We do need theologians. Just maybe, we don't need so many! Do we need a pastor to be a theologian? Learning about God and His Word is important, it is different than knowing God.

5) Someone once compared the bible school to a medical school and he opined that trusting untrained "pastors" is like trusting a surgeon who has not graduated from medical school to operate on us. I see two problems with this comparison.
- pastors don't operate on people, the Holy Spirit does the work/surgery. Not the pastor!
- surgeons or doctors have on the job training before they qualify to practice. It is different for Theological seminary, everyone who graduates is qualify to be a pastor although He/She have no experience

6) I guess to me, theological education is beneficial but is it more important than having a call? My premise is that if God calls you to do a work, He enables You (with or without formal theological education). If God has not call you to pastor or do a spiritual work, you can be highly trained theologically but you will fail miserably.

Anonymous said...

I could also be wrong ......

1) To me, a secular job is different from a spiritual job (unless we treat the spiritual job i.e. a pastoral job as a secular job; problem I see is that we are not always prepared to hold a principle all the way)
I believe that the separation of spiritual and secular is man-made. But if we believe that a secular job is different from a spiritual one, then a secular job cannot be compared to a spiritual job (although we may also argue about what is spiritual.). If we insist on separation between clergy and laity, are the disciples classified as clergy or laity? What about Paul who is a tent maker? Or is it once you graduate from theological seminary, you become clergy?

2) Maybe Jesus should have selected His disciples from the among the pharisees and scribes or from the priesthood of His day. Why didn't He do so? His disciples were not educated.

3) Formal education is always good and beneficial, but is it a must? It is better to have, but is it deadly not to have? It can also be deadly to have. However, one should ask if formal theological education (in its current state) is making a difference for the advancement of the God's work on earth. If theological education is the one major single parameter that differentiates between a good pastor/worker and a bad one, we should all insist on having theological education. But is it? Can we attempt to measure the difference? Does a Phd holder make a better pastor/worker than a Masters degree graduate, or a degree graduate better than a diploma graduate?

4) We do need theologians. Just maybe, do we need so many! Do we need a pastor to be a theologian? Learning about God and His Word is important, it is different than knowing God. Do we need to be a theologian to fulfill the Great Commission?

5) Someone once compared the bible school to a medical school and he opined that trusting untrained "pastors" is like trusting a surgeon who has not graduated from medical school to operate on us. I see two problems with this comparison.
- Pastors don't operate on people, the Holy Spirit does the work/surgery. Not the pastor!
- Surgeons or doctors have on the job training before they qualify to practice. It is quite different for a Theological seminary, everyone who graduates qualifies to be a priest or a pastor although he or she have no ministry experience

In conclusion ….
I guess to me, theological education is important and beneficial but is it not the ONLY critical factor. There is a need for a well-balanced person who is well developed in Character and Ministry. Also if God calls a person to do a work, He will enable/empower the person (with or without formal theological education). If God has not call a person to do a spiritual work, one can be well educated and highly trained theologically but the person will fail miserably because God has not enable/empower him/her.

SP Lim said...

No Place For Truth?

Kar Yong said...

Pearlie, thanks for your thoughts.

Dear anonymous, Thanks for your comments, but I'd just wish that you would identify yourself rather than remain anonymous, especially if you have something constructive to offer.

My originally intention is to follow up with another post after this one on some of the issues both you and Pearlie highlighted, but since you have eloquently addressed some of them, I think there is no need for me to do so. I will offer some comments on couple of issues you highlighted later on in a separate post, especially on the current state of theological education which is more of a kind of my self-criticism as an "insider".

JJ Wong said...

It seems to me those who are not in favour of theological education come from NECF afflicated churches, not the CCM affliated churches. It seems evangelicals in Malaysia do not really believe in the benefits of theological education. Just take a look at some of the "mega" churches and you will notice that many, if not all, the pastors are not theologically trained, perhaps with the exception of the senior pastor.

SP Lim said...

Read the interesting article, 'The Pastor as Theologian' few years back. Glad it is still there http://www.founders.org/FJ43/editorial.html
Though one need not go to a seminary to be a theologian, it is expected that all who go into pastoral ministry equipped themselves theologically. But for those who think formal theological education is not necessary to be a effective pastor, may I ask how much time do those pastors without formal theological education spend reflecting on issues affecting their ministry theologically. In the first place are they trained or equipped to think in such a manner?
How much time do they spend reading books on theology.
Of course, it doesn't mean those with a theological degree will always reflect on issues theologically.
I'm blessed to have a pastor who has a M.Th and who places great importance on exegesis and the need to think through issues theologically.

ionStorm said...

Maybe this question might be apt...

Where did Jesus learn from, what was his model of teaching, and subsequently, where/what did his disciples learn from?

Kar Yong said...

Dear SP,

Thanks for your thoughts and also the link. I actually read that article some years ago.

Kar Yong said...

Ionstorm,

Thanks for those relevant questions. I will pick them up in a separate post, soon... soon.... :-)