Seminary, Bible College, other educational opportunities – to go or not to go?

Almost every week, I receive questions like this one (and a related one after the jump):

I have what might just end up being a rhetorical question. One of the main reasons I’m seriously considering [doing PhD work] is because I think it will open doors for writing and teaching. At the same time, I would love to be a part of one of these new faith communities you talk about… Trouble is, it’s hard to make a career out of this!
I already know some of what I want to write about though, and I’m not sure I need a PhD to do it considering I’m mostly interested in a popular audience…. But finally, I come to my question. Do you think it’s worth going to the trouble of getting a PhD if I’m not really aspiring to be an “academic” in the traditional sense? Tony Jones would probably be a good person to ask too since he’s ABD . . . It’s not that I wouldn’t be interested in a professorship. I just wouldn’t want to be bogged down by all the tenure and journal-publishing pressures. Anyway, I understand if you are unable to respond promptly or even at all, so take your time and no pressure of course! My career crisis at the end of the day is an incredibly insignificant thing compared to all of the “real” issues we should be dealing with.

We all know that for the person in it, a career crisis is major … and many people share this struggle … so this question and the related one (after the jump) really matter. Since this email references Tony, I’m wondering if he’d be willing to offer his comments on this subject on his blog – and entertain the comments of others?

Here’s a related question:

I was privileged to be at the Faithworks conference in Enfield, London recently and have since be absorbed in your latest book.
I’m currently re-reading the couple of chapters centred around the overarching biblical narrative and the way we ‘use’ scripture. On a number of occasions you refer to being fortunate at not having received ‘formal’ theological training, instead studying English language at degree level. My question is, for someone who is looking to study theology and keen not to end up in one of the kind of institutions you implied, would you recommend courses/universities/seminaries that offer forward-thinking theological training, either in the UK or via online/correspondence around the world. With my genuine and heartfelt appreciation and thanks

In reply, I should say that although I am grateful for my background in literature, I’m enthusiastically pro-theological education and consider my non-seminary background anomalous for the kind of work I’ve done, not normative. I believe that our seminaries are doing, in nearly all cases, a tremendous job. I wasn’t in any way critiquing theological education in general – I think that our seminaries are absolutely crucial for the kinds of changes we need to see in Christian thinking, formation, and practice. If anything, they are pushing the envelope for how far ahead they can be in relation to many of our churches … if they were doing much better, the gap between them and many of the churches that need their graduates the most would be too great.