Theological Education -- By: Frederic Gardiner

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 034:133 (Jan 1877)
Article: Theological Education
Author: Frederic Gardiner


Theological Education

Rev. Frederic Gardiner

Among all denominations in America theology is studied chiefly in special institutions founded for this single and express purpose. Abroad, except among the Roman Catholics, it is for the most part pursued in the same universities and under the same general arrangements with other professional studies. The distinctive theological seminary or divinity school among Protestants is essentially an American arrangement, although since its introduction here it has also been adopted to a limited extent on the other side of the ocean. It has obvious advantages and disadvantages, but of these it is not proposed to speak beyond calling attention in passing to a single point. Abroad, the future lawyer, chemist, philologist, and theologian are members of the same academic fraternity, and may, if they please, be attendants together on more than one of the same courses of lectures. With us, the theological student is entirely isolated throughout his course. This necessarily tends to withdraw him from his fellows, to separate him in his habits of thought from them, and make of him a specialist. This tendency may be overcome, but it needs to be recognized. If after all our training, young men enter the ministry without intellectual sympathy with those among whom, and upon whom, they are to exercise their vocation, they are placed at the outset at a serious disadvantage. The broadest sympathies and the most complete knowledge of the methods and of the preocupations of other minds are the essential qualification of the well-furnished minister of the gospel. If our system of preparing him for his work is opposed to the attainment

of these humanities, or even ignores them, it is in so far defective. In a very different sense from that of the heathen poet it is necessary for the clergyman to feel,

“Homo sum: nil humanum a me alienum puto.”

The means of overcoming the naturally isolating tendency of our special schools of theology is undoubtedly chiefly in the hands of the students themselves; but they are not apt to be aware of the danger. It needs to be distinctly pointed out to them by their teachers, and their own intelligence awakened to providing the remedy.

One other general consideration demands a word before entering upon our proper subject. Young men in the theological, as in every other professional, school are going through the latest stages of preparation for their work in life. They need, therefore, to be treated as men, rather than as children. They need to be more and more emancipated from the condition of pupilage, and introduced to that of independent manhood. This is generally recognized in the relaxation of disciplin...

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