Speculative Theology In Our Theological Seminaries -- By: M. C. Stebbins

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 044:175 (Jul 1887)
Article: Speculative Theology In Our Theological Seminaries
Author: M. C. Stebbins


Speculative Theology In Our Theological Seminaries

Rev. M. C. Stebbins

The age in which we live is not the first that has indulged in speculative thinking, but it may be fairly questioned whether the latter half of the nineteenth century might not, in comparison with other historic periods, be fitly characterized as the age of speculative thought. It is not the purpose of this paper to denounce this speculative tendency as pernicious or unprofitable when rightly directed and limited, nor to urge that, in deference to the public good, its freedom should be restrained, but to consider whether its appropriate field is in the schools consecrated to the work of preparing men to be ministers of the gospel. To vary the statement of our purpose, we might express it in the following query: Does the culture of the habit of speculative thinking bear any such relation to the essential preparation for the work of the ministry that those who go out from the theological seminaries in which speculative thinking takes the widest range, is made most prominent and influential, are for that reason best equipped for the work that is now waiting for the ministry to do? I believe that not even “Progressive Orthodoxy” has yet advanced so far as to claim that the minister of the gospel has any higher mission than to set clearly and forcibly before men the contents of the Holy Scriptures substantially as they have been handed down to us through past centuries. I think that the statement will not be challenged, when I say that the churches of our polity have been chiefly interested in establishing and endowing

their theological seminaries that they might be efficient instrumentalities in imparting to the young men who should resort to them, a large acquaintance with the significance and purpose of the history and doctrines of the Book of books; in imbuing them with their spirit, and in inspiring them with apostolic zeal in obeying the command of the Master, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”

The scope of the work that beyond question is germane to the ordinary theological course of three years, including Language, Sacred Literature, Biblical, Christian, and Pastoral Theology, Ecclesiastical History, Church Polity, Relations of Christianity to Secular Sciences—the scope of this work is certainly broad enough to crowd all the available time, and engross all available powers of acquisition and thought. It would then seem to be a necessary inference that all diversion of attention and intellectual power to speculative thinking and its conclusions, must be a subtraction from work of unquestioned utility and pertinence. Is there the slightest probability that such a substitution could result in gain? ...

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