A Proposal of a New Department of Theological Study -- By: Werner Petersmann

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 090:357 (Jan 1933)
Article: A Proposal of a New Department of Theological Study
Author: Werner Petersmann


A Proposal of a New Department of Theological Study

Werner Petersmann

Christian Ecumenics

We are living in an “ecumenical” epoch. The “good old times” of provincialisms and particularisms are over for nations, civilizations and churches: the times of the “Sleeping Beauty”—isolations, of the traditional, statistic self-enjoyments and idyllic quietudes. In the machine-age our “cosmos” again appears to be in a constant dynamic “flux” of universal contact, interwoveness and tension, of mutual exchange and cooperation. Nolens volens Christendom re-experiences its “catholic” unity and solidarity. The same vital problems and movements stir and challenge it “universally”. There are the achievements from the work of excavation to theology. There is scientific and historical criticism. There is “Ritschlianism” and the “Historico-Religious school.” There is the social question and the Social Gospel. There is the appeal to the World Conscience. There is the bolshevist Medusa and the national Sphinx. There is the common problematics of foreign missions. There is the wave of mystical and liturgical irrationalism. There is the liberal dissolution, the conservative defense, and last, not least the Barthian reaction with the sledge hammer of the “verbum Dei.” They all “upset the whole world” (oikoumenen) and “have come here too” (Acts 17:6). It is just a necessary biological adaptation that Christian churches realize this their “ecumenical” situation, that they endeavor to learn to know and understand each other as well as to learn from each other and to cooperate in thinking and action, facing the same burning and perplexing problems. The third article of the Apostles’ Creed has its “Kairos” i.e. its pregnant historical moment.

This is already a commonplace. And, indeed, we have our “ecumenical conferences” (Stockholm 1925, Lausanne 1927, Jerusalem 1929, London soon to come) and their continuing committees, their institutes and their publications (e.g. the “ecumenical” magazine “Stockholm” ed. A. Keller, Geneva1 ). There is also developing an “ecumenical” orientation (as e.g. also our Bibliotheca Sacra, the oldest religious quarterly in America, reveals). And yet, we still lack a very important thing. We still lack in our country the academic educational means which would present and cultivate this recent pregnant aspect of modern Christianity. The present writer would therefore suggest that our theological institutions introduce into their curriculum a special department with courses and seminars which would deal with the qu...

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