Periodical Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 119:476 (Oct 1962)
Article: Periodical Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Periodical Reviews

Berger, Peter L., “Religious Establishment and Theological Education,” Theology Today, July, 1962.

A professor of sociology at an Eastern seminary calls for a return to the traditional disciplines of theological education in order that the ministry may lead in revitalizing a church which is “typically a reactor rather than an actor with regard to the social forces around it.” Berger asserts that “neither the sacerdotal nor the charismatic concepts of the ministry are really live options today in our major Protestant denominations. The real alternative to a scholarly ministry is not sacramentalism or charisma” for he has already demonstrated that behind these lies Christian scholarship. “It is rather the type of the religious organization man,” who could be prepared for his role in the church by a seminary curriculum which could be “characterized as a cross between business administration, public speaking, and social casework. There would have to be a minimal quantity of theological indoctrination, just enough to fulfill the legitimating functions required by the role—say, to the extent that junior executives being trained for their future work in a corporation would also, somewhere along the line, learn a set of ‘company principles,’ verbal allegiance to which being regarded as part of the loyalty they owe to the organization.” He decries the marginal role that theology plays in the life of the average minister, whether in his relations to his denomination or to his church. If one starts from historic presuppositions of Protestantism, “there is no theoretical alternative to a scholarly ministry,” the author contends. “Furthermore, there is no theoretical alternative to an academic concept of theological education. If we would heed the voice of our bad conscience, we are driven back to the traditional Protestant conception of the theological curriculum. This, of course, implies a strongly conservative position. But this very conservatism is revolutionary if seen against the background of what occurs in most of our seminaries today. Indeed if the dissonant phrase of radical conservatism ever has any validity, it has it in this context.”

Berger sees clearly the implications of his position. Even as the conservative seminaries have

continued to exalt the traditional Biblical and theological disciplines, so must there be a return to these on the part of those schools which turned successively to the social sciences, the psychological and the literary disciplines in an attempt to make the curriculum relevant to the age in which we live. “If the Protestant minister is to be a theological scholar, then his education must concentrate on furthering theologic...

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