Periodical Reviews -- By: Anonymous
BSac 154:616 (Oct 97) p. 480
“The Future Role of the Bible in Seminary Education,” Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Concordia Theological Quarterly 60 (1996): 245-58.
Many Christians assume that the Bible will continue to have a prominent position in theological curricula of both mainstream and evangelical seminaries, but Kaiser wants to examine this assumption in view of discussions by educators about “paradigm shifts.”
Enrollment trends in seminaries since 1985 indicate fewer students are answering the call to pastoral ministries than in previous decades. Given the additional demographic fact that many pastors will retire soon, it is surprising that some theological educators are talking about downsizing. Furthermore there have been calls for curriculum reform to make seminaries more user-friendly. Proposed curricula would emphasize ministry skills including management, finances, counseling, leadership, conflict management, and personal spiritual development. Kaiser’s concern in all this is that such curriculum shifts will likely be made at the expense of courses in Bible, Greek, and Hebrew.
The value of the Old Testament is the first question Kaiser addresses, since Hebrew and the Old Testament consume a large portion of the curricula in many seminaries. Is the Old Testament essential, as Emil Kraeling contended, or should it be jettisoned, as Adolf Harnack bluntly asserted? A proper understanding of the Old Testament is necessary to avoid abberations of theology and to appreciate the unity of the Bible and its central theme. If the values of society and the techniques of the marketplace dictate a seminary’s curriculum, there will surely be an enormous famine in churches for the Word of God. But instruction in the Old Testament, particularly in reference to doctrine, ethics, practical living, and preaching, will contribute to spiritual nourishment. Declaring the whole counsel of God, therefore, is necessary for a balanced and sound theology.
Kaiser argues that the study of Hebrew and Greek is as important to the evangelical world today as it was to the early days of New England when such study was a required part of ministerial training. A learned clergy can appreciate the subtleties of the biblical text in the
BSac 154:616 (Oct 97) p. 481
original languages in a way that is impossible through English translations. A disciplined study of the original text is an antidote to the subjectivistic interpretations that are little more than fads of popular Christianity. Kaiser deals sternly with the objection that many pastors, through neglect, forget much of the language ability they acquired in seminary.
The lessons of history, especially J. Gresham Machen’s experience ...
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