William Rainey Harper.

The trend in higher education online

. (page 15 of 24)
Online LibraryWilliam Rainey HarperThe trend in higher education → online text (page 15 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

is more important than what he says in it. We do
not stand in need of preaching, as men once did;
not because we are better, but because the agencies
for preaching have been so multiplied; the daily
papers, the magazines, the books, lecture courses,
and even the theater, all furnish sermons — some of
them vastly better than any we hear preached from
the pulpit. The minister should recognize this
fact, and by personal hand-to-hand work drive home
the application of these sermons. Why is it so
difficult for the minister to get an audience ? Be-
cause in these days an average audience is made up


of people of so many tastes and temperaments, so
many grades of intellectual advancement, so many
different ages, that the same sermon will not meet
their needs. This is the day of specialism, and in
most churches of three hundred communicants there
are at least six different classes of people who need
special preaching. I have sometimes thought that
the seminar method, if it could be adapted to pulpit
and church work, would be desirable. The minis-
ter must be an organizer. Let us teach him in the
seminary how to organize and what to organize;
and in this work of organization, of using to the
best advantage every man and woman within his
reach, will be found the best method of doing work
in behalf of our civic institutions.

Let us, above all, endeavor to arouse in the
seminary student the right spirit, the right attitude
of mind toward all these outside influences, which
are legitimately the possession of the church, the
relinquishment of which has already cost the church
so dearly; the spirit of inclusiveness, instead of
exclusiveness ; the spirit of aggression, instead of
timidity; the spirit which grows out of the idea that
God is the Father of all men, and that, therefore,
the church should be all things to all men. Let us
train our seminary students to be sages, not priests ;
to stand where men may be found, and quietly, as
brother with brother, to describe to them one by
one the path of life; what to do, what not to do; the
iduties of life, the worth of character. Let us train


them to be sages, not prophets. A few will be
prophets without training, and these few will suffice.
The church needs most, not the man who by his
eloquence can move the multitudes, but the man
who by his life and words can save the individual;
and by salvation I mean, not a deliverance from
Hades, but the perfecting of life. The entire num-
ber of prophets from the beginning has been few;
the number of sincere, earnest teachers or sages
has been legion. Jesus was more of a sage than a
prophet. It is the work of the sage that will bring
the church into the right relationship with our civic
institutions, not that of the priest or prophet.

My third and last suggestion is that the formal
curriculum of the theological seminary should be
modified in such manner as to bring it into adjust-
ment with the new situation. If, now, there has
been no change in the situation, the ground for
modification does not exist. But no one will deny
that democracy within fifty or sixty years has under-
gone great change; that education itself in every
phase has been revolutionized; that the world of
commerce today is a totally different world, in its
methods and in its entire character, from the world
of half a century ago. The curriculum of the
medical school has changed; so has that of the law
school, though not to so great an extent. So far
as I know, the only professional curriculum which
is essentially the same as it was fifty years ago is
that of the theological seminary.


I venture to propose, therefore, that psychology
and pedagogy be introduced, and that the instruc-
tion be adapted to the point of view of the min-

The fundamental relation existing between psy-
chology and all other sciences has been well set forth
by a recent writer in the following paragraph :

Psychology takes the central place in the thought of our
time, and overflows into all channels of our life. It began
with an analysis of simple ideas and feelings, and it has devel-
oped into an insight into the mechanism of the highest acts
and emotions, thoughts and creations. It started by studying
the mental organization of the individual, and it has rushed
forward to the psychical organization of society, to social
psychology, to the psychology of art and science, religion and
language, history and law. It started in the narrow circles of
the philosophers, and it is now at home wherever mental life
is touched. The historian strives today for psychological
explanation, the economist for psychological laws; jurispru-
dence looks on the criminal from a psychological standpoint;
medicine emphasizes the psychological value of its assistance;
the biologist mixes psychology in his theories of evolution.
From the nursery to the university, from the hospital to the
court of justice, from the theater to the church, from the
parlor to the parliament, the new influence of psychology on
the real daily life is felt in this country as in Europe, producing
new hopes and new fears, new schemes and new responsi-

Much might be said for pedagogy, which is,
after all, only an appHcation of psychology. Do
we not realize that in all work, whether for church
or for country, the largest returns come from doing
the work with children. Here again we may take


lessons of wisdom from Roman Catholicism. But
now this work, at least in its technical appHcations
to the work of the university, must be done in the
seminary or left undone.

The seminaries should give instruction in the
principles of economic structure. It is impossible
for the minister to preach ethics for this day and
generation without touching at every turn the laws
of society. Jesus did it, and so therefore must
Jesus' followers do it. It is very largely the minister's
ignorance of these matters, and his utterances
involving this ignorance, which are driving the
business man away from the churches. But here,
as before, the instruction offered must be from the
point of view of the preacher, not merely general
information without special appHcation.

Let us furnish our students a better, deeper,
more comprehensive idea of the Bible and the
growth of the Bible doctrine than we have done in
the past; and to this end, if it is necessary, let us
give up some of the language work which has served
as the bSte noire of the average theological student.
The principles which regulate all hfe and all kinds
of Ufe are found here; and here we should lay a far
greater emphasis than we are accustomed to do.
The historical study of the truth as it has been
revealed through the passing centuries is in itself
the greatest and most efficient preparation for deaHng
with the civic institutions of our day.

If time permitted, I should like to point out how


in this particular the Old Testament has some
advantages over the New. In an address of George
Adam Smith, given some years ago, this was his
theme. The Old Testament shows us God in
touch with the nation; the New Testament, God in
touch with the individual. In a true sense the
New does not supplant the Old; it merely supple-
ments it. But I must omit much that I had wished
to say.

The propositions which I have endeavored to
state are in substance these:

1. The church has work to do for, and in con-
nection with, our civic institutions — a work of the
most imperative character.

2. The minister who leads the church will do
the work by close and vital contact with those
institutions; and here I include industrial institu-
tions and institutions of learning as themselves a
part of the great civic system.

3. The seminaries must open their eyes to the
fact that they are in a new environment — an environ-
ment which makes demands very different from
those made thirty, forty, and fifty years ago. They
must also keep in mind the fact that they are in
large measure responsible for the amount and kind
of work which the church will do.

4. The seminaries must receive a new baptism;
this time, a baptism of the spirit of democracy
which, I make bold to say, is one expression of the
Holy Spirit itself.


5. The seminaries must inculcate a new teaching
of the scope and function of church work; a teaching
based, without question, on bibHcal warrant; a
teaching which shall make it no longer possible for
the church to stand still and see itself drained of
its life-blood.

6. The seminaries must prepare the proposed
minister for the work which will fall to his lot under
this new situation; they must, if necessary, omit
certain work, good in itself, but not so necessary
as the work which the times demand.



Many intelligent laymen in the churches have
the feeling that the training provided for the students
in the theological seminary does not meet the require-
ments of modern times. These men base their
judgment upon what they see in connection with
the work of the minister who has been trained in the
seminary. Nor is this disaffection restricted to
the laity. Ministers who, after receiving this train-
ing, have entered upon the work of the ministry,
and ought, therefore, to be competent judges, are
frequently those who speak most strongly against
the adequacy and the adaptation of the present
methods in the seminary. So prevalent is this
feeling that students for the ministry often ask the
question, "Is there not some way of making prepara-
tion other than through the seminary ? '' Not a few
men are securing this preparation by taking graduate
courses in the universities ; while, on the other hand,
some prefer to adopt the so-called short-course

The condition of the churches, both rural and
urban, is not upon the whole encouraging. Ministers
of the better class are not satisfied to accept the rural
. . 234


churches; and yet these same ministers are not
strong enough, or sufficiently prepared, to meet the
demands of many of the city churches. The rivalry
of denominations has led to the multiplication of
churches, and in turn church abandonment in some
sections of the country is being substituted for church
building. It is not the purpose of this paper to
consider the occasion of this condition of things in
the churches. At the same time it is probably true
that, whatever may be the occasion, the ministry is
in some measure responsible; for we are compelled
to beHeve that, with better organization and more
efficient administration, this condition of things
would not exist. But now, if the ministers are in
any measure responsible, the theological seminary
in which they receive their training must bear the
brunt of the reproach, for, surely, the ministers are
very largely what the theological seminary makes
them. Their ideals, their equipment, and their spirit
are the product of the seminary.

The model in accordance with which the modern
theological seminaries have been organized had its
origin a century or more ago ; but though the environ-
ment of the seminary has utterly changed during
this century, the seminary itself has remained prac-
tically at a standstill. To say the least, there are
to be found in its organization and curriculum
many survivals from the oldest times. These sur-
vivals are out of harmony with the whole situation
as it exists today. These elements, therefore, do


not suit the present situation. It is not enough
merely to say that they occasion a waste of time and
energy. In fact, they do distinct injury to everything
with which they come into close relationship, and,
what is of greater importance, they take the time
and attention which something stronger and better
ought to occupy.

Assuming, without further argument, then, that
the curriculum of the seminary should be modified,
there would seem to be two general principles in
accordance with which such modifications should be
made, and these should be considered before pre-
senting a recommendation of specific changes.

The first is that modifications of the curriculum
should accord with the assured results of modern
psychology and pedagogy, as well as with the de-
mands which have been made apparent by our com-
mon experience, so far as this experience relates to
the student and the preparation for his work. If this
principle were adopted, certain ends would always
be held in mind by those who deal with the theological

An effort would be made so to adjust the work
of the seminary as to render it attractive to the best
men. Much has been said about the small number
of men in our college classes who enter the ministry.
Much more might be said as to the quality of these
men, when compared with the men who enter the
other professions and occupations. This difficulty,
of course, cannot be charged wholly to the character


of the instruction offered in the seminary, since it
stands connected also with the profession itself.
But actual observation shows that the curriculum
of the seminary has something to do with the matter,
since many of the better men seem to think that a
satisfactory preparation may be secured in some
other way.

The curriculum should be of such a character
as to give the training best adapted to the individual
taste and capacity of the student. The field of
theological study is a broad one. No man can
cover all or even a large portion of it. The interest
of some men will be aroused more easily in one line
of work than in another. Some phases of the work
required are very distasteful to many men. To
spend time on such work is for these men a waste.
It is, moreover, injurious to the student. Theo-
logical students are supposed to be men of maturity.
Beyond a general and comprehensive knowledge
of the Scriptures, it is not necessary that all should
have the same training. It is important, indeed,
that men should be trained along different lines.
What is helpful to one man may be injurious to
another. In a field characterized by such variety,
advantage may well be taken of the opportunity
thus offered.

An effort should, furthermore, be made to give
the student that particular training which will
enable him to grow stronger and stronger in future
years. It is an unfortunate fact that a large pro-


portion of men who enter the ministry begin to lose
intellectual strength from the moment they leave
the seminary. In some cases this probably could
not be prevented in any way, but in many cases it
is due to the wrong training which the student re-
ceived while in the seminary. In other words, the
seminary is not a place in which men are to learn
certain views, or to receive and adopt certain opin-
ions. It is rather a place in which men shall be
taught to think. It is unfair that the student, who
spends his time and money for a specific thing,
should receive in return, not what will prove to be
a proper equipment, but instead something, the
real nature of which years of pastoral experience
may be required to show. In planning the work
of the seminary, this, then, should be kept in mind:
the student is beginning a work that will continue
through many years. Every hour of the curriculum
should be arranged with the sole purpose of furnish-
ing that training which will render him more efficient
as the years go by. With such training, men will
not be compelled to leave the pulpit at the age of
forty-five or fifty. They will be stronger at sixty
than at thirty-five. Is this the case today?

That training is demanded which upon the
whole will best adapt the individual to his environ-
ment. This makes necessary a study of the indi-
vidual and likewise a study of the environment.
It is important that the instructor should study his
student, and it is equally important that the student


should study his environment. Failure in most
cases is simply inability to adjust one's self to his
environment. Education should have for its first
aim the establishment of such an adjustment.

But this suggests the second principle in accord-
ance with which such modifications must be made.
Modifications of the curriculum should be of such
a nature as to meet the demands suggested by the
character of the field in which the student is to
work — the demands, in other words, which in general
concern the present state of society in the midst of
which the student finds himself. Here, again, cer-
tain conclusions are immediately apparent.

In the first place, the training of the theological
student should be adjusted to the modern demo-
cratic situation. Real democracy is not a century
old. The atmosphere of the present day is essentially
different from the atmosphere of our grandfathers.
Even fifty years ago men did not dream of the devel-
opment which was to come, nor of the results which
were to follow the introduction of self-government
by the people. The curriculum of the theological
seminary, however, has not been modified to meet
this new situation. Though Christianity is demo-
cratic through and through, the church, has to a
large extent, antagonized the democratic spirit.
The masses are out of sympathy with the church,
because they confound the church and Christianity,
ascribing to the latter the aristocratic attitude of
the former. If the theological student is to do his


work in a democratic atmosphere, he must be filled
with the democratic spirit and must learn to employ
democratic methods. This is not the spirit, and
these are not the methods, of the ordinary theological
seminary. And unless this spirit is permitted to
control the work and methods of the seminary, the
minister will find the opportunities for his work
reduced both in number and in character.

Then, certain changes should be made which will
bring the work of the theological student into touch
with the modern spirit of science. The great ma-
jority of students who enter the theological seminary
have but a slight knowledge of science, if any. They
have come in large measure from the smaller de-
nominational colleges, few of which have any equip-
ment adapted to the teaching of science. Here,
indeed, a real difficulty presents itself. If a pros-
pective theological student is sent to a state institu-
tion, or to one of the larger universities in which he
would learn directly and definitely this scientific
spirit, he is in danger of being drawn away from his
purpose to preach. If, on the other hand, he goes
to a small denominational college, he fails to secure
any adequate preparation in science or psychology.
It is true, moreover, that theological students in
general are devoid of the scientific sense. They
have little or no sympathy with scientific work.
They utterly lack that point of view which will
enable them to bring themselves into relationship
with that greatest factor in modern civiHzation,


popularly called science. The man who has not
had training in science cannot speak e£fectively on
any subject, least of all the subject of religion, to
men who have had such training. We should be
surprised, not at the small number of scientists who
maintain their church connections, but rather at
the comparatively large number who retain such
connection in spite of the pulpit ministrations to
which they are compelled to listen.

And, finally, some adjustment must be found by
which the curriculum will be enabled to meet the
demands that are made by the present pecuHar
social conditions. Reference has already been made
to the inabiHty of the ordinary preacher to make an
impression on the lower classes. The evidence
would seem to be quite conclusive that he is equally
unable to influence the higher classes. The country
is full of men who have become wealthy. The
number of wealthy men increases every decade.
It is democracy itself that has made possible this
large number of wealthy men. The most interesting
problem, perhaps, that confronts the future democ-
racy is the question: How will she adjust herself to
men of wealth, or they to her? Meanwhile, what
is the attitude of the church toward this growing
class of influential men? How shall men be pre-
pared who shall be able to work out this difiicult
problem? For it is the problem of the church as
well as the problem of democracy. Something is
being done in sociological lines to train men to


exercise influence among the working classes.
Nothing, however, has yet been proposed in the
way of a training which will enable the ministry to
do successful work among the richer classes.

These, then, are the principles and conditions
upon which the curriculum must be modified, and
now before making a specific recommendation of
modifications, I shall ofiFer certain general criticisms
upon the present curriculum. For the sake of con-
venience, these may be divided into groups the first
of which will include criticisms relating to points
of a more or less external character.

The present scope of the theological curriculum
includes practical preparation for only one kind of
Christian work; namely, preaching. A hundred
years ago this was sufficient, but in these modern
times a great change has come. Many phases of
the reUgious work of our times are conducted by
those who are not preachers. Lay workers in differ-
ent lines are numerous, and the church must assume
the responsibiUty for the special preparation of these
men and women, as well as for that of preachers.
If one were to calculate the number of those whose
lives are given to Christian work of one kind and
another, in which they find the means of their sub-
sistence, the number would, perhaps, exceed that
of the preachers. Only here and there is prepara-
tion made for the training of these workers, and this
preparation is in many cases of a distinctly inferior
character. Why should not the curriculum of the


theological seminary be broadened sufficiently to
include this larger modern work?

There seems also to be sufficient evidence for
another criticism: that the present training of the
theological seminary too frequently cultivates on
the part of the students a narrow and exclusive
spirit. In the case of institutions located in country
towns, and isolated from the various activities of
human Hfe this could not be otherwise. For in so
far as the seminary follows the pohcy of the mediaeval
monastery, in so far does it cultivate a narrow and
exclusive spirit. In so far as the seminary accepts
students who have not already received a broad
education in letters and science, it, further, culti-
vates such a spirit; and in so far as its own curricu-
lum includes only theological subjects, it still cul-
tivates this spirit. The great majority of American
seminaries are located in out-of-the-way places, and
are not in touch with modern Hfe. It is almost
impossible that the average student educated in these
institutions should have a broad and generous spirit.
There are some men, of course, who, in their very
nature, transcend all limits imposed by narrowness
in education, but these are the exception, and are
comparatively few.

Again, the arrangements of many seminaries not
only encourage, but compel, the student to preach
constantly during the first years of his theological
course. In the seminaries of some denominations
preaching is not allowed in the first year. This


should be the regulation in every seminary. The
contention is made that such preaching is practice
of the most valuable character in that which is
to be the Hfe-work of the student. The truth is
that in most cases student-preaching in the first
and second years of the theological course is an evil.
To this evil may be traced the ^ bad habits which
many preachers exhibit in their later ministry.
The student who does the work of the class-room
during the week is not in fit condition to preach
regularly on the Sabbath. Every sermon preached
under these circumstances injures him. The habit
of slovenliness is inevitably acquired, and when once
acquired this habit may not be corrected by the
limited instruction given in the later years of his

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 15 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

Online LibraryWilliam Rainey HarperThe trend in higher education → online text (page 15 of 24)