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course. The urgency which drives young men into
the pulpit is a weapon of the evil one to counteract,
so far as possible, the good which would otherwise
be accompHshed. The seminary, instead of en-
couraging or compelling this student-preaching,
should forbid it; and, except incidentally, students
should preach only when provision has been made
for careful and severe criticism of the manner and
method of preaching adopted.

My fourth criticism is against the practice in
theological seminaries of providing free tuition and
rooms, and of furnishing financial aid indiscrimi-
nately to all who may apply for the same. This
practice, Hke many others of the church, is a sur-
vival of mediaevalism, and is not consistent with


the spirit of our modern democracy. In answer to
this proposition one may not present the analogy,
so often cited, of the military schools and naval
academies of the government. These are not paral-
lel. It is true that men of the highest type have been
produced in connection with the system in vogue in
the seminaries but they were produced in spite of
the system, not because of it. In general, the bene-
ficiary system, as it is administered, degrades the
student. This is the testimony of hundreds and
thousands who have worked under it. It places
the theological student upon a distinctly lower plane
than that occupied by the law or medical student.
It cultivates in the very beginning of his life a principle
which in too many cases is apphed throughout life.
Nothing is more noticeable, or more despicable,
than the utter lack of independence exhibited by a
great proportion of the ministerial class. In other
words, this system encourages and cherishes a
habit of life which soon becomes permanent. This
habit, though possibly consistent with the methods of
life one hundred years and more ago, does not fit
into the modern conceptions of life as they have
been worked out in the spirit of democracy.

The second group of criticisms will include those
which relate to special subjects of study in the
curriculum, and to the first one reference has already
been made. It is the lack of a sufficient amount of
laboratory work in science in the training of the
ordinary theological student. But how, it is asked.


shall this lack be supplied ? The theological semi-
nary is not responsible for it. This work is college
work, and should be completed before the student
enters the seminary. There is truth in this state-
ment, but it must not be forgotten that the colleges
in which the majority of students preparing for the
ministry are trained devote their attention almost
exclusively to the humanities, and are, for the most
part, lacking in adequate equipment for the teaching
of science. The larger institutions, in which science
is taught with satisfactory methods, do not send any
considerable proportion of their graduates into the
ministry. The question is, therefore, one which
must be considered from the point of view of the
theological curriculum. A specific amount of lab-
oratory work in science is in our day as necessary
for the prospective theological student as a knowl-
edge of Greek, and if the college does not furnish
the student this equipment, the seminary must
take the necessary steps to provide it. We may
not forget that in many theological seminaries of
England and Scotland, which are, perhaps, more
like theological colleges, chairs of science are estab-
lished. It was such a chair that Henry Drummond
occupied in the Free Church College in Glasgow.
The greatest enemy Christianity is called to contend
with is the materialism which has grown up in these
days of modern science. No man is fitted to repre-
sent Christianity in this contest who has not for him-
self mastered the methods and the spirit of modern
scientific workers.


Furthermore, as it is with the theological student
in modern science, so it is in modern psychology.
The instruction in psychology provided in the
smaller institutions from which candidates for the
ministry come in largest numbers is of the same
character as the instruction provided in science.
The work, for the most part, is that which was
being done fifty years ago. What may be called
modern psychology is to them as yet largely unknown.
This statement as to psychology applies Hkewise to
the principles of pedagogy, a subject which, in its
recent application, is of vital interest to the minister.
Child study is as directly connected with the work
of the minister as with that of the teacher, for it is
in the transition age, from twelve to eighteen, that
the work of the church must be done.

But where most of all the curriculum needs
modification is in the matter of Bible study. There
has been much talk about the study of the English
Bible in the theological seminary. A compilation
of the facts, however, shows that a comparatively
small amount of work in the English Bible is being
undertaken. The old-fashioned habit of Bible study
in the home has largely been given up. The amount
of real knowledge of the Bible gained in the Sunday
school, even in a long course of years, is practically
nothing. The college student is so occupied with
other work, and the provision for Bible study within
his reach is so inadequate, in most cases, that he
finishes his course without any definite advance in


this department. The theological seminaries are
sending men into the ministry who have no proper
knowledge of the growth and development of biblical
thought, and who even lack familiarity with the
most common material of the biblical books. The
time of the student is devoted either to the more
mechanical work of learning a new language, or the
peculiarities of a new dialect, or to the so-called
exhaustive exegesis of a few chapters. Of the great
movements of national life, of the contemporaneous
history, of the social development, of the gradual
growth of religious thought, he remains largely ig-
norant. Here, most of all, let me repeat, the curricu-
lum needs modification; and the following criticism
will indicate, at least in part, where this modification
might come in.

About one-fifth of the time of the average theo-
logical student is devoted to the study of the Hebrew
language. This study is compulsory; otherwise the
great majority of the students would omit it. After
the freedom ordinarily given in the later years of
college work, the compulsory language work is in
most cases distasteful. Only work enough is done
by the student to enable him to receive credit for the
course. The time thus spent proves to be wasteful
and injurious. It would be far better, in the case
of some students at least, that this time should be
given to the study of the English Bible. Only one or
two institutions in the country have had the courage
to make Hebrew an elective. The requirement of


Hebrew has worked incalculable injury to the morale
of many students. The study of the Hebrew lan-
guage should be made elective. The result of this
modification would be twofold. Those men who have
reached a mature age, and are by nature really
unfitted to master the details of a new language,
might devote their time to something which would
bring them greater advantage. But besides this,
those who elect the study of Hebrew would approach
the subject from another point of view. It would
be a voluntary study, and their attitude of mind
would be entirely different. Still further, an obliga-
tion will rest upon the instructor in Hebrew to make
the subject as interesting as it may be made, in order
to attract students to its study. As the matter stands
today, the Hebrew instructor need not disturb him-
self, for the students are compelled to attend his
classes. He does not, therefore, have the incentive
to throw into the subject that vitality and energy
which are needed to make it interesting and profitable.
No greater farce may be found in any field of educa-
tional work than that which is involved in the teach-
ing and study of the Hebrew language in many theo-
logical seminaries. It may be suggested that to
make Hebrew an elective is to lower the standard of
theological education. Those who know the facts
connected with the study of Hebrew by theological
students will not make this claim. It is certainly
desirable that every man who preaches from the
sacred Scriptures should be able to read them in the


original, but this is otily one of many desirable
things on the part of the preacher. If he may not
attain all of these, some must be omitted.

A most fertile field for occupation in the training
of the ministerial student is that of English literature.
It may fairly be questioned whether a mastery, so
far as possible, of this field may not be reckoned as
second in importance only to the mastery of the
sacred Scriptures. The great writers have expressed
in tangible form the common feehngs of the soul of
humanity, and this expression always meets direct
response when again brought into touch with the
soul from which it originally proceeded. Surely
the student preparing for the ministry does not
understand the unlimited power of this mighty
weapon, or he would train himself to make use of it
more frequently and with greater skill. In this
particular, as in that of science, and in that of
psychology and pedagogy, the ordinary college is
confessedly weak, while, in fact, it would hardly
be going too far to assert that every minister should
be a speciaHst in EngHsh Hterature. Much of the
technique of a theological education could be put
aside to advantage, if the time thus gained could be
occupied by work in English literature.

But if the theological student lacks living famil-
iarity with the great works of Hterature, he is even
weaker, in general, in his abiHty to express himself
in strong and forcible English. It is notorious that
our college education in the past has been unsuc-


cessful in its effort, where, indeed, effort has been
made, to teach students the use of English. Even
the common principles of expression are unknown
to many of those who present themselves for admis-
sion to the seminary. In these last years a few
institutions, realizing that expression, after all, is
the greatest result to be sought in education, have
given diligent attention to this matter, but it will be
many years before the results accomplished in the
average college will be noticeable. Meanwhile it
will devolve upon the seminary to make ample
provision for training men in English expression.
From the first day, theme work, as it is called, should
be carried on, and, if necessary, much of the distinctly
theological part of seminary work should be omitted,
in order that the student may have an opportunity
to make himself skilful in the use of the English
language. The department of homiletics cannot be
expected to do this work, for it really lies outside the
particular field of that department. A special chair
for instruction in the EngHsh language should be a
part of the curriculum of every well-organized theo-
logical seminary.

In the third group of criticisms we may include
suggestions which bear upon the general scope of
the seminary. This has been referred to above.
These suggestions might all be covered in a plea for
a curriculum which would encourage specialism
in the ministry, as opposed to the present curriculum,
which requires the same work of every man. For


instance, some men are intended by nature to preach.
They may be scholarly, but they can never become
scholars. They may possess a social temperament,
but the work of the pastorate is not natural to them.
They have, however, the abihty to impress an audi-
ence with truths which have taken possession of their
own hearts. Such men should be encouraged to
preach rather than to do the kind of work which
nature never intended they should do. A special
training should be arranged for them which would
enable them to become strong preachers. This
training would, of course, be in large measure the
usual curriculum, but some subjects of the usual
curriculum should* be omitted, and other subjects
substituted, in order that the student in this particu-
lar case might be enabled to cultivate the talent with
which he has been endowed.

Other men, however, who exhibit a different
attitude of mind, and possess a different tempera-
ment, should be advised to select for their study
subjects which would train them specially for pas-
toral work, or general Christian work. The churches
will some time learn that one man, whatever may be
his ability, cannot meet all the demands of modern
times. Then, perhaps, they will readjust their
organization in such a way as to make it possible for
two or three men of different kinds of ability to be
associated together in the same field. Only one
minister in a thousand may be equally strong in the
pulpit and in the pastoral work, and the effort of


that man to do both results not infrequently in prac-
tical suicide. Many churches are today losing
ground because they have placed in the pulpit a
pastor who cannot preach. Other churches are
losing ground because they have a preacher in the
pulpit who cannot or will not do the necessary pas-
toral work. This pastoral training should be some-
thing very different from the training needed for
the preacher.

Many men who enter the theological seminary
with the purpose of preaching j&nd, after a period of
study, that God intended them for teachers rather
than preachers. These desire to consecrate them-
selves to the work of the church. The calling of
the Christian teacher, whatever may be the subject
taught, is hardly less responsible, and hardly less
important, than that of the preacher. Provision
should be made in the seminary by which such men,
while grounded in the teachings of Christianity,
shall find it possible also to devote themselves to
some special field of study, for the sake of the church.
It would be a great advantage to all our institutions
of higher learning if a larger number of the men
engaged in teaching were controlled in life and
thought by the spirit of consecration to the church.
There was a time when only ministers were appointed
to professorships in colleges. The time has come
when, outside of the theological seminary, the
minister is hardly eligible for the professor's chair.
The highest ideal will be realized when men whose


lives have been consecrated to the service of the
Master shall, as a part of that service, prepare
themselves to teach in the various subjects which
form the curriculum of the college and the university.
Meanwhile chairs of biblical literature are multiply-
ing in the colleges, and opportunities to do really
strong work in connection with Bible classes are
rapidly increasing. It is no longer an entirely
anomalous thing for a Bible teacher to receive com-
pensation for his services.

In these modern days the administration of church
affairs has come to assume great importance. Men
who are interested in affairs should be encouraged
to enter upon a service for the church. To this end
men of an administrative turn of mind, who, for one
reason or another, find their way to the seminary,
should be encouraged to give a fair proportion of
their time to courses of instruction arranged especially
with administration as the end in mind. The con-
cerns of the church are increasing in number and in
magnitude. These must be cared for by men spe-
cially trained for the work. The difficulty with
which executive positions are filled in college and
church work is due to the fact that no special pro-
vision has yet been made for the preparation of those
who might wish to undertake such work. Twenty-
five years ago it was never suggested that a man
should prepare himself to be a professor in college.
Today the graduate courses in various universities
are organized for those who publicly announce their


purpose to do professorial work in college lines.
Twenty years from now young men will announce
from the beginning their purpose to prepare them-
selves for college and university presidencies and for
the secretaryships of our great missionary societies,
and will undertake long years of training especially
adapted for such work.

Another department of modern church Hfe that
is becoming more and more emphasized is the
musical work. The men who conduct this work
should be men who have had a theological train-
ing. This training might include also a special
training in church music. Men who have a gift for
musical work should be encouraged to make special
preparation which would fit them for this class of
service, and the seminary should require such train-
ing as an important part of its curriculum.

Another idea which should be applied to home
as well as to foreign work is that of the medical
missionary. Many a Christian man could do more
service for the church by acquiring medical knowl-
edge and making use of it than by giving his time to
the study of Hebrew. It is, of course, true that the
theological seminary cannot easily offer special work
in medicine, but it would be easy, by co-operation
with a neighboring medical school, to arrange a
curriculum in such a manner that a student whose
interest is especially strong in this direction might
secure the necessary part of the theological education,
and in connection with it the medical training.


Let us try now to put the whole matter in a single
proposition: The day has come for a broadening of
the meaning of the word minister, and for the cultiva-
tion of specialism in the ministry, as well as in
medicine, in law, and in teaching. In the village
and small town a single man can do all the work in
the Christian ministry, as well as in medicine and
in law. There is evidently no room here for the
speciahst in any field. But in the small cities, as
well as in the large cities, the time has come when
speciahsm in the ministry is as necessary as speciaHsm
in any other profession. The ministry stands today
in this respect where law and medicine stood twenty-
five years ago. The conservatism of the churches
explains this holding back, and the fact that the
profession of the ministry has not developed, as
other professions have developed, under the influence
of the democratic sentiment, explains why the
stronger and brighter men who come from our
churches ignore the ministry, and choose some other

The fourth group of suggestions will have to do
with methods of instruction employed in the seminary.
Thus, in the first place, the elective system should
characterize the theological curriculum as it now
characterizes that of other departments of education.
Not more than one-third to one-half of the curriculum
should be common to all students. To divide the
time of the theological student equally between four
or five or six departments is, from the pedagogical


point of view, absurd. The elective system is neces-
sary, first of all, in order to give the student an
opportunity to pursue those studies in which he is
most interested. The theological field is very wide,
including linguistic and philological work; historical
and sociological work; philosophical and pedagogical
work; rhetorical and literary work. No man can
have the same degree of interest in all these fields of
study. In one or another he can excel; opportunity
should therefore be given him to select that in which
he can do his best work. But further, the elective
system is necessary in order that the student may be
able, in some special subject, to do a sufficient
amount of work to enable him to cultivate the stu-
dent habit. We are accustomed to speak of the loss,
on the part of ministers, of the student habit. In
most instances we should rather speak of the lack of
such a habit, for in these cases the habit was never
gained. The present theological curriculum com-
pels superficiality. When under obligation to do a
given amount of work, in a given number of depart-
ments, the student is not permitted to gain that
deeper knowledge of any subject which will enable
him to become a student of this subject in the truest
sense. It is for this reason that so many men cease
to be even superficial students when they leave the

What militates especially against the elective sys-
tem in seminaries is the general distribution of de-
partments in the seminary which is, for the most


part, artificial. The students work in these depart-
ments without a realization of the fact that they are
artificial. In other words, they fail to correlate their
work. They are surprised to learn that the problems
which confront them in church history or in sys-
tematic theology are, after all, the same problems
which they were called upon to consider in the field
of the Old Testament. Modern experience shows
that the best work is accomplished when single prob-
lems are taken up by the student and followed, wher-
ever they may lead, into this or that department. A
curriculum should be so arranged that the great and
fundamental subjects (for example, the atonement,
the incarnation, the future life) might be taken up
historically and systematically, a period being given
to the idea as it is presented in the old religions, an-
other period to the consideration of the same subject
in the Old Testament, another in the New Testa-
ment, another in the progress of ecclesiastical history,
and still another to its systematic formulation from
the point of view of modern philosophy. To put this
suggestion in another form, the time has come for
the comparative method to be introduced into theo-
logical work, as well as into the many other fields of
thought in which it has already found a place.

A reason sufficient in itself for the introduction of
the elective system is that when there exists a curricu-
lum requiring so much ground to be covered in a
specified time, the seminar method is clearly imprac-
ticable. This so-called seminar method should be more


widely adopted. It is difficult to define this method.
The central element in it, however, is to encourage
the student to enter upon a personal investigation of
certain subjects for himself. The lecture method is,
for the most part, unsatisfactory. This is even more
true of the text-book method. In special cases, to be
sure, these methods must still be employed, but the
exclusive use of either or both will fail to give the
student the training of which he will stand most in
need when, as an independent student, he is com-
pelled to face the problems of his work. There are
few subjects in the theological curriculum which do
not lend themselves to this method. The results
obtained must be more valuable than those which
come in any other way, because they have been
reached by the student himself.

Another need of the seminaries is something that
would serve the same purpose for the theological stu-
dent as is served by the hospital to the medical student,
or by the law courts to the law student. For lack of a
better phrase, we might suggest ''theological clinics."
And the environment of the theological school usually
includes such material. This material is not limited
to the work of visiting the slums, but includes also
the study of the work of particular preachers, in the
pulpit and in church work, the study of educational
methods, the study of church organization, as illus-
trated on every side. This cHnical or laboratory
method is already a feature of the work of seminaries
in large cities. The fact is, the theological seminary


in any other place than in the large city is as much
handicapped in many features of its work as the
hospital would be in the same situation. But even
in the larger cities this part of the work has scarcely
been touched. The field is boundless, and though
there is danger of throwing away valuable time in
fruitless search for information and experience, yet
under wise guidance this danger may be reduced to
a minimum. Without its clinics a medical school
would be a school for the study of certain facts of
science ; it would not be a training school for physi-

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Online LibraryWilliam Rainey HarperThe trend in higher education → online text (page 16 of 24)