The most dangerous place in the academic world

I was reading one of Dr. D. A. Carson’s famous book, A Call for Spiritual Reformation. This a wonderful book Dr. Carson wrote, and it was very enjoyable. In the introduction, Dr. Carson points out the major problem of the church in nowadays, which is lacking of the knowledge of God. And based on this argument, Dr. Carson continued on his following “call” and teachings on Christians’ daily prayer. By reading this book, my sense on prayer had been corrected, and by doing the suggestions Dr. Carson mentioned, my prayers were shaped in many ways. I can understand the point Dr. Carson wanted to make, which was focusing on the prayer life of Christian, but I believe there is another problem exists in modern/post-modern churches, which is lacking of reading the Words of God.

I was doing some personal studies on the history of my seminary, which is called Toronto Baptist Seminary (TBS), which had also be mentioned in Dr. Carson’s book, Memoirs of An Ordinary Pastor. While I was reading Rev. W. Gordon Brown’s posted articles in the Gospel Witnesses in 1948, I found one of the foundational philosophies of education of my school, which is presenting the Bible as the supreme of the seminary. (Rev. Brown was the former dean of TBS. After he was fired by Dr. T. T. Shields, the founder of TBS, he brought away 2/3 of the student body and established Central Baptist Seminary, where Dr. Carson graduated in the 18s, and which is called the Heritage Theological Seminary now. Rev. Brown also had involved in the NIV translation work. At here I do not want to present more stories between Dr. T. T. Shields and Rev. W. G. Brown, but it is sure that I love both of them and we shall always remember that there is no perfect one except Christ Jesus our Lord.) In a letter to Rev. W. G. Brown, a prospective student asked Rev. Brown if TBS is a Bible-centred school or not. This unnamed prospective student was told that the major difference between a Bible school and seminary is the view of Bible, by which means a Bible school is a place to study of the Bible itself, and a seminary is a place to study about the Bible. More clearly, this young man means that the main textbook of a Bible School is the Bible, but the textbooks of a seminary are many other books about the Bible. I seemed to be confused, that how come a seminary is not a place to study the Bible? In Dr. T. T. Shields and Rev. W G. Borwn’s time, there was a battle between the Fundamentalist Christians and the liberalist around the world. The Fundamentalists believe the truth of the Bible, and believes that the Bible is absolutely true as it was inspired by God, but for the Liberalists, they deny the authority of God and the Bible by criticizing the Scripture as a man-maded book, and deny almost all of the fundamental truth of the Bible. As the Fundamentalists, Dr. Shields and Rev. Brown were the very persons to defence the Christian beliefs and to attack those who are false teachers, such as Mr. L. H. Marshall who was the liberal professor of New Testament in McMaster University. By replying the prospective student, Rev. Brown said these:
Our main book is the Bible. We read it in Hebrew and Greek, but especially in English. Of course we have books about the Bible, and we study methods of presenting the Bible, but the Bible stands supreme in all our teaching, study, thinking and preaching. (GW, June 17,1948)
It must be true that the BIBLE must be the supreme of our theological studies, otherwise we will become liberal and start to be confused and blinded by our “knowledge” and proud. This is also the major points I want to present by this article.
As a second year student of a seminary, I had experienced many both academically and spiritually. Before I went to he seminary, I thought it was a very perfect place, which fills with the most godly men and women, and they seems to live in the Heaven with the Lord everyday, so that they must be very spiritual. As soon as I got into the seminary and became such a person I dreamed, I found there are some differences between the reality and the truth. Yes, it is a very comfortable place for me, as I am meeting, talking and living with Christians and spiritual men and women, but there are something very hard to say about the seminary. In the beginning of my second year, I started to recognize the problem, which is that the seminary is a place for Christians such as me to feel proud. In our daily classes, we are being taught the plain truth of the Bible and of Christianity. We are taught the Systematic Theologies, the Biblical Theologies, Hermeneutics, the skills on Homiletics, and so on. I did not say that the method of teaching is not good, nor saying that theological studies are not good. I believe theological studies are essential for Christians, but the only problem seems to be if we only see these knowledges as academic subjects and do not know how to transform it to our lives, it would be very dangerous and sad, and I believe this is also the way why Liberalists become liberal. Everyday we talk about God, about Jesus, and about the Bible, so that these daily talking seem to become our habit, and we are starting to be aware of what are we talking about, and we are becoming petrified. And sooner or later, we will just care for our academics and start to criticize our pastor’s sermons. I am still remembering what Dr. P. Constant, who is one of my favourite professor in TBS, addressed in his Hermeneutics class, he said that this course will be a very dangerous course for all of you to take, for it will easily make you feel proud. Later, Dr. Constant gave us an example which was happened in his church, and his wife was not happy with one of the brother who always criticizing their pastor’s sermons, she asked “Who do you think you are?” (certainly she asked in French) Even though it is very harsh, but it is the truth. Who do you think you are? Having knowledge means nothing, but only living out he knowledge gives meaning. Christ reproached the Pharisees, who was the symbol of the scholasticism and the hypercriticism. Who do you think you are? Surely, you are no better than a Pharisee if you do not live out the knowledge about Christ Jesus. The reason Christ Jesus incarnated as a human flesh is not only because He must become out atonement to save our lives, also He is the very example of our Christian life.
It is just like what Keith Getty and Stuart Townend wrote in their song “O Church Arise”:
our call to war, to love the captive soul, but to rage against the captor
Love is the essential element for each theological students to have in fact.
Another fact I learned is that we theological students do not really read the Bible regularly and mainly in our daily lives. The studies in seminaries are always on reading secondary books and writing numberless papers on different theological topics. You may achieve very high mark without reading the Bible, for some of the resources can give very brief references which you can copy to your papers. But we are like the babies who only eat the chewed food. Therefore, we cannot really grow, for even though we can graduate with a very high academic achievement, but we are still spiritual babies. Again, the most important issue for theological students to deal with is the relationship between God and us. I love Dr. Michael A. G. Haykin’s words on our Christians life, he said, when we converted to Christ Jesus, our ownership of ourselves had already give up and submitted to Christ. He also said that a true Christian must be those person whose arms are broken by God and wholly depend on Christ Jesus.

I have a highly recommended for you, if you are a theological student like me, which was edited by Andrew Cameron and Brian S. Rosner, named The Trials of Theology: Becoming a “Proven Worker” in a Dangerous Business.

Read the Bible, and ask Christ to mould us, so that He can prepare us to be used by Him. Glory be His name alone!

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