My Responce to Dr. R. Scott Clark

Discussion in 'Seminaries, Colleges & Education' started by JOwen, Mar 6, 2007.

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  1. R. Scott Clark

    R. Scott Clark Puritan Board Senior


    In the interests of time, I would like to focus on one question of principle rather than the particulars of your proposal.

    We've been round this pole more than a few times and I don't expect to convince you, but I hope that you will at least appreciate how it seems to me that your approach is a subtle sort of anti-intellectualism.

    I think there is a difference between real, professional scholarship and that of the amateur variety. Frankly, most pastors are amateurs and they who have attended real seminaries know it. They see what real scholarship looks like and they know that isn't what they do.

    Real scholarship involves the reading of primary and secondary texts. It involves the critical appreciation of both. This is part of what separates professional scholars from amateurs. The latter only know what they read from the professionals and, to a larger degree, must rely on the judgment of professionals. For example, I'm working on Olevianus' Pauline Commentaries. Hardly anyone knows anything about them. Certainly pastors don't and aren't in a position to do. My students know what I tell them. Even if they could read Latin (a few of them can) they aren't equipped to put into proper context what they're reading. That's what I do and have been doing full-time since 1993.

    That's okay, they're not meant to be full-time vocational scholars and the profs aren't meant to be full-time vocational pastors (though our faculty are part-time pastors; we all preach, we all visit hospitals, we all serve our congregtions; we all do counseling etc so we are not remote from the life of the church as some (not you) like to insinuate.

    It seems to me that you're saying that we really don't need scholars (as I've defined them) to teach our students. You seem to be saying that it's okay for well-read pastors (of which there are relatively few, it seems to me) teach other, younger, pastors. In my view, that is a form of anti-intellectualism, because though it professes to value learning, it only values it as a credential ("union card" to use Fred's term) or insofar as it is immediately practical to the life of the church.

    As to the nature of seminaries, I don't have time to sketch the whole history of education, but I take issue with your characterization. A university education was the norm from the 12-13th centuries. Calvin's lack of theological training was an anomaly and not entirely helpful. There may have been some benefits (some have argued) but arguably the Reformed after him and to clean up a bit because of his lack of training in some questions. There are things he didn't anticipate. His humanism (which some have over-emphasized) did help him leave us with a sound hermeneutic which makes his commentaries still remarkably useful (!) but you'll notice that the Reformed did not quote him slavishly and even took issue with him not long after his death. Luther's education was more typical.

    To those who've complained about the time it takes, well, since the 13th century anyway, it's always taken a certain number of years to earn a BA and then a BD or an Masters. These processes developed out of the practice of the church before the Reformation and were revised but not fundamentally rejected by the Protestants.

    We're our primary education as strong as Calvin's and our university training as strong as his (in classical education) we might be able to shorten things a bit, but even in the 16th century, when there was rather less to read, they still took their time.

    One of Calvin's great aims was to establish an Academy. He finally achieved it late in life. By the early 17th century, all the Reformed were university educated (with at least a BA, which in England matured to a Master of Ars) and many took a BD as well.

    Thus, the idea that a university educated ministry (a sem faculty is, historically considered) a university faculty in exile that has morphed in the 20th century into a tertium quid, is a product of the Enlightenment is something I don't understand at all.

  2. R. Scott Clark

    R. Scott Clark Puritan Board Senior


    I know you're kidding, but this is exactly why I say what I do about the normativity of the apostolic model.

    Presumably, Timothy had access to apostolic gifts or was in the company of the apostles and had recourse to resources that we do not now. I take it that there were prophets and others who had Spirit-inspired gifts and abilities that do not exist now.

    We are cessastionists aren't we? If so, doesn't that speak to the necessity of seminary education?

  3. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    There is good things to say on both sides.

    Normally, Dr. Clark, I think it is a good thing that doctors don't hire "self-taught" doctors. Same with lawyers.

    However, we should be open to the fact that people like Dr. Blalock should be smart enough to run as fast he he can to get Vivien Thomas in the surgery room with him. (If you are unsure about what I mean - watch this: )

    Sometimes, the Lord raises up people that are not only gifted, but even more gifted in their self-training, than many or most who are seminary trained.

    There are, for example, more intellectually astute brothers AND sisters here on the Puritanboard, then most pastors that reside in the South Florida area (and that is speaking from experience in interacting with them on important issues).

    That doesn't mean we should throw out seminaries, or that "home-schooled" pastors is necessarily a bad thing given the right situation in both.

    If you asked me who I'd want operating on my newborn, I'd say Thomas any day of the week.

    If you asked me who I'd want to sit under while they preach in the pulpit, I'd simply say a well-trained AND ministerially groomed minister.

    I went to a brick and mortar bible college and seminary, and in my case (only speaking from experience) my training at Whitefield trumped RTS by light years.

    Reason I say that is because by the time I got to seminary, I already had 4 years of languages under my belt, had gone through, not only Greek, but 3 more years of advanced Greek, Greek Exegesis, critical text work, etc., (to use this as an example) and found that once I go to seminary, most people there were just starting Machen, and would end up with 1/4th of what I had already learned 4 years previously. So I was not impressed with RTS's Language study for MINISTERS. The same, in this kind of area would go for things practically like the Law, the RPW, Historical Theology, and a host of other things like the WCF. Can you imagine going through seminary and never even HEARING about the Westminster Confession but in passing? That's was RTS Orlando. So think about this - the number of graduates from that school when I graduated who had no previous experience in any kind of ministry of Bible education, went into the ministry without learning Greek Exegesis, or any kind of scholarly "academia". They learned what I learned the first 3 years of a Bible degree in college. And to me, that's scary, and today, that's normal.

    I'm not trying to undermine seminary education. I'm for it in more ways than one. I'm just not 100% committed to saying that Vivien Thomas is not well prepared because he did not go to Medical School.
  4. tcalbrecht

    tcalbrecht Puritan Board Junior

    Well, yes and no.

    What evidence do we have that Timothy was the beneficiary of any particular, identifiable apostolic gifts for his training in the gospel ministry? In fact, is it not true that ministers were trained for centuries in essentially the same way as Timothy?
  5. Davidius

    Davidius Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Not trying to just jump in, but Dr. Clark may be referring to this:

    [bible] 1 Tim 4:14-15[/bible]
  6. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    It's not a political saying, it's pretty universal. My point is that things could be this way. I acknowledge that Churches don't have the same resources but if they're committed to a man's education from the time of his identification through his ordination then it need not be "every man for himself".

    Incidentally, it's called the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA. I received my Masters in EE from there in 1996 and met my wife at the Church I attended there. Monterey is beautiful. The military has paid for my Bachelor's degrees and two Masters Degrees. It costs them a lot to educate their Officers but they do so because they value equipping them for a hard task.

    Some seem to miss the point of the amount of energy the military puts into weeding out people they don't want leading their people. The analogy should be even stronger in the Church. At best, I could be responsible for the physical deaths of Marines under my command due to my incompetence. How much more dangerous is the spiritual damage caused by incompetent ministers...
    Imagine that. What a novel concept.
  7. R. Scott Clark

    R. Scott Clark Puritan Board Senior


    There were catechetical schools by 200. There was a formal educational process very early in the history of the church and there were formal rabbinical schools well before that as a sort of precedent. There was an educational process for ministers. It was not as elaborate as it became, but there were certainly formal educational structures. As Christian theology became more elaborate (Origen's was pretty elaborate!) and as the church faced increasingly complex internal and external challenges, the educational process developed gradually.

    I think a lot of folk accept the old German liberal notion that the early church (and the Apostolic church) was sort of amorphous and was only gradually made formal by the rise of the Roman episcopal system. That's not true.

    As I suggested earlier, there were cathedral schools in the early medieval period and those grew organically into universities in Paris and Oxford and by the mid 14th century universities were popping up across Europe as academic specialization kicked into high gear.

    As to Timothy, I was thinking of the passage David cited. I take it that the charismata were widespread throughout the apostolic church and that such ceased with the close of the canon.

  8. tcalbrecht

    tcalbrecht Puritan Board Junior

    Dr. Clark,

    As I understand it, the early catechetical schools were not a particular training ground for ministers of the gospel, but were for inquirers into the Christian faith. Granted, there may have been a great deal of instruction in these schools, but not necessarily with an eye towards producing priests or bishops. In the very early church the model for instruction of ministers (elders) seems to have been via the same approach used by Paul with Timothy, or Jesus with the twelve. Elder-candidates learned at the feet of other elders in the context of the local church.

    Even rabbinical schools, if we can somehow appropriate that model to the early church, was not a place where a bevy of instructors took turns stuffing theology into the heads of students. The rabbinical schools were generally run by a single rabbi whose singular views were taught. Thus the School of Shammai or School of Hillel.

    But the gradual introduction of formalism does not necessitate the evolution to the university system of the late medieval era. How was Origen or Augustine or most of the early church fathers trained for the gospel ministry? Augustine was largely self-taught prior to being made a priest. And that seemed to have continued until being made bishop of Hippo.

    We also have the tradition of Irenaeus learning at the feet of Polycarp who supposedly was trained by the apostle John.

    As I read the verse it is not clear that a particular extraordinary apostolic gift might be in view in the passage, or how that gift had an extraordinary role in Timothy's continued preparation for the office of pastor/teacher. Certainly not every occurrence of charismata is meant to refer to an extraordinary gift (cf. 1 Peter 4:10). And certainly the gift of pastor/teacher was an ordinary one, meant to stay with the Church for her edification, purity, and growth.

    While there seems to have been an extraordinary confirmation of that gift by a prophetic word, that prophecy and gift was also confirmed by the (ordinary) ordination by the presbytery.
  9. ReadBavinck

    ReadBavinck Puritan Board Freshman


    My experience at Westminster Seminary California (WSC) has been very different from your experiences elsewhere and the training you describe, especially in the two categories below. I am sorry you have had such poor experiences, they sound somewhat like my undergrad, which makes me all the more grateful for the blessing I receive here.

    You say:
    I appreciate your point about being busy, there is certainly some truth to that. I've read thousands of pages since being in seminary and written quite a few myself. Our first born was born in October right around mid-terms. I'm going to school full-time. I intern at my church. I am self-employed. And on top of all this, my undisciplined nature has to be beaten in to submission so I'm not scrambling at the last minute on everything.

    Yet in spite of all this, which I'm happy to do, I enjoy the very real interactions with my professors and their families all the time. Drs. Clark, VanDrunen, Baugh, Jones, Estelle, and Kim have all spent long periods of time with me patiently helping me to think through issues that are often muddled in my mind--sometimes related to class, sometimes not. Dr. Estelle, often reminds us that his church (the OPC) has called him to teach at our seminary, and thus it is part of his ministry to be available and helpful. It's not uncommon to see him in a game of Ultimate Frisbee after class. In addition, this mentoring happens at school, in church, at parties, even in the student's homes!

    And this is just the professors. Those in the administration (Brian Mills, Dick Cummings, and others) have also been very helpful and available to me in a number of different areas.

    There is something you haven't mentioned which is important. It is not only my interaction with professors that is valuable to me, but I also learn a great deal from seeing my peers and professors interact and work together. And even the way the professors work with one another. This is no small thing. For example, at WSC we have something we call the Warfield seminar. There, faculty members present drafts or revisions of papers/projects they are working on. Then there is an opportunity for students and faculty member to ask questions and critique the presenter. Besides the opportunity to learn from the presenter, one also can learn a great deal from the way professors critique and learn from one another. This sort of thing also happens in many informal ways.

    In my case this is far from fallacious. I can’t emphasize how much certain brothers of mine (and sisters) have been helpful to me. These friends encourage me, teach me, humble me and help me learn how to learn. From fellowship on the Lord’s Day, to time spent after class, to late-night study sessions, to the pub after finals, this dull blade is slowly, but surely sharpened, by the caring and patient of people, whose different backgrounds and perspectives open my eyes in fascinating ways. I’m not talking about a sort of general people-group but particular names and faces, each with his/her own particularities—my friends.
  10. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    Whatever else this discussion has engendered, I find it supremely ironic that the following have been explicitly argued:

    1. It is not only possible, but ordinary that seminary scholars are also great pastors.

    2. It is not only unlikely, but nearly impossible that pastors can be great scholars as well.

    Is it something in the water? Or the magic in the building?
  11. R. Scott Clark

    R. Scott Clark Puritan Board Senior

    This seems mainly right to me, but it seems odd to think that the laity were catechized, i.e., formally instructed, but that ministers were not?

    I don't want to read back into the 3rd century a highly developed pattern of ministerial education, but simply to say that what became the university developed organically out of earlier forms in response to various internal and external stimuli.

    Yes, a lot of the instruction probably was personal (face to face!), in tutorials. Undergraduate and graduate instruction is still done this way in some places (as opposed to classroom settings).

    Just because there were tutorials doesn't mean there wasn't some structure and genuine learning.

    I don't think I suggested that the rabbinical schools were equal to modern day seminaries. I'm only providing more evidence of a pattern of the existence of formal education in various settings.

    Formalism is a pejorative.

    Formal (structured) education is not necessarily formalism.

    As to Augustine being "self-taught," I'm not sure what you mean. Can you elaborate? If you mean that he was self-taught in theology, I would concede that, but as I've said about Calvin and others, they test the rule. There aren't many like Augustine in the history of the church. We surely don't want to make him the pattern!

    As to Timothy, I guess we must disagree about the degree to which the apostolic church is discontinuous with the post-apostolic church. No doubt God used what we think of as ordinary (which is ambiguous since it means both "ordained" and "not supernatural") means in Timothy's life, but he was instructed by a fellow who had been to the Third Heaven!

    Thus, I'm calling for caution in appealing to apostolic patterns generally. We can learn general principles, but to say that because Peter did X, therefore we should or can do it seems problematic.
  12. wsw201

    wsw201 Puritan Board Senior

    I find it ironic that the following have not been explicitly argued:

    1. There are more RE's and Deacons in Christ's Church than TE's.

    2. RE's and Deacons can and do have just as much impact on Christ's Church as TE's.

    3. RE's and Deacons on the whole are the most poorly trained officers in Christ's Church.
  13. R. Scott Clark

    R. Scott Clark Puritan Board Senior


    Are you being fair here?

    I haven't claimed that the WSC faculty are great pastors (though I'm sure some of them are!) but only, in response to the complaint that academics are in an "ivory tower," that we are actively involved in the life of the church and that we come to our academic work with an acute sense of the pastoral needs of the local congregation and broader church.

    In my experience, few pastors are "great" scholars. I don't think, however, that many practicing scholars are "great" scholars either. I certainly don't think of myself in such categories. I was distinguishing between professional and amateur (which I didn't use pejoratively).

    I sense that this discussion has probably (once again) run it's course -- at least for me.



  14. JJF

    JJF Puritan Board Freshman

    I can only agree with Christopher. Humble theology is existentially ignited in the company of all the people that Christopher mentioned, at least at WSC. I have had the privilege of hearing several lectures (conversations) with Dr. Horton at a beautiful vineyard in Escondido--they weren't just "academic." He even bought a bottle of wine for us to share. You can't do that by distance, not yet anyway. There are very few ivory tower types at WSC, which is a breath of fresh air. Nevertheless, they're very fine scholars.

    Not only is there a serious academic ambience here, but we are shepherded by our pastors in our individual churches. I interact with non-seminarians every Lord's day, and I see professors do the same. This combination of atmospheres, both church and academy, all in one place, cannot be achieved by distance. At least for me, correspondence through email and telephone seems artificial. Haven't you ever been on the phone or behind a keyboard and wondered--if only I could see him/her?

    Now, I'm not going into the pastorate, but I believe that being around this enviroment will make me a better academic. Such an educational experience, is, to put in another graduate's words "enobling and rare."
  15. Catechist

    Catechist Puritan Board Freshman

    I hope to go to seminary once my children are grown and after I retire. I only hope that a few of my children will join me DV.
  16. cih1355

    cih1355 Puritan Board Junior

    Home schooling is not the same as distance education. In home schooling, the student has face-to-face interaction with the teacher because the teacher is in the home. There is no face-to-face interaction between the teacher and the student in distance learning.
  17. Poimen

    Poimen Puritan Board Post-Graduate


    Perhaps I was somewhat cryptic in my statement: what I meant was that the debate regarding the different types of seminaries reminded me of the the debate regarding the different types of schooling. In other words, let us not be hasty to say either/or...
  18. Dwimble

    Dwimble Puritan Board Freshman

    Forgive me for resurrecting this thread after it has been dead for a month, but I just read the entire thing (and the associated articles) and found it quite interesting. What I have found most interesting is some of the generally broad-brush statements that have been made about the difference between brick-and-mortar and distance-based seminaries. The differences in schools can be so vast that making such general statements about one side or the other can border on the nonsensical, and certainly can fall into the classical "straw man" category.

    For one thing, it should be evident to any reasonably committed and mature Christian that the general state of ministers (and churches) in America is so bad that it could be considered an automatic indictment against the vast majority of seminaries, bible colleges, Christian schools, and so on...whether brick & mortar, distance, or whatever. I wouldn't be too quick to use such a monolithic term as "distance-based seminaries" and express so much concern over the relative quality of ministers being turned out by them when every year you can see the hordes of walking dead and Shambling Mounds staggering out of brick and mortar schools all over the nation (and world) fully prepared to make their future congregations twice the sons of Satan that they are.

    If you wish to start comparing specific schools, well that's one thing. Or if you wish to detail a specific brick-and-mortar model and contrast that to a specific distance model, well that may be valid as well. But to use terms like "brick-and-mortar" and "distance" in such broad ways is completely irresponsible when your goal is to suggest that one is clearly better than the other. Which brick-and-mortar would that be? One with five teachers or fifty? One with high tuitions or low? How about a sprawling campus or one small building? Are you referring to one that has been accredited by the State or who rejects State accreditation? Are "world-renowned" scholars a necessity or merely properly trained teachers? And what about "distance-based?" Does that include schools with classes via Internet conferencing? How about classes online? What about schools with strict mentor and proctor requirements? Must schools have classes on video? Cassette? MP3? Is it sufficient if they are only in text form? How many teachers is necessary? How much personal contact is required between professors, students, etc before it is acceptable?

    Just from my own experience the differences are too vast to make such broad comparisons. Here's one small experience with a Hermeneutics course. I took Hermeneutics at a brick-and-mortar seminary years ago and am currently taking it again from a distance-based seminary now. The level of quality and difficulty between them is outrageous. The brick-and-mortar seminary's course was a ridiculous joke by comparison. It consisted of class lectures and a 300 or so page book with regular, "normal" sized print for a hardback book. The grade was based on answering about 150 study questions. Now, contrast that with my current distance-based course. It consists of 15+ hours of recorded lectures by Greg Bahnsen; about half a million words of reading in books by Fairbairn, Berkhof, Terry, and others; 262 questions over the lectures and reading; five quizzes; a 10-page-minimum exegetical paper; and a proctor administered final of 21 essay questions. I am also required to discuss the course with a mentor, and I have access to professors at the school whenever necessary. So, which one is better...the brick and mortar course or the distance course? The answer is certainly obvious.

    I'm sure the same comparisons could be made between courses and schools all over, with either one or the other coming out on top in each case, having nothing whatsoever to do with brick-and-mortar or distance...because those categories are simply too ridiculously broad to compare in any responsible manner.
  19. JOwen

    JOwen Puritan Board Junior

    I think both Dr. Clark and myself would be referring to well respected institutions under each model. Your points are correct, but I think they go without saying.

  20. kceaster

    kceaster Puritan Board Junior

    Three or four observations...

    First, I think we all need to remember God's sovereignty in these matters. God builds the man. Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. We are epistles written. That means to me that God will sort all of this out. Does that mean that each man is the same? No. Does it mean that one who goes to seminary to study has infallible training and the one who spends his whole life in individual study and gains an online degree is lacking because he hasn't done the same kind of training? I can't really say how that could be. Jesus wrote both books, so to speak.

    To be sure, there may be more efficiency, economy, and quality in one over the other. But in the vast scheme of things, who is to judge? When I have seen men in their examinations, I don't recall any questions related to what professor X said about theology point Y during the student's third year. There weren't any better answers given because student 1 got a better grade in a brick and mortar seminary than student 2 got in a distance program. The answers were evaluated on their own merit, not with some arbitrary grade.

    Is it optimal for a brick and mortar education? I think most people would answer yes. But optimal is not available to all. Forcing optimal on all would be akin to Nathaniel's comment about Jesus coming from Nazareth. Perhaps we should all be born in Geneva? (Nothing against Calvin, whatsoever, but hey, he was French.)

    But the issue from Dr. Clark's side is that a man is lacking even though he's in the exact place that God put him. There's a reason why exceptions for education are written into the books of church order of the denominations. Each should be evaluated according to the grace God has given. If God does not give me the grace to go to Westminster, CA, why should someone look askance in my direction? We know that this happens, that a man is judged because of where he went to school. That shouldn't happen, In my humble opinion, unless the institution has a penchant for ruining men with the poison of heresy, but even then, he should be given the rope to hang himself or be exonerated by his witness. But a man shouldn't be judged lacking before he is examined, especially just because he didn't go brick and mortar.

    Secondly, we are working under a paradigm that doesn't exactly have a great deal of history behind it. For one, we can't say that American public education hasn't had a profound effect on seminaries. We use the same kind of testing and grading that secular education uses. Only time will tell if this will give such an "infallible" witness to a man's readiness both theologically and practically. By and large, brick and mortar seminaries look alot like the world in regards to testing and measurement. On the flip side, a mentor program for distance education has more interpersonal measurement, In my humble opinion.

    Thirdly, anti-intellectualism should not be mentioned in relation to DE. The DE student at Reformed seminaries deals with the same intellectual issues as the brick and mortar student. They both share the same doctrinal frontier. Both face the implications and intracacies of various beliefs and systems. The difference is in discipline. The DE student has the discipline to order himself to complete the work more independently than the brick and mortar student. He has to be more resourceful in some ways. But the brick and mortar student brings his own discipline to bear on the task that does not resemble the DE student's. But each must use the same brain functions. So, I don't really see how DE is less intellectual than brick and mortar.

    Fourthly, and lastly, I think we'd all agree that the key to a good theological education is an ingredient that only God can supply. We can formulize all we want, but if a man is not called and equipped, the education question is moot. The reason I bring this up is because I think we set too high a standard for young men. We want them to come in straight out of college, before they have a family, before they've really lived a good deal of life, so that we can mold them into what we want them to be. That may work for the Marines, because being soldierly is a young man's game. But we're requiring elder characteristics out of men who are not long enough in tooth. Exceptions abound, and that's just what they should be, exceptions. Owens, Calvin, M'Cheyne, these were men who were elders before they were elders. But that needs to be looked into because I think that, far too often, instead of discouraging a young man because he believes himself to be called, we push him into it and require things of him that he's not yet ready to perform. I realize that this goes back to my sovereignty point and that I can't have it both ways. But we need to be thoughtful and have protocols in place so that we avoid pitfalls such as these. If we required a minimum age limit in our BCO's, and only granted exceptions on particular cases, perhaps we would help our cause by seeing that a man is more mature before placing him in front of his flock. I believed I was called as a teenager, too. But God has providentially made sure that I won't be foisted on His sheep before I'm ready. And I have no problem waiting another 10 or 20 years until, by His grace, He is finished with my training.

    Anyhow, :2cents: :deadhorse:

    In Christ,

  21. R. Scott Clark

    R. Scott Clark Puritan Board Senior

    One brief comment on one Kevin's points:

    The exception clauses that exist in church orders have their roots mainly in persecution.

    Please remember that our forefathers went to great expense and suffered considerable hardship to earn their university degrees and to get theological training after their BA when necessary.

    The exception clauses were intended to cover situations that arose as a result of persecution (there were times when it was simply impossible for a man to get the training he needed) or to cover those times when, in the providence of God, it was impossible to find a man with the proper training. Such was the case in the early days of the German Reformed Church in the US (later the RCUS). They called on a local school teacher to serve as pastor. He didn't have a great deal of theological training, however, and it showed in some instances.

    These exceptions were just that, exceptions intended to serve the church in exceptional circumstances.

    In modern times the exception clause has sometimes become vehicle for mischief. The URC order omits any exception clause, though there is talk of adding one.


  22. larryjf

    larryjf Puritan Board Senior

    The debate seems to mirror the KJVO debate in some ways.

    One can say that the Bible declares its preservation, but we can't say that it declares how or in what manuscripts it is preserved.

    One can say that the Bible declares pastors should be trained, but we can't say that it declares how or in what way to be trained. We can get the content of training from Scripture but not in exactly what setting training should take place in.

    The pro-KJVO debates also tend to be anachronistic in nature, and i see the same tendency in the anti-distance argument. Our age is like no other in terms of computer access and i think that the Church should use it to its advantage instead of trying to stifle it.

    In 20 years this will all probably be moot as many more programs will most likely be offered online in a plethora of disciplines.
  23. kceaster

    kceaster Puritan Board Junior

    Dr. Clark,

    I'll not dispute the historicity of your claims. I have no doubt that you speak the truth. However, I'll simply point out something you know well, that it isn't for persecution's sake that the OPC makes the exception now. FoG XXI.3 says, "It is highly reproachful to religion and dangerous to the church to entrust the preaching of the gospel to weak and ignorant men. The presbytery shall therefore license a candidate only if he has received a bachelor of arts degree, or its academic equivalent, from a college or university of reputable academic standing, and has completed an adequate course of study lasting at least one year and a half in a theological seminary." And the exception from XXI.6 reads, "That the most effectual measures may be taken to guard against the admission of unqualified men into the sacred office, no exception shall be made of any of the educational or other requirements for licensure outlined above unless the presbytery, after reporting the whole matter to the general assembly and weighing such advice as it may offer, shall judge, by a three-fourths vote of the members present, that the exception is warranted by the manifest qualifications of the candidate for the holy office of the gospel ministry."

    The reason that the OPC grants exceptions (and the URC if they choose to amend their book) is because they realize that they cannot keep a man from the gospel ministry unless, by the Scriptures, the collective judgment of the assembly is that the man does not exhibit the "manifest qualifications...for the holy office of the gospel ministry."

    It has been my experience that the OPC has not used this mischievously, and I don't believe you were claiming that they do. But no church can claim infallibly that they have not, at some time or another, allowed men to be licensed to preach the gospel who were not qualified. And some of these men were invariably taught by giants of the faith at highly respected brick and mortar seminaries.

    Brick and mortar neither qualifies nor disqualifies any man for the gospel ministry. The same is true of any educational venue.

    In Christ,


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