The First Seminaries

For much of the medieval age, clerical education was minimal.' At the time of the Reformation, many Protestant pastors who converted from Roman Catholicism had no experience in preaching. They lacked both training and education.

As the Reformation progressed, however, provisions were made for uneducated pastors to attend schools and universities. Protestant ministers were not trained in oratory. They were instead trained in exegesis and biblical theology. It was assumed that if they knew theology, they could preach. (This assumption accounted for the long sermons in the sixteenth century, which often lasted two or three hours!)"

This type of theological training produced a "new profession"— the theologically trained pastor. Educated pastors now wielded tremendous influence, holding doctor's degrees in theology or other academic titles that gave them prestige." By the mid-sixteenth century, most Protestant ministers were university trained in some way.'

So from its inception, Protestantism promoted a well-educated clergy, which became the backbone of the movement." Throughout

The exception is perhaps the "monastic" form. Some monastic schools studied the writings of the Christian mystics along with Aristotle and Plato.

Marrou, History of Education in Antiquity, 343; Marsden, Soul of the American University, 38.

Consider the following quote: "Christ did not appoint professors, but followers. (f Christianity ... is not reduplicated in the life of the person expounding it, then he does not expound Christianity, for Christianity is a message about living and can only be expounded by being realized in men's lives" (SOren Kierkegaard). * Marsden, Sout of the American University 38.

Niebuhr and Williams, Ministry in Historical Perspectives, 133. Ibid., 144. Ibid., 142.

Marsden, Soul of the American University, 37.

Protestant lands, the clergy were the best educated citizens. And they used their education to wield their authority."

While Protestant ministers were sharpening their theological savvy, about one-fourth of the Catholic clergy had no university training. The Catholic church reacted to this at the Council of Trent

(1545-1563). In order for the church to fight the new Protestant Reformation, it had to better educate its clergy. The solution? The founding of the very first seminaries.'

The Catholics wanted the learning and devotion of their priests to match that of the Protestant pastors." Therefore, the Council of Trent required that all cathedral and greater churches "maintain, to educate religiously, and to train in ecclesiastical discipline, a certain number of youths of their city and diocese." So we may credit the founding of the seminary to the Catholics in the late sixteenth century.

The origin of the first Protestant seminary is clouded in obscurity. But the best evidence indicates that the Protestants copied the Catholic model and established their first seminary in America. It was established in Andover, Massachusetts, in 1808.66

Christian education in the United States was just as Aristotelian and highly systematized as it was in Europe.' By 1860, there were sixty Protestant seminaries on American soil.' This fast-paced growth was largely the result of the influx of converts produced during the Second Great Awakening (1800-1835) and the perceived need to train ministers to care for them.'

Reid, Concise Dictionary of Christianity in America, 309; Durant, Reformation, 932. Trent made provision for a seminary in each diocese. A. G. Dickens, Reformation and Society in Sixteenth-Century Europe (London: Hartcourt, Brace, & World, Inc., 1966), 189; Collins and Price, Story of Christianity, 149. Rowdon, "Theological Education in Historical Perspective," 81.

Reid, Concise Dictionary of Christianity in America, 113. John Calvin established the Geneva Academy in 1559, but this was not technically a seminary. While the Academy was used to train theologians, it was not conceived originally as a theological school. It gave a total education to nonclergy as well. Interestingly, Theodore Beza (Calvin's right-hand man) traced the scholastic pedigree of the Geneva Academy to the Greeks who in turn received their "true philosophy" from the Egyptians. It was argued that this was good, since Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians (Robert W. Henderson, The Teaching Office in the Reformed Tradition [Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1962], 51-61).

John Morgan, Godly Learning (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 107. American seminary education was also dominated by the Scottish "common sense" philosophy of Thomas Reid. Later, liberal seminaries came to prefer G. W. F. Hegel, while conservative seminaries stuck with Reid. ^ Reid, Concise Dictionary of Christianity in America, 113. Ibid., 113.

Before Andover Seminary was founded, the Protestants had Yale (1701) and Harvard (1636) to train their clergy. Ordination was granted upon completing a formal examination by graduation.' But in time, these universities rejected orthodox Christian beliefs. (Harvard, for example, adopted -Unitarianism)" The Protestants no longer trusted an undergraduate education at Yale and Harvard, so they established their own seminaries to do the job themselves."

Was this article helpful?

0 0
The Power Of Charisma

The Power Of Charisma

You knowthere's something about you I like. I can't put my finger on it and it's not just the fact that you will download this ebook but there's something about you that makes you attractive.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment