What should go into the making of a preacher depends upon what he is to do after he is made. Unless there is clarity about his task, there will be little assurance about his training. Continual revision of pre-seminary and seminary programs and objectives suggests either that there is considerable uncertainty about the nature of ministerial work or that the task is constantly changing.

A new assessment of the ministry has just been published by Augsburg Press, The Making of Ministers, with the subtitle, “Essays on Clergy Training Today” (Keith R. Bridston and Dwight W. Culvers, eds.). Fourteen churchmen each contribute a chapter. If, as Gibson Winters of the University of Chicago Divinity School contends, a seminarian is no longer the man called by God and set apart to proclaim the given message of the Gospel but often nothing more than a seeker after such truth as can only be found in the ever-varying, historical situations of life; if the “two-world notions underlying the theological formulations of Christian orthodoxy have been collapsing for centuries” and the gathering of Christian people into congregations is really out of date—then a new kind of training is indeed demanded.

On the other hand, if the primary task of the minister in these revolutionary times is still to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then much more will go into his making than concern for contact and communication between college and seminary and between Christ and culture, important as these are.

The weakness of this symposium lies not in its preoccupation with these matters but in its theological reconstruction of the biblical faith, for such reconstruction entails the danger of turning the task of preaching a message into that of finding a message to preach. When what goes into the making of a minister is determined by a criterion like this, it is small wonder that, as the statistics of the book indicate, many ministers are quite at sea about who they really are and what they are actually supposed to do.

C. Umhau Wolf, pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church of Toledo, Ohio, sounds almost out of context when he declares that ministers frequently indicate a need for much more Bible study than they were given but that this need goes unheeded by seminaries in which “requirements in Bible become more and more minimal.”

Who is to blame for the confusion? Wolf replies: “Berger may blame the community and the congregation; Sittler may blame the congregation and administrative headquarters and in a way put the blame directly … on the minister’s psychological problems. Colleges blame seminaries and seminaries blame colleges.… Pastors frequently blame both the seminary and the college, while college and seminary professors look down their noses as if the average parish pastor is a useless, ineffectual, unintellectual cog.” He also says, “If we find a theological orientation and have prerequisites for professorships, we will be well on the way toward reshaping the ministry.”

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The need for some kind of overhaul in the training of ministers is apparent. But unless this overhaul is based upon a clear recognition that the first task of the minister is to preach the Gospel, confusion will not be dispelled, and the hungry sheep will continue to look up and not be fed.

It is essential to the making of any minister that he be taught to preach the biblical message. There is no true minister of Christ who does not in some way share the compulsion Paul voiced when he exclaimed, “Woe is me, if I preach not the Gospel.” Because the Gospel is contained in the Holy Scriptures, acceptable preaching must be in some real sense expository preaching. If the Bible is God’s Word, then that Word ought to be preached.

But much evangelical preaching today is weak and shallow. In many churches the pulpit is ineffective not because the minister is a theological liberal but because, even though he is an evangelical, he says so little. Too often he is so little devoted to the study of the Bible and so far from being immersed in its thought-world that he lives from hand to mouth in finding subjects. As each Sunday draws near, he has to scramble about for something to say. The only deliverance out of this bondage to uncertainty is that the minister learn to “open the Scriptures” so that he may use them in much the same way in which Jesus himself used them.

Exposition, moreover, must have behind it a sturdy vertebrate theology. Not every man who lives with the weekly task of delivering sermons can be, or needs to be, a professional, academic-robed theologian. Yet no deeply effective preacher can do without “a pulpit theology.” As he speaks out of a broad yet solid theological understanding of the Scriptures, his sermons will breathe a sense of authority. Theological competence, though not expressed in technical theological terms, brings depth to preaching. And the man in the pew whose minister knows where he stands theologically will grow in faith and doctrine. But when the man in the pulpit lacks a strong theology, his sermons will not build up his hearers in the faith but will rather follow one another like unrelated items on a grocery list.

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Despite their evangelicalism, conservative seminaries that offer inadequate study of the Scriptures, ignore historical theology, slight the development of their own doctrinal tradition, and simply pour into the minds of their students the thought of their most recently accepted systematic theologian, are themselves contributing to arid preaching without passion. Evangelical seminaries will make fewer strong preachers if their students can graduate without reading men like Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Wesley, and their modern successors. There is no substitute for first-hand encounter with the great seminal thinkers in theology.

The pulpit in our times is weak. Liberals ignore the only Gospel there is to preach; too many evangelical seminaries hand their students doctrine and theology all wrapped up in neat parcels to be believed and delivered without having first been made the subject of thoughtful and prayerful biblical study. As has just been said, theology is important. Yet not even the greatest of theologies is inspired, as are the Scriptures. Every system of doctrine devised by men stands in judgment under the Word of God, which remains the only unchanging rule of faith and practice.

To achieve a personal theology of the pulpit, the minister must learn to study the Scriptures with a mind not afraid of asking questions. For, essential though theology is, few things are more stultifying to good preaching than the practice of allowing the systematics learned in seminary to become a sacrosanct stereotype for interpreting the Bible. It must be acknowledged that conservative preaching is sometimes not a preaching of the Scriptures themselves but a preaching of seminary dogmatics.

Every minister should indeed be trained in a theological tradition. But he must master it instead of being mastered by it. Even though he is not a professional theologian, he should have a theology that he can rightfully call his own—not that he has originated it but that he has assimilated it and given it an impress from his own mind.

What is needed is a personalized theology. And for this the minister must learn to study the Scriptures with such curiosity and with such imagination that he repeatedly finds himself challenging, criticizing, and sometimes even contradicting what was taught him in seminary. The man who sees nothing in the Bible that disturbs the theology he learned from his professors and inherited from his particular tradition is not really studying the Scriptures. Nor will he be making sermons that come to life. Every preacher of the Word of God should search the Scriptures daily. Unless he does this throughout his ministry, he will fail to stand in deep commitment to his theological tradition and fail to enjoy the thrilling sense of freedom that comes from possessing a theology that, while given him by others, has become his possession through the discipline of his own thought.

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Seminaries that train such ministers will not be confused and uncertain about what kind of men they are supposed to make. And such ministers will cease wondering about who they really are and what they ought to be doing and saying. But seminaries that no longer recognize that their first object is to train men to preach the Christian message will continue to be uncertain about what they are to make of the students who come to them.

The true unity of the Bible is, as Pascal said, found in “Jesus Christ, whom the two Testaments regard, the Old as its hope, the New as its model, and both as their center” (Pensée 739). On the Emmaus road the risen Lord placed in the hands of Cleopas and his companion the key to understanding the written Word when “beginning at Moses and all the proprets he expounded in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” It is for the seminary today to train preachers how to use that key in proclaiming the Gospel according to the Scriptures. Other things they will do; this they must do. Nothing can take the place of biblical preaching.

Much is being written these days that defines the task of the ministry as service to others. This literature speaks of “the total ministry of Christ” but defines ministerial service as doing almost everything except preaching. Yet no man will be more confused about himself than the minister who is busy doing things but has nothing to say.

Peril Of The Label

“Psychiatrists use dangerous words.” So says the noted psychiatrist Karl Menninger, founder of the famous Menninger Clinic, in a copyrighted article in a recent issue of the Saturday Evening Post. His counsel to fellow psychiatrists may and should be heeded by clergymen as well.

Dr. Menninger contrasts the harmless professional jargon of lawyers and archaeologists, for example, with the terms psychiatrists use, which can hurt people and cause them despair:

Words like “schizophrenia” and “manic-depressive” and “psychotic,” for example, frighten patients and worry their anxious relatives and friends. The use of these alarming terms also affects us psychiatrists. They lead us back into the pessimism and helplessness of the days when mental illness was thought to be made up of many specific “diseases,” and when each “disease” bore a formidable label and a gloomy prognosis.
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Dr. Menninger is frank to say that we have all had spells of mental illness of varying intensity and duration, and what we need at such times is not a “label” but help. A label can ruin a career. One wrong word can “ruin a recovery.” It is not that he denies the existence of mental illness as such:

I agree with the American Medical Association and with the Joint Commission on Mental Illness and Health that mental illness is our No. 1 health problem. I do not think we help that problem by calling it a myth. But neither do I think we help it by persisting in obsolete terminology. Not only do these terms panic the patient but they discourage the doctor and permit him to justify a program of indifference and neglect.

The use of psychiatric terms, says Dr. Menninger, has reached the name-calling stage where people substitute “psychotics” and “psychopaths” for more traditional epithets such as “liars” and “skunks.” In answer to the question of what should be substituted for the technical terms, he says that often expressions that come from everyday life are more accurate, and that these do not have the same “dreadful or false implications.” For example, the expression “going to pieces” implies “those essential qualities of integration and steadiness which are the basis of our concept of the ‘vital balance.’ ”

The pessimistic effect the technical terms have on his fellow psychiatrists and others, claims Dr. Menninger, may explain why so little is done about mental illness. The situation is shocking enough: “… only about one fifth of the state hospitals for the mentally ill give patients any treatment.”

The awful fact that mental illness has become our number one health problem means that clergymen are encountering borderline cases more and more in their pastoral counseling sessions. And often the minister’s knowledge of psychiatry is borderline, too. It frequently goes little beyond knowledge of the terms Menninger warns against. The wise minister is aware of his limitations in this area, while the unwary is apt to form snap judgments and label a church member while consulting with his family. Sadly enough, such a label seems capable of traveling through a congregation with lightning-like speed. And the church, supposedly the repository of comfort and help, becomes rather a place of the whispered label and of haunting torment to the sufferer. “How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire.”

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The wise minister will consider the authority that is often attributed to his words because of his station. He will recall that it was Paul who counseled: “Let us speak the truth in love; so shall we fully grow up into Christ.”

Significant Announcements From Rome

Two recent announcements from Rome are of high interest. One, emanating from the Pontifical Commission on Biblical Studies and ratified and approved by Pope Paul VI, redefined the limits of acceptable biblical scholarship within the Roman church. The other, made by the Pope in St. Peter’s Basilica on Pentecost, established a special Vatican Secretariat for Non-Christians headed by Paolo Cardinal Marella and analogous to the Secretariat for Christian Unity headed by Augustin Cardinal Bea.

That the first announcement reflects concern regarding the doctrinal implications of such scholarly methods as form criticism and demythologizing seems evident from the declaration that “there are being diffused many writings in which the truth of the sayings and the acts contained in the Gospels is being put in doubt” and also from the statement that “some promoters of this method, motivated by rationalistic prejudices, refuse to recognize the existence of a supernatural order and the intervention of a personal God in the world, coming about through revelation properly presented, let alone the possibility of miracles and prophecies.” While the commission accepted the use of modern historical methods in biblical studies, it made plain the primacy of the theology and philosophy of the church over critical scholarship, the norm being the established doctrine rather than scholarly findings. The contrast between this and the assumption of liberal Protestant scholarship that doctrine is subject to continuing revision in accord with biblical criticism is evident. On the other hand, conservative evangelical scholarship, while not repudiating reverent historical methods, has its norm in the plenarily inspired Word of God, the infallible rule of faith and practice.

The other announcement, setting up a Secretariat for Non-Christians, is a major development that may well have historic effects. According to the Pope, the secretariat will deal with other than Christian religions in “loyal and respectful dialogue.” But to interpret it as a relaxation of Rome’s missionary thrust is probably a mistake. Dialogue, such as Raymond Lull carried on with Islam in the thirteenth century, is an effective method of witness, as the history of missions so clearly shows. It is significant that the Pope said that “the catholicity of the Church is still enormously deficient” because “innumerable peoples and entire continents are still outside Christian evangelism” and that he stressed the value of the term “Catholic,” which “characterized the true Church of Christ.”

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For the Jews the establishment of the secretariat raises some real questions. If, as a Vatican spokesman has said, the Pope’s announcement means that all non-Christian faiths—Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and others—would come under the new secretariat, Jewish leaders may object to the implications of this classification in view of the unique relation between Judaism and Christianity that sets Judaism apart from all other non-Christian religions. Moreover, Jewish concern has already been expressed about the place under the new secretariat of the statement on Catholic-Jewish relations on which the second session of the Vatican Council last year failed to vote and which is to come before the third session as a separate declaration.

There may also be a strategic purpose behind the new secretariat in solidifying the confrontation with Communism of all who stand for religion of any kind. And for some it may be a straw in the wind that is perceptibly blowing in the direction of the great universal church some students of prophecy see on the horizon. At any rate, the establishment of the Secretariat for Non-Christians opens up vistas that Protestants will view with deep interest.

A Plea For ‘Sexual Democracy’

A professor of psychology at the University of Houston criticized people, according to an Associated Press report, who tell others what is right and wrong in the area of sex. They are “sexual fascists,” said Professor James L. McCary, and they are creating a mass of emotionally unhealthy people. Most of us, he told a group of university students, are sick. We allow others to impose on us ideas of what is sexually wrong and right, and deviating from them in practice, we feel “immoral, bad and wicked” and suffer from sexual neuroses and poor health.

He proposed that this “sexual fascism” be replaced by “sexual democracy” and went on to spell out the democratic approach to sex: “If a person is competent, well educated and adult, if he does not injure others or himself, if his behavior does not offend other people, then he should be able to make his own sexual decisions as to what is best for him.” He urged his student audience to throw off the sexual tyranny of a fascist majority.

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His students assumably had little trouble classifying themselves among the “competent, well educated and adult.” And they doubtless thought secrecy the way “not to offend other people.” But if any student gave this “sexual democracy” serious thought, he found difficulty in determining what was “best for him” and yet would not “injure others.” In McCary’s sexual democracy no citizen may tell another what is sexually right. Each decides what is “best for himself.” The flaw in this code is that it provides no point of reference by which to judge what behavior is both best for oneself and non-injurious to other persons.

Sexual behavior is a highly personal matter, but it is never merely an individual matter, as the phrase “sexual relations” indicates. In sexuality another person is generally involved. Although we often hear it said of some practice, “it is not wrong in itself,” the fact is that nothing we do is really “in itself.” This is especially apparent in sexual relations.

It is absurd to call, as McCary does, an objective morality “sexual fascism.” If there is no objective moral law governing both parties, then McCary is right in asserting that it is arbitrary and fascistic for one person to tell another person what is right and what is wrong in sexual behavior. But if there is no objective law, the situation is worse than McCary realizes. For it is absurd to teach that any person who decides he is competent, well educated, and adult, and is offending and injuring no one, may behave sexually as seems “best for him.” Such a person is not bringing in the kingdom of sexual democracy. In the moral no less than the political realm, democracy without law is anarchy.

Is it fascistic and undemocratic to tell others what is moral or immoral in sexual behavior? Does not Professor McCary himself tell Houston students what is sexually right and wrong? If he were wholly consistent with his own position, he would teach students nothing about these matters. By teaching his own brand of sexual morality, he is imposing on others his ideas about what is right and wrong as truly as any Christian moralist who derives his standards from the revealed will of God has ever done.

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This modern, democratic approach to sex is the road to boredom. And it is a short road. In the Christian view, sexual differentiation is a reflection of the image of God, and sexuality consequently is one of the profoundest mysteries of human personality. Precisely because sexuality is such a profound aspect of the mystery of human life, it requires transcendent guidance and governance. Which male (or female) is not a mystery to himself? What man or woman without some transcendent guidance really knows what is best for himself or what does not offend and does not injure others? When the mystery of sex is improperly invaded, the result is adulterous—impurity, a dirtying of oneself at the deepest level of his spirit—and quick boredom follows. Properly invaded, it is an endless road of profound satisfaction and ever-deepening human experience. Indeed, the mystery of sex is so profound that it is regarded in the Bible as the proper symbol of the relation between God and his people. In the Old Testament, Jehovah is the husband and Israel his wife. In the New Testament, Christ is the bridegroom and the Church his bride. And heaven’s joys are symbolized in “the marriage supper of the Lamb.”

Christian morality guards the mystery and banishes boredom.

The Baker Affair

The United States Senate has fallen on unhappy days and seems hesitant to apply corrective measures that would restore its stature and cleanse its soiled image. The staff of the Senate Rules Committee headed by Lennox P. McLendon in a report submitted to the committee has taken note of the fact that the Senate has suffered “the loss of much respect and prestige” in the Bobby Baker affair. The report charged that the former Senate majority secretary had engaged in gross improprieties in the course of building a personal fortune he recently valued in excess of $2 million. His salary was $19,600 a year. He had come to the Senate as a penniless page boy at the age of fourteen. While the report does not charge the Senate with responsibility for all Baker’s wrongdoings, it does make the point that “the Senate is responsible for putting Baker and others in places of responsibility without imposing upon them the enforceable standards of honesty and integrity the American people have every right to demand of all their public servants, high or low.”

The report calls for three fundamental reforms: (1) disclosure by senators, officers, and employees of business associations and income; (2) prohibition of association by these individuals with persons and organizations outside the Senate that are conducting business with the government; (3) requirement that all senators respond to requests from any Senate committee to testify about any knowledge they have of a subject under investigation.

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Appearing at this late date, the third recommendation carries with it a certain irony. The committee majority had very obviously been unwilling to request senators to testify in the Baker case. The investigation was carried on with a languor unbecoming to the gravity of the case, and promising leads were never followed.

In contrast to Teapot Dome, the Baker case seems minor. But perhaps the former has something yet to teach us, particularly in the work of Montana’s two Democratic senators, Thomas J. Walsh and Burton K. Wheeler, who headed Senate investigative committees though Republicans controlled the Senate as well as the House. The work of the committees was effective, and terrible abuses of public trust were uncovered. But the public was apparently satisfied with the handling of the scandal, and the Coolidge administration was returned to office by a landslide.

Most senators today are arguing that civil rights is a moral issue, and we agree. But so is the integrity of the Senate. A whitewash ultimately satisfies nobody. “Murder will out,” as the saying goes. If the Senate is sitting on a volcano, the crust may be thinner than they think. But the public is entitled to know the truth of the matter. Self-criticism can be endured by a healthy organization, for self-criticism is itself a sign of health.

The Temptation Of The Specialist

“One of the most astonishing characteristics of scientists is that some of them are plain old-fashioned bigots. Their zeal has a fanatical, egocentric quality characterized by disdain and intolerance for anyone or any value not associated with a special area of intellectual activity.” The words of a preacher trying to pick a fight? No, these words are taken from an editorial that appeared in the April 24 issue of Science, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Seeking to explain the origin of “scientific bigotry,” the editorial points to the “enormous pressures toward specialization” encountered by the science student. For the necessary concentration of effort, one of the student’s most useful psychological weapons is “to convince himself that the area of knowledge under study is indeed the most important possible. As a corollary all other intellectual pursuits can be ignored as worthless. It is necessary for virtually all scientists to adopt such rationalizations from time to time. To achieve success one must concentrate on performing a series of specific tasks with complete rigor.”

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The editorial points out that one needs not only the ability to specialize but also the ability to escape the “web of his rationalizations.” The scientist lacking the latter is cut oil from other evolving knowledge. While specialization can lead to early establishment of a scientific reputation, in the end “it is often bitterly self-defeating.”

By way of footnote to this refreshingly candid editorial, we may add that one inclination of the bigot is to make pronouncements outside his field. The scientist-bigot faces awful temptations to pronounce, for example, on religious matters, and when he does so, falls readily into scientism. But this is a two-way street. Just as science is not the only vocation that tempts toward over-specialization, the scientist is not the only professional man to speak often with an air of authority outside his sphere. The theologian is vulnerable at this point if he gives the impression of speaking as a trained scientist.

Christians especially should be careful in handling facts in any field of knowledge, for they worship the One who made the gigantic claim that he is the truth. Reverence for the Saviour should lead us unerringly to reverence for truth, all the more so when we see ultimate truth bound up in the person of Jesus Christ. It was he who told his disciples that the truth would make them free, adding: “If the Son … shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” For the Christian, truth has a breadth born of the Creator himself. It is this dimension that effectually liberates from bigotry.

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