“What kind of man are we training for the ministry? How can men supposedly called by God be indifferent to the Bible?”

This article began, though I did not realize it at the time, in a random conversation with some colleagues. We were a committee of five, and we virtually ran our intercollegiate and interdenominational post-graduate school. Rather grandly we were called “directors of graduate studies.” On this particular afternoon we had finished our formal meeting. Reports had been received, new applications “screened,” subjects for theses approved, and examiners appointed. Our business was over, and it was time to go home. But we lingered, enjoying the informal talk.

The subject of our teaching came up. Students were complaining that they could not see the relevance of their biblical studies. They were given a mass of material to be mastered, and they generally did master it; but they could not see what it had to do with their subsequent work in church and parish. For years I had held—and still hold—that the best theological colleges do not give their students a copious supply of sermons to take with them into the ministry. The task is rather to give the men the tools of their trade. If they have these, they can produce the sermons and Sunday school lessons. They will know the message with which they have been entrusted and will be able to deliver it in all its wide variety, provided that they walk with God and do not spurn the illumination of the Holy Spirit.

Now the students were unable to see how the tools were fitted to the job. In other words, they could not use the tools they had been given. It was all rather disquieting.

This was still fresh in my mind when we were invited to a “consultation” on the teaching of biblical ...

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