For biblical Protestants, the history of theological education in America must often look like a depressing series of hopeful beginnings followed by a cooling of ardor, a weakening of conviction, and an eventual slide into a kind of theological liberalism or rationalistic theologizing hardly distinguishable from the secular study called comparative religion.

Harvard College, America’s oldest institution of higher learning, was founded in 1636—half a generation after the arrival of the first colonists in New England—to train a new generation of godly ministers as replacements for those older shepherds who had accompanied the colonists from England. Despite that admirable intent, Harvard shifted its emphasis sufficiently so that the founding of Yale in New Haven in 1701 was based, at least in part, on the desire to provide better theology than the Connecticut colonists felt they could obtain on the Charles River.

That was almost three Centuries ago, and since then, the fortunes and commitments of both Harvard and Yale, and of other major theological centers also, have shifted back and forth. When Harvard began to go Unitarian from 1805 onward, Yale remained—together with Andover and Hartford—a bastion of conservative Congregationalism for several decades longer. Yale too changed, it is true, and the center of Reformed or Calvinist orthodoxy in North America came to be Princeton, or rather the Presbyterian denominational seminary founded there in 1811 and not directly connected with the university bearing the same name. But in some ways the old relationship persisted, and although not one of the three schools would today be considered committed to orthodoxy, Yale is thought to be closer to it than Harvard, and Princeton than ...

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