Theological Seminary Objectives

Address at dedication of the S.D.A. Theological Seminary, Takoma Park, D.C., Jan. 21, 1941.

By MILTON E. KERN, President of thc S.D.A. Theological Seminary

It seems very fitting that on this occasion we should consider the purposes and ob­jectives of the institution that we have assembled to dedicate. This school did not spring from a mere desire to have another denominational institution. It was not estab­lished to bring school facilities within the reach of a limited territory not now adequately served by the schools of the church. No, this institution is different from any hitherto estab­lished among us, and its field is the denomina­tional constituency of the entire world. It was born of an ardent desire on the part of the ch,en leadership of the church to strengthen the bulwarks of the movement, and hasten the completion of the task which God has com­mitted to this people.

To Seventh-day Adventists has been given the sacred responsibility of heralding the threefold message of Revelation 14. As we read in "Testimonies to Ministers," we have been made "the depositaries of sacred truth to be given to the world in all its beauty and glory." Ours is an everlasting gospel with emphasis on the special needs of our time. It is a call to worship the God who made heaven and earth, the sea, and the fountains of water, and not the impersonal God of the evolution theory so widely accepted by the educational world, and even by religious leaders of our day. It is a call to the Christian church to return to the observance of the memorial of God's creative power, the Sabbath, which has been trampled in the dust.

Ours is a message which calls for separation from the modern apostasies of Christendom. Seventh-day Adventists are reformers, re­pairers of the breach that has been made in God's law, and restorers of the old paths of orthodoxy which the Christian church has so largely deserted.

And finally, the message is the announce­ment of the judgment hour for all mankind. It is the gospel of the soon-coming kingdom which is being preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations just before the end of probationary time.

Distinctive Features of Our System of Education

It is not only logical, but absolutely neces­sary, that a church with such objectives should develop and maintain a system of education different from the secular education in vogue, and different from the theological training given by other branches of the Christian church. Inasmuch as man's relationship to God is of supreme importance, we have been instructed to make the Bible "the groundwork and subject matter of education."—"Funda­mentals of Christian. Education," p. 474.

The Bible is the direct revelation of God in human language to sinful man. It is the greatest of all educational books. But we recognize in nature another revelation from God. "Through the things that are made" we perceive His "everlasting power and divin­ity." Rom. I :zo, A.R.V. But the Bible must be the basis of this study. As Ellen G. White has said, "Men of the greatest intellects, if not guided by the word of God in their research, become bewildered; they cannot com­prehend the Creator or His works."—Id., page 84.

Guided by the Bible, we have still further revelations from God in the history of our race. Here we trace the mighty footprints of Jehovah in His dealings with men and nations down through the age-long controversy be­tween good and evil. We behold in the annals of the life of mankind, not a long series of disconnected events, nor yet an evolutionary process of advancement of 1 uman society. We sit as it were in the control chamber of the universe, and observe that above all the political intrigue and internecine strife, above all the play and counterplay of human pas­sions, "the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will." We know that God has "made of one every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed sea­sons, and the bounds of their habitation." And why ? "That they should seek God, if haply they might feel after Him and find Him." Acts 17:26, 27, A.R.V.

These are some of the distinctive features of the system of Christian education which has been given to this people. And on the maintenance of these great principles of Chris­tian education depend in large measure the purity of the church and the success of the movement.

Danger Confronting Christian Education

It was not easy for our pioneers to grasp this great idea of education. Only a few years after the establishment of Battle Creek College the message came:

"I was shown that it is Satan's purpose to pre­vent the attainment of the very object for which the college was established... If a worldly influence  is to bear sway in our school, then sell it out to worldlings, and let them take entire control... 

"God has declared His purpose to have one college in the land where the Bible shall have its proper place in the education of the youth. Will we do our part in carrying out that purpose ?"—"Testimonies," Vol. V, pp. 23-26.

Satan's purpose has not changed. He seeks to beguile the church, old and young, with the spirit of worldliness. And the degree of his success in this line of attack brings sorrow to the heart of God. Satan launches his attacks on the citadel of truth. He hurls his incen­diary and explosive bombs from the sky, he bombards the walls of the citadel with his en­gines of wrath, and he endeavors secretly to bore subterranean tunnels and undermine the very foundations of truth. It is still very necessary, as it was in the days of the early church, to beware lest any man spoil us through philosophy and the traditions of men. (Col. 2:8.)

The remnant church has been the object of many attacks. Some years ago an effort was made to inject into the movement a subtle heresy regarding the nature of the Deity. Praise God we had devout and courageous men who were Bible students, and who were able to discern the falsity of these theories. And we had the clear voice of the Spirit of prophecy pointing out the dangerous teaching. That was the alpha of deception. The omega will come. O church of God, be on thy guard!

What is more natural than that the enemy of truth and righteousness should seek to poi­son the stream of truth at the fountainhead —the schools in which the impressionable minds of youth are being taught? If our teachers who attend the schools of the world are influenced and confused by prevalent skepticism, if they are led to conform to the educational maxims and practices of these schools, great harm will come to our educa­tional work. We have been very definitely warned against teachers who do not acknowl­edge God as the source of all wisdom:

"Through tradition, through false education, these men are exalted as the world's educators ; but in going to them, students are in danger of accept­ing the vile with the precious ; for superstition, specious reasoning, and error are mingled with por­tions of true philosophy and instruction. This mingling makes a potion that is poisonous to the soul,—destructive of faith in the God of all truth." —"Fundamentals of Christian Education," p. 171.

Over and over have we been warned against the subversive influences of the schools of the world. Some have thought that we "must get in line with the world" (Id., p. 534), but that is declared to be a great mistake. Mrs. E. G. White wrote in 1896:

"What need is there for students to bind off their education by attending ____  [university] to receive  the finishing touch ? It has proved to be the finish­ing touch to very many as far as spirituality and belief in the truth are concerned. It is an unneces­sary discipline, opening the mind to the sowing of tares among the wheat ; and it is not pleasing to our Great Teacher thus to glorify teachers who have not ears to hear or minds to comprehend a plain 'Thus saith the Lord.' "—Id., p. 451.

"And there are some," she wrote later, "who, having secured this worldly education, think that they can introduce it into our schools." But positively and unequivocally she said, "This must not be done."—Id., p. 536. The educational system of the world naturally re­flects the ideals, beliefs, and purposes of the world; and it is impossible for the church, which has altogether different ideals, beliefs, and purposes, to educate her workers in the schools of the world, or adopt the principles and ideals of worldly education in her own schools, and still fulfill her God-given mis­sion. We have been clearly instructed that we are "not to be tied by so much as a thread to the educational policies of those who do not discern the voice of God, and who will not hearken to His commandments."—"Counsels to Teachers," p. 255.

Herein lies one of our greatest dangers. We have adopted a plan of accreditation, the natural tendency of which is to bring our schools into conformity to the world. We are now tempted, in erecting our standards, to look for guidance to the rules of the asso­ciations and the practices of worldly schools rather than to the instruction received through the Spirit of prophecy. Other churches have taken the course upon which we have entered, and some have awakened, when it was too late, to find that their colleges were no longer powerful exponents of the religion of Jesus Christ. And usually those responsible for the change were not even aware of the transformation taking place. It is not for me to condemn the action we have taken, or to question the loyalty of our educational leaders ; but we face a situation which calls for deep discernment, divine wis­dom, and heroic courage. We are still being tested on whether we will obtain our wisdom from the Great Teacher or seek to the god of Ekron.

One of our college teachers, in explaining why he should attend a theological school of another denomination, said that a certain uni­versity had surveyed the school in question and pronounced it first class. Yet the Funda­mentalist wing of the church long since with­drew from that university which was so valued by our brother. But is it never right for Seventh-day Adventists to attend univer­sities or seminaries of other faiths for ad­vanced work? Yes, there are circumstances in which such attendance may be permissible or desirable. The Spirit of prophecy recog­nizes this, but immediately goes on to say:

"None should be allowed to pursue a course of study that may in any way weaken their faith in the truth and in the Lord's power, or diminish their respect for a life of holiness. I would warn the students not to advance one step in these lines, not even upon the advice of their instructors or men in positions of authority, unless they have first sought God individually, with their hearts thrown open to the influence of the Holy Spirit, and obtained His counsel concerning the contemplated course of study."—"Fundamentals of Christian Education," p. 347.

If there is one thing that stands out clearly in more than a thousand pages of instruction on education from the Spirit of prophecy, it is that our young people and our workers should be trained in our own schools. It is my solemn conviction that the attendance at universities of hundreds of our teachers and recent college graduates, many of whom are consciously or unconsciously influenced by the new pagan philosophy in vogue, constitutes a very definite denominational peril.

When the plan of accreditation was adopted, which involved the necessity of sending our teachers to the universities, it was regarded as an emergency measure, but it has all the appearance now of being a permanent policy. We may blind our eyes to it with the veil of expediency, we may supinely observe that nothing can be done about it, but just as surely as you and I are here tonight, just so surely is there an insidious leavening influ­ence being exerted on the minds of hundreds of our men and women who are the molders of the movement.

No one denies the great value of facts being discovered by research students, in and apart from our great institutions of learning, but the fact remains that the philosophy which permeates the majority of these modern institutions is, to use the words quoted above, "poisonous to the soul,—destructive of faith in the God of all truth." This constitutes a major problem which faces the church today. One thing is sure : If we fail to follow the blueprint of education which has been given us, terrible will be the consequences. But we must not fail. In the Spirit of prophecy we read:

"Our institutions of learning may swing into worldly conformity. Step by step they may advance to the world; but they are prisoners of hope, and God will correct and enlighten them, and bring them back to their upright position of distinction from the world."—Id, p. 290.

_______ To be concluded in April

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By MILTON E. KERN, President of thc S.D.A. Theological Seminary

March 1941

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