What has the remnant church a right to expect of her ministerial graduates who, after finishing college and completing their period of field internship, come to the Seminary for final training ere they go forth to take their places in full-fledged service in the cause of Cod? What basic concepts and attitudes, what fundamental training and outlook, what imperative backgrounds and equipment, may the advent movement properly expect from these recruits upon whose shoulders must rest the burden of finishing the work? What is the ideal training that should be wrought into practical reality? The difficulties involved in the task of deciding the pattern of that training should only spur us to the most candid survey of our basic objectives. Truly, we face a moment of supreme importance, when the plans and actions of today will materially affect the whole course of the advent movement of tomorrow. If ever we needed divine guidance we need it now. And the formulation of this training program is obviously more than a departmental or even a Seminary affair; it is a denominational concern.
It is but axiomatic that the longer the period of training is extended, the more important the molding impress of its later years becomes. To whom much is given much is, of course, expected. Such training should therefore be cast in a broad, comprehensive mold. It should be an impress provided by a representative group of instructors, not only of special training and experience, but of ministerial strength and contribution. It obviously should not be built about particular personalities available today, but around certain basic needs and requirements. The most competent men in the movement should surely be brought in for special courses from our various institutions and conferences. In this way too great an impress from a very small group will be obviated.
All will agree that this training must be fundamentally ministerial in character. These men are to be preachers, not schoolmen. For teachers, another training is provided, suited to their special needs and leading to a different degree and objective. The two should not be confused. To meet our needs, our advanced ministerial training must be wholesomely practical, not preponderantly theoretical. It must be well rounded, not one-sided. Lt must be sound, thorough, and comprehensive. And all will agree that it must be distinctively and thoroughly Adventist, not merely Christian, Protestant, or even Fundamentalist. It must fit men for the Adventist ministry, with predisely what that connotes.
Above all else, the church has a right to expect that her young preachers will come forth with a basically sound attitude toward truth. This is of paramount importance. Their outlook on life, service, the church, and the world is important. But their relationship to truth—its sanctity, its certainty, and its sovereignty—is of supreme moment. A reverent search for truth, unreserved subservience to truth, confidence springing from that truth, and the overmastering sense of obligation to proclaim established truth with persuasive power and winsome skill cannot be overstressed.
Truth lies at the foundation of every great conviction. It is the source of all sound certainty, the spring of all compelling conviction, and the mainspring of all true service and sacrifice for God. Our ministry should be characterized by that reverence for truth that will lead to the eschewing of loose, careless, and inaccurate statements, to the rejection of untrustworthy arguments and misleading quotations, and to spurning the use of all fabricated and discredited citations.
The church has a right to expect that her ministerial product shall have more than the broad general background that can be obtained in the seminaries of the world and the universities of the land. Such cannot be our pattern or our norm. Our ministers must go forth specifically trained and equipped for a specific task—the heralding of God's designated message to mankind for this generation, amid all the challenging complexities of this last hour.
They must not only be equipped with adequate tools but be taught how to use those tools with professional skill and competence—not with groping or bungling. They should not have to strive through this experiment and that to find a satisfactory way of ministry. Practice, under skilled guidance and supervision, is therefore impe'ratfve in this advanced training.
Obviously, this over-all training should be complete and comprehensive, so that its product can cope with the manifold ills of the soul, as the medical graduate does with the afflictions of the body. Our theological graduates must therefore also understand the various ills that afflict mankind, so as rightly to diagnose the disease and to prescribe and apply the proper remedy for the soul. Actual clinical experience, is consequently essential, conducted under the eye of experts and with balanced emphasis on rural, small town, and city evangelism.
The church has a right to expect that our theological graduates shall know the Word—its truths, its doctrines, its prophecies, and its saving provisions. They must, above all, be specialists in the Word—the Old Testament as well as the New. 'Whatever else they may be and have, they should be experts in the Book. That must be the heart of our advanced theological training. They must, first of all, be rooted and grounded in the eternal verities of the everlasting gospel—the basic truths of the deity of Christ, His vicarious atonement, and the related truths and provisions of salvation and righteousness by faith. They must really know the special truths for this hour—the Sabbath, the sanctuary, the Spirit of prophecy, and the prophecies. For example, they should know the vicissitudes of the Sabbath through the centuries. They should be thoroughly acquainted with the historical development of prophetic interpretation. They should have a clear understanding of the introduction and development of our own distinctive doctrines in the early decades of this movement, of the molding hand of the Spirit of prophecy, and the subsequent history of our own denomination.
To be pre-eminently men of the Book, our graduates not only should know the English Bible but should also have knowledge of the original Greek and Hebrew. But that knowledge should be sacredly dedicated to the clarification and support of the great basic truths, and not be used as a medium for introducing the novel and speculative.
Further, all will "agree that our theological graduates must know church history—the history of truth ancLits conflict with error, the troubled pathway of the Jewish and Christian churches, The hand of God in history, and the fulfillment of prophecy in history. They should likewise know the basic principles of science, so as to be able to teach creationism intelligently and wisely in this age of evolutionism, and have knowledge of God's wonders in the heavens. They should, in addition, know the basic principles of sacred music in its inseparable relation to the worship of the church and to the evangelistic program of the last message. These graduates of ours must, of course, be thoroughly trained in the effective and persuasive use of the voice. These particular areas need to be strongly developed in our future plans.
The church has a right to expect that our graduates shall understand pastoral and evangelistic techniques—the care and conservation of the flock as well as the winning of the worldling. This is vital to the conservation of the church. They will be expected to have a clear understanding of the science and art of successful personal work, with all that involves. They should know how to present our health message effectively, so as to appeal to the scientifically trained as well as the needy layman. They must understand how to appeal to the trained mind—the neglected upper classes, such as teachers, lawyers, doctors, preachers, business executives, and statesmen, from among whom we should have increasing accessions.
Moreover, the church rightly expects that they shall come forth with the world concept of our mission to mankind, and think and labor in terms of finishing a world task, no matter where they may be stationed locally, and thus be prepared for their part in that world work. Such are some of the more specific aspects. But, someone will say, isn't this rather visionary ? Not if we transform the vision into a practical reality. We must have an ideal toward which to rise, an objective toward which to press. Is that ideal too high?
Reverting to those important larger concepts and relationships previously noted, may we add that the church has a right to expect our young ministers to come from their training with clear, firm convictions. It expects them to go forth as heralds of a positive message to mankind. Our young preachers must emerge as crusaders for great certainties, not as cautious proponents of tentative positions. They must never become like the students of the world's seminaries—hobbled with uncertainties, ever learning but never able to reach vital conclusions or to preach certainties that produce conviction. The church expects our preachers to go forth with wholesome confidence in God, His message, and His messengers, not with protruding question marks, indefiniteness, and reservations that nullify positive witness and strong leadership.
They are expected to discern clearly between the great centralities that matter—those basic truths that make and keep us Seventh-day Adventists—and the many minor things that have little or no bearing upon soul salvation and sound faith. They are to magnify the first and minimize the second. They must press the fundamentals and refuse to agitate upon the secondaries. They need to be able to penetrate to the heart of great issues and to take a positive stand for right and principle. They must not be drawn into such quibbles and squabbles as plagued the schoolmen of the Middle Ages. They must dwell upon living issues and vital principles, on which the welfare and the health of the church depend.
The church has a right to expect that they shall come forth to exert a positive, not a negative, influence. And Christ's messengers can never produce positive convictions in others unless they themselves are possessed of them. They must fan the flames of hope, confidence, and assurance among those to whom they minister, and not smother the fires of assurance with a blanket of uncertainty.
They must radiate the spirit that made the martyrs, the Reformers, and the pioneers. At the same time they must recognize that there are mysteries that cannot be solved till the light of heaven and eternity illuminates the dark spots of earth's pilgrimage, and not attempt to project speculations and immature conclusions that only perplex the people. They must learn to practice the principle that on certain matters silence is golden.
They must be trained to search till they find the full facts that form the foundation of truth. They must be taught how to analyze and organize their findings into sound conclusions—and then to use them to bless and to upbuild the faith of the church. They must learn how to toil as other men may be unwilling to do—forgoing pleasure and diversion, in subservience to the only all-consuming passion of being workmen approved of God, towers of strength to the church, and worthy examples to the flock. Such are some of the larger aspects and ideals of what the church has a right to expect of her oncoming preachers who must finish the work.
The pitfalls and departures that have beset the Protestant churches that have lost their bearings are to be found in the departures that crept into their theological training setup as it veered away from the clear premises and objectives of their founders. Their catastrophic mistakes must not be repeated in the remnant church. Her training must ever be kept so clear and true, so sound and loyal, that instead of being a potential peril, our theological training will be a tower of strength, the very citadel of Adventism. The pitfalls of the past in Protestantism will be avoided by us only as we keep our vision of objectives clear, remembering the pathway over which God has led us thus far, remaining unswervingly true to the inspired blueprint, and keeping our last-day-ministry-for-God concept ever in the forefront.
L. E. F.
* This presentation appears by voted request of the Committee on Denominational Theological Training, which met on February 20 and 21, just prior to the Spring Council in Takoma Park. The personnel comprised the General Conference officers, the North American union presidents and two local presidents, college presidents, heads of college Bible departments, the Seminary faculty, and the secretaries of the Department of Education and the Ministerial Association.