The Scope of Theology and Its Place in the University

Charles A. Briggs
1897 The American Journal of Theology  
THE development of theological education in the United States of America has been in three stages (I) in the college; (2) in the professional school; (3) in the professional school in alliance with, or in organic union with, the university. We have only recently entered upon the third stage and theological education in the immediate future will advance in university lines. The American colleges have been gradually casting off the bonds of ecclesiasticism and dogmatism which enslaved them to
more » ... minationalism and made them the citadels and prisons of sectarianism. The elimination of the theological seminary from the college removed the chief difficulties in the way of the liberation of the college: but at the same time it resulted in increasing the bondage of the theological seminaries; so that these became the strongholds not merely of denominationalism but of schismatic tendencies in the denominations themselves. The theological seminary may gain its freedom either by a gradual appropriation of the spirit and life of the university with which it may be affiliated or by itself throwing off the bondage of denominationalism and sectarianism and becoming a theological university. The former is the easier and simpler method, the latter is the more difficult and complex; but on this very account possibly the more fruitful. If the two methods could combine, the best results would be attained. The theological seminary is entering into closer relations with the university in many of the great cities of our land. These relations are of very great importance both to the university and to the theological school. There are opportunities of mutual helpfulness and also of mutual injury. On the one hand it would be a calamity if any of our great universi-38 This content downloaded from 129. 40 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF THEOLOGY in the restrictive sense of merely giving professional theological training but in as comprehensive a sense as university itself, embracing all departments of learning. A. THE RELATION OF OTHER UNIVERSITY STUDIES TO THEOLOGY. The various departments of instruction in the university cannot accomplish their full purpose unless they are in touch with theology, which underlies them, pervades them, and beckons them on. We shall consider several departments as specimens. I. Philology.-(I) The colleges teach the ancient classic Latin language and literature. This is important for general culture to make an educated man. But the great mass of Latin literature is subsequent to the classic literature and is chiefly ecclesiastical and legal. The Latin department in the university must advance into the field of ecclesiastical and legal Latin, or else the Latin departments in the colleges will be only preparatory schools in Latin to the theological seminary and the school of law where the later and more extensive ecclesiastical and legal Latin are used. In olden times all educated men were taught to speak Latin and to read it at sight. Now more attention is paid to the finer qualities of the language and literature, and few college men can read Latin at sight; fewer still can speak it and write it. It is to be feared that our colleges overlook the fact that professional men need ecclesiastical and legal Latin much more than the classic Latin; and that for their purposes the ability to read simple Latin prose at sight is the main thing, the lack of which cannot be atoned for by any amount of study of the masters of classic Latin literature and style. (2) The Greek department may teach the ancient classic Greek language and literature, but if it neglect the Hellenistic Greek with its valuable literature, and the Byzantine Greek with its enormous literature, can it truly be said to be doing the work of the university ? It will be only a preparatory school in Greek to that professional school which will give instruction in the Hellenistic Greek and in the Byzantine Greek. For the purposes of the theologian a very different course of study in Greek is required from that taught at present in our colleges.
doi:10.1086/476544 fatcat:jl72quroubhwfmppy7emblxbz4