Thursday, September 04, 2008

Teaching Theology for 140 Years - XV.

The aim of a theological seminary is not to make academic theologians, but to train pastors and preachers. Its professors are not employed to display their academic skills or to earn acclaim from the universities, they are there to train future pastors, and everything at the seminary has to be directed to that end.

So the United Secession Hall had a staff of professors who were also working pastors. It had a Chair of Exegetical theology to teach students how to interpret the Bible, and taught the original languages so that students were not dependent on an English translation. There was a chair of Pastoral theology to teach pastors about the other responsibilities of their office, and of course there was a chair of Systematic theology. Systematic Theology has fallen on hard times in recent times, with modern seminaries preferring Biblical Theology. Yet both have their place in a theological seminary. The aim of systematic theology is to bring together all that the Bible has to say on the various doctrines of Christianity. The Biblical theologian shows the progress of revelation. We need both.

Owing to the limited time in which he had to teach the subject, Professor Balmer had to leave about half of the field of systematic theology uncovered in his lectures. He made up for this by making sure that students read up on those parts of the system, and he made sure that they did the reading by means of examinations. Although he was Dr. Dick's successor, he did not rely on Dick's lectures, but followed his own direction. In criticising his students' preaching, he paid particular attention to the sort of preaching that relied too much on ornamentation and lacked real Biblical substance.

Dr. Duncan was one of those preachers for whom amplification was developed. Although undoubtedly a very leaned man, and popular with his congregation, he tended to mumble a little. Nevertheless, he was a beloved pastor, and thus his lectures on pastoral theology were delivered with the benefit of years of experience as a pastor. His lectures covered much of systematic theology, and went on to go over the manner of teaching doctrine to the congregation, finally covering the church itself.

Dr. Duncan taught at the Hall until 1843, when he and Dr. Mitchell resigned their chairs. The Synod was thus left to replace them. Dr. Duncan was replaced in the Chair of Pastoral Theology by Dr. James harper of Leith, and Dr. Mitchell by Dr. John Eadie of Glasgow. But no sooner had Drs. Eadie and Harper begun their work, than Dr. Balmer died suddenly in the summer of 1844.

God willing, next time we shall see how the new Faculty developed the work of the Hall.



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