Monday, October 27, 2008

Teaching Theology for 140 Years - XVIII.

The Union of 1847 brought the teaching staff for the newly-formed United Presbyterian Divinity Hall up to five professors. These were Dr. John Eadie, Dr. John Brown of Broughton Place Church, Dr. Harper, Dr. Lindsay and Dr. M'Michael. Before the first session of the United Presbyterian Hall began in August 1847, the speheres of the various professors had to be assigned. As was to be expected, Dr. Brown continued to teach Exegetical Theology, the department in which he excelled. Dr. Eadie taught Apologetics and Hermeneutics, something that his legacy, his commentaries on Paul, show him to have been an expert in. Dr. Harper was restored to his proper place, teaching Pastoral theology, while Dr. M'Michael taught Historical Theology. Finally Dr. Lindsay taught Biblical Languages and Criticism. It should be noted that the Synod did not change its stance that really only four professors were necessary, but that, finding itself with five, it resolved to use all five of them.

Relief students found that there was something new and fresh about the old Secession Professors, and the former Secession students found the same thing about the Relief Professors. It seems that every church develops its own way of doing things, and when anyone departs from that, it seems radical and fresh. But then, who could not be impressed by the ability of Eadie and John Brown? They are names that still today have a halo of scholarship around them!

John Brown did not long remain after the union. His physical strength decayed, and he was laid aside in 1858. Dr. Lindsay filled his place in that session, but a few weeks afterwards Dr. Brown died, after twenty-four years as Professor of Exegetical theology. There was effort to appoint a new professor, since the Synod's desired number was still four, and Dr. Lindsay was transferred to Dr. Brown's old Chair. He taught for six years, but in 1866 he died, necessitating a fresh appointment.

It had been felt by many that the arrangement of subjects had been rather peculiar and not particularly useful. The Synod thus decided to re-arrange the curriculum, the shape of which had hitherto been formed by the subjects that had been taught by the various Professors before the Union of 1847. The field of Apologetics was detached from Systematics and given to a new Professor. In doing this the Synod recognised the challenges of the times. Scotland was passing from an era in which the Reformed Faith was secure to one in which it, and Christianity in general, would be under attack. They had then to find a man who could defend the faith from all the attacks of agnosticism, heterodoxy and atheism.

Next time, God willing, we shall see what the United Presbyterian Synod decided.

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