In this short book, originally delivered as an oral address in 1911, Princeton theologian and professor Benjamin B. Warfield addresses his seminarians in anticipation of their upcoming theological studies He stresses to them the importance of not divorcing theological study from functional, religious (or what we might call “spiritual”) experience.
The following is an audiobook that I recorded myself. The written piece can also be accessed here.
The fall semester is soon approaching. In light of that, I thought I’d share Benjamin B. Warfield’s short (public domain) essay on the religious (or what we might today call, “spiritual”) life of students of theology.
A minister must be both learned and religious. It is not a matter of choosing between the two. He must study, but he must study as in the presence of God and not in a secular spirit. He must recognize the privilege of pursuing his studies in the environment where God and salvation from sin are the air he breathes. He must also take advantage of every opportunity for corporate worship, particularly while he trains in the Theological Seminary. Christ Himself leads in setting the example of the importance of participating in corporate expressions of the religious life of the community. Ministerial work without taking time to pray is a tragic mistake. The two must combine if the servant of God is to give a pure, clear, and strong message.
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On Not Divorcing Theological Studies from the Religious Life*
I am asked to speak to you on the religious life of the student of theology. I approach the subject with some trepidation. I think it the most important subject which can engage our thought. You will not suspect me, in saying this, to be depreciating the importance of the intellectual preparation of the student for the ministry. The importance of the intellectual preparation of the student for the ministry is the reason of the existence of our Theological Seminaries. Say what you will, do what you will, the ministry is a “learned profession”; and the man without learning, no matter with what other gifts he may be endowed, is unfit for its duties. But learning, though indispensable, is not the most indispensable thing for a minister. “Apt to teach”—yes, the ministry must be “apt to teach”; and observe that what I say—or rather what Paul says—is “apt to teach.” Not apt merely to exhort, to beseech, to appeal, to entreat; nor even merely, to testify, to bear witness; but to teach. And teaching implies knowledge: he who teaches must know. Paul, in other words, requires of you, as we are perhaps learning not very felicitously to phrase it, “instructional,” not merely “inspirational,” service. But aptness to teach alone does not make a minster; not is it his primary qualification. It is only one of a long list of requirements which Paul lays down as necessary to meet in him who aspires to this high office. And all the rest concern, not his intellectual, but his spiritual fitness. A minister must be learned, on pain of being utterly incompetent for his work. But before and above being learned, a minister must be godly.
In somewhat recent times, attacks have been leveled by “liberal” scholars against the belief in scripture’s inerrancy, that the Bible is infallible and without error in its original writings. Many have claimed that early 1900’s Christian conservatives, evangelical-fundamentalists, such as the “Princetonians” B.B. Warfield and Charles Hodge, “invented” the doctrine of inerrancy. One incredible text that refutes this re-writing of history comes from Augustine’s work Reply to Faustus the Manichaean, book XI, chapter 5. Read Augustine’s absolutely incredible testimony.
As regards our writings, which are not a rule of faith or practice, but only a help to edification, we may suppose that they contain some things falling short of the truth in obscure and recondite matters, and that these mistakes may or may not be corrected in subsequent treatises. For we are of those of whom the apostle says: “And if ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.” Such writings are read with the right of judgment, and without any obligation to believe. In order to leave room for such profitable discussions of difficult questions, there is a distinct boundary line separating all productions subsequent to apostolic times from the authoritative canonical books of the Old and New Testaments. Continue reading →