Throughout the new testament there are numerous commands for Christians individually, and for the church as a whole, to "teach" the Gospel and word of God to all the nations, or to all men. In the Great Commission Jesus said - "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations...Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." (Matt. 28: 19-20) And, Paul said of his own ministry - "Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom." (Col. 1: 28) Had the Lord wanted this teaching to be done strictly by a called minister, and only to an undivided assembly, he certainly would have given orders to that end. The fact that he did not give such instructions shows that Christ left it up to his followers to decide on the specific ways to do this teaching.
Teaching people in various groups in different classes, in Sunday schools or in theological schools, does not violate any scriptural injunction. There is no command in Scripture that forbids such. Thus, when the Hardshells condemn such, they do it on their own authority and not from any biblical authority. In fact, as has been shown, Paul said "by all means" (I Cor. 9: 22), when it came to teaching people unto salvation. Furthermore, the command to teach all the nations is a command to school all the nations.
If anything, the Scripture forbids giving meat to spiritual babes, as we have seen. Paul said that some Christians should not be given meat because they are not able to digest it. (I Cor. 3: 2) But, if the Hardshell idea is correct, that all teaching is to be done to a mixed assembly of babes and adults, then the teacher will be violating this principle of the apostle. David even invited children specifically to come to him for schooling. He said: "Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord." (Psa. 34: 11)
In condemning ministerial education, the Black Rock Address said:
"Colleges and Theological Schools next claim our attention. In speaking of Colleges, we wish to be distinctly understood that it is not to colleges, collegial education, as such, that we have objection. We would cheerfully afford our own children such an education, did circumstances warrant the measure. But we object, in the first place, to sectarian colleges, as such. The idea of a Baptist College, and of a Presbyterian College, &c., necessarily implies that our distinct views of church government of gospel doctrine and gospel ordinances, are connected with human sciences, a principle which we cannot admit: we believe the kingdom of Christ to be altogether a kingdom not of this world."
The objections offered in these words are unsound and false. They condemn the idea "of a Baptist College," and yet Bristol Baptist College goes back to the 17th century (being the result of the efforts of the churches who wrote the London Confessions) to promote the education of young ministers. But, the historical proof of Baptist support for theological education will be covered later. For now it is desired that we look strictly at the objections made by the Black Rockers from Scripture and from reason.
The objection seems to be against colleges teaching subjects in addition to theology, but they also condemn colleges which strictly teach the Bible. The Hardshells argue that such an institution degrades the Scriptures and the true religion, and yet, as has been shown, such a school Jesus himself attended. The synagogues in the time of Christ taught the Scriptures but also taught reading, writing, arithmetic, and other subjects. The Black Rockers reasoned that the teaching of other subjects in the same institution with teaching the Scriptures connects the Lord's religion or science with "human sciences." But, such is false reasoning. It may not be a necessity for a man to preach to be able to add or subtract, but who can deny that he would be a better preacher if he could do basic math? Who can deny that a liberal knowledge of the sciences will make a man's sermons more interesting?
Anyone familiar with the Book of Job, for instance, sees how both God and Job spoke about the mysteries of God in connection with knowledge of nature. It is a false assumption to think that knowledge of the physical world is somehow wholly disconnected with knowledge about God.
So too did Solomon in Proverbs, who saw God and his working in nature, and spoke of the various animals as illustrations of God's wisdom and working. In fact, most of the great authors of the books of Scripture show that they had a great knowledge of the "human sciences."
“He spake three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five. And he spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall: he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes.” (1 Kings 4:32,33)
Many of Solomon's insights into the physical world are contained in the Book of Proverbs, a book that also contains much theology. Both the Book of Proverbs and the Book of Job mix knowledge of God with knowledge of the physical world and show how they relate and complement each other. This in itself destroys the reasoning that the Black Rockers made in the above citation from the Address.
Jesus himself showed a great knowledge of the physical world. When he spoke about spiritual or religious truth he often borrowed truth from the physical world to illustrate it.
Also, it is part of the special calling of ministers to be able to defend the faith, to do apologetics, and be able to persuade and to convince the gainsayers. Surely to learn the depths of theology at the hands of men more learned than ourselves will be of great benefit in fulfilling this ministry.
One also wonders what the Hardshells did before the days of compulsory public education? When all the education that a person received was in the home? Did they not teach the Scriptures along with reading, writing, and arithmetic? If so, then the same objection would apply, would it not? Were they degrading the teaching of the Scriptures in the institution of the home when they taught reading, writing, and arithmetic in conjunction with teaching the Bible?
The Black Rocker Hardshells also decry strictly secular colleges, as if it is wrong for a particular denomination to have its own college. But, what are they saying? That they would rather see a non-denominational college, one that did not teach any dogmatic views? They say that for the Baptist denomination to have a distinctively Baptist college "necessarily implies that our distinct views of church government of gospel doctrine and gospel ordinances, are connected with human sciences." But, that is simply not logical. Rather, the reason why there are various denominations is because men disagree in their interpretations of Scripture. The Hardshells have had numerous periodicals over the past one hundred and eighty years. Were these not designed to teach doctrine? Were they not purely secular and denominational? But, if being purely secular and denominational condemns schools as such, why do they not, by the same criterion, condemn their periodicals?
The Black Rockers further said:
"In the second place, we object to the notion of attaching professorships of divinity to colleges; because this evidently implies that the revelation which God has made of himself is a human science, on a footing with mathematics, philosophy, law, &c., which is contrary to the general tenor of revelation, and indeed to the very idea of a revelation. We perhaps need not add that we have for the same reason strong objection to colleges conferring the degree of Doctor of Divinity, and to preachers receiving it."
But, this is blatantly false. Such reasoning would lead us to believe that the first apostles were already qualified for their ministry at the time when the Lord first called them to follow him to become fishers of men. But, the truth is clearly the opposite. He said "come, follow me, and I will make you to become fishers of men." The words "I will make you to become" foreshadows his qualifying of them by his personal teaching of them for three years. During these three years, Christ was their professor and they were enrolled in his ministerial school. By this school they would be taught all about fishing for men.
The ancient method of teaching, in Greece and in Jerusalem, was for the students to learn by sitting at the feet of their teachers. But, this is what ministers do when they attend theological school. They sit in a classroom to listen to the lectures of their teachers, who are themselves experienced ministers of the word.
This is the second time that the Black Rockers uses the word "implies" in their denunciations of higher education for ministers. But, their deductive logic is not valid. It seems to me that it would be good for the Hardshells to avail themselves of college classes in "logic" for they are often guilty of making logical fallacies. They want to decry a minister learning logic and yet they try to make much use of it. How does "the notion of attaching professorships of divinity" in Bible colleges imply that the Biblical revelation is a "human science" and one "on a footing with mathematics, philosophy, law"?
There is no doubt that theology is the queen of the sciences and in every Christian college this is an accepted maxim. Paul spoke of "science falsely so called" (I Tim. 6: 20), but such a statement implies, correctly implies, that there is a legitimate science. The Greek word for "science" in this verse simply means "knowledge," as it is translated in most instances in Scripture. The prophet Daniel was a man "skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science." (Dan. 1: 4)
Are the Black Rockers stumbling at the word "professorship"? Suppose we simply say teachership? A professor is simply a teacher. The fact that they are called "professors" is simply to show that such an occupation is a "calling" and "profession." A professor is one who professes. In this sense every Christian is a professor. The Hardshells are not only against ministers becoming professors of theology (divinity) but also of receiving the title "doctor of divinity." But why? There were "doctors of the law" in the time of Christ and Christ, while a young child, sat in their midst "hearing them, and asking them questions." (Luke 2: 46; See also Luke 5: 17) Of course, the word "doctors" in these passages simply means "teacher," one who was expert in the Hebrew law, Torah, or Scripture. Jesus never denounced them for having this title or position. In fact, Jesus himself, by definition, was a doctor of theology. And, the apostles who learned from him, also became doctors of divinity. Jesus was a trained Rabbi or Master. "Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,)." (John 1: 38) Why is it okay for ministers to be called elder, pastor, bishop, teacher, preacher, etc., but not doctor? Is it okay to say "teacher of divinity" but not "doctor of divinity"? The only objection that the Hardshells give for not calling educated ministers "doctor of divinity" is because they think that this makes the religion of the Lord a mere human science. But, this is a non-sequiter. Besides, this is just nitpicking. It certainly is not a reason for declaring churches in disorder for supporting the further education of men called into the ministry by the Lord.
The Address said further:
"Thirdly, We decidedly object to persons, after professing to have been called of the Lord to preach His gospel, going to a college or academy to fit themselves for that service. lst. Because we believe that Christ possesses perfect knowledge of his own purposes, and of the proper instruments by which to accomplish them. If he has occasion for a man of science, he having power over all flesh, will so order it that the individual shall obtain the requisite learning before he calls him to his service, as was the case with Saul of Tarsus, and others since; and thus avoid subjecting himself to the imputation of weakness. For should Christ call a person to labor in the gospel field, who was unqualified for the work assigned him, it would manifest him to be deficient in knowledge relative to the proper instruments to employ, or defective in power to provide them."
Again, all this is just pure nonsense. Obviously the Lord wants his servants to be learned men, especially in the Scriptures, or else he would not have called men like Saul of Tarsus. Saul was taught in the college of Gamaliel, a doctor or professor of the law. If the Lord wanted to avoid any countenancing of such a kind of education, then he would not have called Saul at all, or would have called him before he went off to the college of Gamaliel. Do the Black Rockers think that it is wrong for a man, after he has been called to preach, to acquire more in depth instruction by sitting at the feet of master teachers? Further, theological schools are nothing more than young ministers sitting at the feet of highly educated and experienced older ministers. These older and more experienced ministers are the ones that Baptist colleges generally look for to teach young ministers. Further, as has been already stated, Christ gave us the example for the training of ministers. He first called ministers (apostles) and then trained them. It was a theological school. Also, as we shall see, many Hardshells have said that young ministers ought to go to individual senior ministers for one on one instruction. But, they do not realize what they are saying, for they are really, in principle, supporting the idea of ministerial education.
The Biblical principle is that the more learned and experienced are to teach the less learned and experienced. This principle was seen in Paul's counsel that the "aged women," those with more learning and experience, should teach the "younger women." This same principle is true with regard to the ministry. The older and more learned ministers should teach the younger. If they can do this one on one, why is it wrong for an older, gifted, and experienced minister to instruct several at the same time? And, why is it wrong to call this a school?
The Address continued:
"2nd. Because we believe that the Lord calls no man to preach his gospel, till he has made him experimentally acquainted with that gospel, and endowed him with the proper measure of gifts, suiting the field he designs him to occupy; and the person giving himself up in obedience to the voice of Christ will find himself learning in Christ's own school. But when a person professedly called of Christ to the gospel ministry, concludes that, in order to be useful, he must first go and obtain an academical education, he must judge that human science is of more importance in the ministry, than that knowledge and those gifts which Christ imparts to his servants. To act consistently then with his own principles, he will place his chief dependence for usefulness on his scientific knowledge, and aim mostly to display this in his preaching. This person, therefore, will pursue a very different course in his preaching, from that marked out by the great apostle to the Gentiles, who determined to know nothing among the people save Jesus Christ and him crucified."
If the intent of these words is to say that the Lord calls men who are already fully equipped to minister, then they are wrong. The example of Christ teaching his apostles shows this to be false. The apostles were not already equipped to fulfill their ministries when Christ first called them. If they were, what was the purpose of his training of them for three years? No one denies that the gift to preach comes with the call, but the gift itself is not enough to minister well. Many are naturally gifted, in art, intellectual abilities, and in other areas. But, are they therefore to skip all further training to help develop their gifts?
Further, the Black Rockers set up a false assumption when they suggest that those who support theological schools (for those who have been called to the ministry) think that such a person cannot be "useful" unless they attend such schools. It is not a question of being useful or not, but one of being more useful. Paul told Timothy to "neglect not the gift that is in you." (I Tim. 4: 14) It would be a neglect of a preacher's gift to fail to educate himself in the work that God has called and gifted him to do. Of course, it is not absolutely necessary for a man to attend theological school, for he can obtain the books that are used by the professors and study them himself. He can learn Greek and Hebrew on his own without the help of professors. But, to say that it is an evil thing for him to do it in a theological school is pure slander. It also manifests pride in the Black Rocker Hardshells.
By the criteria they have set up, they put down preachers who attend seminary and exalt themselves. Those who attend seminary in order to be better equipped to serve the Lord's people do not give proper credit to the Lord, but those, like the Hardshells, are the ones who give the Lord the proper credit. The Hardshell preachers have been educated in "Christ's own school," but the preacher who goes to seminary has not! Those who attend seminary to become a better speaker, apologist, and servant, "must judge that human science is of more importance in the ministry. than that knowledge and those gifts which Christ imparts to his servants." But, the Hardshells judge themselves as the ones who give proper credit to the divine knowledge and gifts given to ministers! That is just pure arrogance! Could it be that those young ministers who have been called of the Lord want to avoid neglecting their gift? Could it be that they want the help of the aged ministers?
The Hardshells attack the motives of those who attend theological schools, saying - "To act consistently then with his own principles, he will place his chief dependence for usefulness on his scientific knowledge, and aim mostly to display this in his preaching." Again, who made these Hardshells judges of the hearts of ministers? Further, it is not "scientific knowledge" that the young minister seeks in attending seminary, but knowledge of Bible doctrine. "His aim" is "to display" his knowledge "in his preaching"? What is this but another ad hominem attack? What is this but a boasting of themselves! The Hardshell elder who has refused to go to theological school is the one who acts meekly and humbly!
The Black Rockers speak of called ministers "learning in Christ's own school." What do they mean by this? That Christ personally teaches ministers as he did the first apostles? That the Hardshell preachers who have not gone to seminary are taught by Christ but those who go to such schools have not?
The Adress then concludes by saying:
"As to Theological Schools, we shall at present content ourselves with saying that they are a reflection upon the faithfulness of the Holy Ghost, who is engaged according to the promise of the great Head of the church to lead the disciples into all truth. See John xvi. 13. Also, that in every age, from the school of Alexandria down to this day, they have been a real pest to the church of Christ. Of this we could produce abundant proof, did the limits of our address admit their insertion."
Again, what arrogant judgments on the heart and motives of others! Those who attend seminary are casting "reflection upon the faithfulness of the Holy Ghost"! Further, how does the work of the Holy Spirit in guiding disciples into all truth exclude the teaching of other disciples? When Aquila and Priscilla showed unto Apollos the way of the Lord more perfectly, was this not the Holy Spirit guiding Apollos into further truth by the means of Aquila and Priscilla? Also, by such words, the Hardshells are saying that they, because they do not attend theological schools, are the ones who are giving proper credit to the Holy Spirit, that they are the only ones being lead into all truth by him!
What they have to say as commentary upon all theological schools that have existed in the history of the church is simply their opinion. Why don't they just cite us the Scriptures which condemn theological schools? In all their condemnations there is no citation from Scripture given that would validate their objections. Further, there have been many preachers who attended seminary before joining the Hardshells. These often became the best preachers the Hardshells ever had! They have often been the ones who became the best apologists for the Hardshells! Further, many of the ablest preachers of the Hardshells have systematic theologies, and other books, written by seminary professors, and have learned much from them! Why is it okay to study these books, which are often used in seminary, and benefit from them, but then decry the theologians who wrote them for teaching in seminary?