According to leading Hardshell web page, in answering the question - "Why do Primitive Baptists not have schools for training ministers" (see here), the answer is given in these words:
"All Primitive Baptist elders are expected to be self educated in the Word of God and are expected to seek the counsel of experienced ministers about questions of scriptural interpretation and other matters pertaining to the church. Both young and old elders are expected to seek the aid of the Holy Spirit in the furtherance of their wisdom and understanding.
This system of education is preferred above ministerial training schools because:
1. Elders in the New Testament were primarily self-educated in the scriptures.
2. Elders in the New Testament learned under the direction of the Holy Spirit and other elders rather than academicians.
3. The system makes the scriptures themselves to be the curriculum.
4. The elder learns in the same setting in which he is expected to teach. Congregations taught by these elders will be expected to have the discipline to educate themselves in the Word of God. The elder should therefore prove himself to have the same discipline.
5. The system is less vulnerable to the widespread propagation of error so commonly found when numerous ministers are trained under the same teachings of heretical academicians."
It is not exactly clear just what the Hardshells mean when they say that biblical elders should be "self-educated." Why then do they recommend that they get educated by experienced ministers? Is that not a contradiction? Further, when they say that "elders in the New Testament were primarily self-educated in the Scriptures," they state what is blatantly false. If they mean that every elder/minister in the new testament was educated as a result of a desire and choice to learn more, then every minister is such, and not only those of the Hardshells. It is doubtful that they mean that, however, since the writer is wanting to draw a distinction between Hardshell ministers, who choose not to go to a theological school, and other ministers who choose to do so. In other words, Hardshell ministers are "self-educated" but others, who attend seminary, are not. Again, this is nothing more than another arrogant boast. It seems that their idea of being "self-educated" is the same as saying that they are self made men, which latter title is generally recognized as a boast, the person claiming to have achieved without help from others.
But, just who are these new testament ministers who are supposed to have been "self-educated"? Which one learned the doctrine of Scripture apart from any teacher or guide? I cannot think of a single example. I am reminded of the story of the Eunuch who was riding in his chariot, returning to Ethiopia from worshipping in Jerusalem. He was reading the scroll of Isaiah, particularly that part dealing with the suffering servant (chpt. 53). Philip, the evangelist, was moved by the Holy Spirit to go join himself in conversation with the Eunuch. Luke says:
"And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me?" (Acts 8: 30-31)
Was the Eunuch wrong in saying that he needed someone to guide him in interpreting the Scripture? Were not pastors and teachers given to the body of Christ for this purpose? (See Eph. 4: 11-12)
It is also interesting how the above Hardshell apologetic mentions how young inexperienced ministers are to both seek the aid of both older ministers and of the Holy Spirit. This is impossible, however, if we are to accept the logic and reasoning of the Black Rock Hardshells because they thought that to seek education from other ministers was to reject the teaching of the Holy Spirit. To them one could not be educated by both. To them, accepting the teaching of the Spirit excluded accepting teaching from other ministers.
Another Primitive Baptist web page writes:
"Although Primitive Baptist have not objection to a minister having or seeking an education, they view theological seminary schools, and preaching seminars as being unscriptural and the invention of flawed man and are to be avoided. In this way each elder will learn totally by and through the Holy Ghost, aided by his fellow ministers, as it was from days of the apostles and the early church." (see here)
Notice again the language of patternism. Theological schools are "unscriptural." But, are their associations, by the same rule, "unscriptural"? Are their singing schools also not "unscriptural"?
But, again, the above statement says that it is in accordance with Scripture for young and less educated ministers to seek instruction from elder and more educated ministers. But, is this not the principle on which theological schools are founded? Perhaps the Hardshells simply resist the obvious, refusing to call the instruction that older ministers give to younger ministers a school.
Further, as I have shown, the principle of seeking help in understanding doctrine from older ministers is the same principle upon which seminaries are based. The Hardshell defense for their recommendation that younger ministers seek help from older ministers is to say that "this system of education is preferred above ministerial training schools." But, how is their system different? Both their system and that of "ministerial training schools" are both based upon getting guidance in biblical interpretation from other ministers. Also, how are these Hardshells who seek help in understanding Scripture "self-educated" men? Suppose that a few young Hardshell elders regularly go to an aged elder for help in understanding Bible doctrine. Why can we not say that the older minister is schooling the younger?
The Hardshell apology says - "Elders in the New Testament learned under the direction of the Holy Spirit and other elders rather than academicians." But, if one understands the meaning of "academic," then he will understand that the older elders who regularly teach the younger are acting the part of an academician. According to the dictionary "academic" means "of, relating to, or characteristic of a school, especially one of higher learning." And, an "academician" is simply one who is a member of an academy or school.
If one peruses the long list of Hardshell periodicals that have existed over the past 180 years, he will see how many ministers wrote to these periodicals to ask the editor(s) questions about Bible doctrine and texts. Did these periodicals not act as a kind of school, a kind of "long distance learning"? Further, what is wrong with several of these older elders conducting a school where they regularly teach the younger ministers? What Scripture would that violate?
The opening Hardshell apology then says - "The system makes the scriptures themselves to be the curriculum." But, are not the Scriptures the curriculum in the seminaries, at least of the Baptist? Further, what about teaching church history? Is this allowable? What about teaching Greek and Hebrew? Is this forbidden? Further, such a statement seems to allow that there be a "curriculum" when younger ministers go and seek instruction from older ministers. So, to have a curriculum is not in itself an evil thing.
The Hardshell apology says - "The elder learns in the same setting in which he is expected to teach." What is meant by this statement? That the older elder can only teach the younger in the church meeting house but no where else? If the younger elder goes to the home of the older elder, and there receives instruction, is this outside of the proper "setting"? How ix a classroom not a proper setting? Did Paul do wrong when he lectured daily in the school of Tyrannus? (See Acts 19: 9) Was that a proper setting? What about when he taught in the synagogues? Did the school of Tyrannus and of the synagogues not have "academicians"?
Next, the above apology of the Hardshells for their own system, and against that of those who support seminaries, is - "The system is less vulnerable to the widespread propagation of error so commonly found when numerous ministers are trained under the same teachings of heretical academicians." This is really laughable because anyone who has studied the past history of the Hardshell denomination is introduced to the fact that heresies and numerous wild theories have plagued them. They have been troubled by two-seed doctrine, eternal vital union doctrine, hollow log regeneration doctrine, whole man doctrine, universalism, no-hellism, non-resurrection doctrine, Sabellianism, Arianism, time salvation doctrine, etc. So, this is really no argument at all. In fact, the opposite is no doubt the case. It is ignorance that breeds such heresies and the Hardshell denomination, both clergy and laity, have been plagued by ignorance. When ministers are uniformly trained under the great men of the Baptist faith, there is far less likelihood of such divers departures from sound doctrine.
Elder Lasserre Bradley Jr., a long time elder in the Hardshell church, and pastor of one of their leading churches in Cincinnati, Ohio, began a preacher's meeting, or school of sorts, in 1992. This, and other issues, caused many Hardshells to label Elder Bradley with having departed from the faith, and is now recognized as a leader of the "liberal faction" because of such things. In defending these preacher meetings, the purpose of which was to do exactly what had been long recommended, for preachers to learn from each other, Bradley wrote the following in an article titled "Preacher's Meetings" (Copied from the March 1997 issue of The Baptist Witness) (see here):
"Through the years preachers meetings have been held on both a local and regional basis; but since, by our announcement in this publication, we had ministers come from across the country, this meeting caused some to be concerned who had seen no problem with similar meetings elsewhere. It is certainly not my desire to promote something which will be divisive; but I learned long ago that if opposition was the only reason for backing away from anything, we would soon discontinue everything and consequently be doing nothing. During the 50's and early 60's, I faced considerable opposition to radio preaching. In fact there were Associations which declared against radio preaching, radio preachers and all who had anything to do with radio preachers. I regretted their action but believed preaching on the radio violated no scriptural principle and so have continued to do so until this day. I somehow believe that the Apostle who preached at Mars Hill would gladly have preached into a microphone and sent his message all over Athens had it been available to him."
Elder Bradley, knowingly or unknowingly, destroys the "patternism" principle that guides much of the Hardshell argumentation against Bible schools, either for ministers or for others. Is radio preaching specifically condoned in Scripture?
He also wrote:
"Some have expressed concern about the meetings because they are structured. The fact is that most of the meetings among our churches are also structured."
Good rebuttal by Bradley! This is another argument that some Hardshells make against both Sunday schools and theological schools. They are structured!
He also wrote:
"Just as with most things in life, following a disciplined format brings about the best results. I have found that where people have worked at their singing they enjoy it most. Many of our churches through the years have held singing schools to teach both the young and old how to sing. To my knowledge this practice has never been considered a departure form any scriptural principle and has not been a test of fellowship."
Another good rebuttal! And, as I have already argued, there is no express biblical support for holding singing schools. But, this has not kept the Hardshells from having schools for learning how to sing. So, their argument that Sunday schools and theological schools are not specifically mentioned in Scripture carries no weight.
He also wrote:
"Sometimes objections are raised about any custom that does not have a direct command in Scripture. Without question the Scriptures are our only source of authority, but the view which I have generally heard set forth among us with regard to the practice of the church is that a plain command to do something one way eliminates all others ways, but if the Scriptures are silent on an issue it may be implemented if it is not in violation of some clear instruction or New Testament pattern. For example, if one should take the position that every detail of practice must be spelled out in the Scripture, questions could be raised about the use of hymn books, the whole idea of a church owning property and maintaining a meeting house, the conducting of a church conference, the appointment of a church clerk and on the list could go. Many churches in the Apostolic era met in private homes. Most churches would have serious problems with that today, not only in finding a home large enough to accommodate the whole congregation, but also in violating building codes. Churches are not commanded nor authorized to build meeting houses in the Scriptures, but surely there is no departure from sound principle in doing so. The Scriptures do not require preachers to meet with each other for admonition and encouragement but neither is any principle violated when they do so."
Here Bradley puts his finger on the error of "patternism," though he does not call it by that name. He says "sometimes objections are raised about any custom that does not have a direct command in Scripture." He then adds a good rebuttal to patternism when he says - "if the Scriptures are silent on an issue it may be implemented if it is not in violation of some clear instruction or New Testament pattern." This being true, Sunday schools and theological schools are perfectly scriptural since they are no where specifically condemned and violate no biblical principle.
He also wrote:
"Baptists have always believed in a God called ministry but have had some differences among them as to how that man is to proceed following the call. In 1722 the Philadelphia Association proposed for the churches to "make inquiry among themselves, if they have any young persons hopeful for the ministry, and inclinable for learning, to give notice of it to Mr. Abel Morgan...that he might recommend such to the academy." While the minutes do not reveal any specifics about this academy, the brethren obviously had a concern to see that young ministers received some help as they sought to apply themselves for the work before them."
It is interesting that the Hardshells who have attacked Bradley for having his preacher's meeting, where instruction is given for the benefit of ministers, not one has responded to the historical evidence that the first Baptists in America believed and practiced ministerial instruction, even having a theological school. But, more on all this later when we look at the history of the Baptists relative to theological training for ministers. The Hardshells certainly cannot legitimately claim that theological schools were something new among the Baptists in the early 19th century.
He also wrote:
"Hassell quotes from the 1807 Minutes of the same association and the circular letter written by William Staughton. "We acknowledge with gratitude and joy that every able minister of the New Testament is made such of God and not of men. The ablest preacher is but an earthen vessel, and the feeblest bears heavenly treasure. We are sensible that an ostentation of learning may be food for a weak or aspiring mind; nevertheless, as knowledge of almost every kind may be useful to a gospel minister; as in the Bible we have only a translation, behind the veil of which many a beauty is concealed; as we have no reason to expect that extraordinary assistance which the apostles enjoyed; and as education places a minister of the gospel on equal ground with a learned adversary, to seek an acquaintance with language, history, and other similar studies, where it can be accomplished, is praiseworthy." In the same letter it is acknowledged that God raised up Gideon from the threshing-floor, and David from the sheepfold. The wealthy and the learned were not called to be the apostles of our Lord, but fishermen, publicans, and tent-makers. Many among the most useful of the ministers of Christ in the present day, have received instruction only at the Master's feet. History reveals that Baptist have not as a people made a formal education a qualification for the ministry; but it is also clear that, for the most part, they have not opposed education and have encouraged ministers to "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (II Timothy 2:15)
All this simply proves that all the hullabaloo against theological schools is unfounded. Again, further historical evidence shows that Baptists once supported ministerial education and that there were no Hardshells around to protest. Bradley also shows how such ministerial education is in keeping with the principles given in Scripture.
He also wrote:
"While some seem to object to the whole idea of ministers instructing each other, an article written by Elder W. N. Tharp and published in the October, 1915 Zion's Advocate seems to confirm that it has been an ongoing concern of ministers to offer advice to young preachers. The article which was reprinted in the Advocate and Messenger, January 1997, received the endorsement of the editor, Elder Ralph Harris. Under the heading "Ten Don'ts," these introductory remarks were made: "The following "Don'ts for Young Baptist Preachers," "Based upon my observations this advice is not only needed by young preachers but by those of us who are not so young as well." The list of the ten "don'ts" included such practical admonitions as "Don't introduce your discourse with apologies," and "Don't" read a text and then neglect to tell the people what it means." Surely no one would think that either Elder Tharp who wrote the article or Elder Harris who published it were attempting to exalt themselves over other ministers and trying to tell them how to preach; they were simply demonstrating a spirit of concern about the ministry which has prevailed among out people through the years."
Again, Bradley points out the need for Hardshell preachers to be instructed in how to deliver sermons. Such instruction does not usurp the authority of the Holy Spirit in calling and qualifying men for the ministry. He shows how the Hardshells have been hypocritical on this topic.
He also wrote:
"If such admonitions are beneficial in print, should they not also be beneficial when delivered in person or on tape? Certainly a one-on-one labor can be extremely profitable as a father in the ministry works with a young preacher, but is any scripture principle violated for a minister to speak to a group of preachers who assemble in the Lord's name and hear His word expounded?"
This same argument is one that I have already made in this series and is one that the hard line Hardshells will have no way to refute.
He also wrote:
"Somewhere along the way this diligent effort by older ministers to teach the younger ministers has declined or has been abandoned entirely in some places."
So, what does all this prove? It proves that the Hardshell apologetic response against theological schools is but a smokescreen. They favor personal ministerial instruction by an older minister to a younger, but they have not practiced what they have preached.
He also wrote:
"The saviour taught us to "Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into this harvest" (Matthew 9:38). As that prayer is answered and men are given a gift to preach, the mature ministers should be ready to spend time "instructing and encouraging them." Not only can this be accomplished by ministers but by others in the church as well. Such an example is found in Acts 18:26 with reference to Apollos, "And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly." Not only should brethren and sisters in the church be ready to help instruct a young man, they need the spiritual discernment to reject unbiblical concepts about preaching and be willing to warn ministers of these errors. Some have incorrectly assumed that because the Apostle Paul had the truth of the gospel revealed directly to him that this pattern will be followed with preachers today. We must remember, however, that we do not have any Apostles today."
These arguments in favor of ministerial education have already been made by me in this series. These arguments support not only what Elder Bradley and the Cincinnati church are doing in holding preacher meetings for instructing ministers in their work, but also support theological schools.
He also wrote:
"But as it is the responsibility of the pastor-teacher to equip the saints, how many of our people have been adequately equipped to do the teaching they ought to do at home? Since parents feel poorly prepared to do the teaching, it is not done. Is it any wonder then that many young people are lost to the world or to false doctrine? Is it not time to spend our energy not just pointing out the wrong way of doing things but to diligently do it the right way, to the glory and praise of our Saviour Jesus Christ?"
Again, Elder Bradley testifies of how the Hardshell emphasis on parents teaching their children as a rebuttal to holding Sunday schools and Bible classes has proven to be a failure. The young people are not being taught. Elder Bradley's words give support to Sunday schools and special classes to teach parents on how to teach their children.
He also wrote:
"Ministers can also receive great benefits through the writings of other ministers. Just as they need to hear preaching, there is profit in reading a sermon or the writings of a man who is faithfully expounding biblical truth. Without question the only book that can be given complete, unreserved endorsement is the Bible. It is our only standard of authority. But for a man to assume that the Lord is going to lead him directly into all truth apart from the advantage of learning from other men seems to be rather presumptuous."
Again, Bradley overthrows the historical apology of Hardshells against ministerial education and shows how hypocritical they have been. This line of argumentation has been already set forth in this series. Do Hardshell elders read the systematic theologies that are used in theological schools? Then, they are in effect attending those schools. Further, the books and periodicals published by the Hardshells have been for the purpose of teaching ministers. If this is allowable, what is wrong with this being done in person, in a school, by the writers of these books and periodicals?
He also wrote:
"In the Preachers Meetings here at Cincinnati Church, we have provided opportunity for ministers to share with each other the things they have been blessed to learn through their own study. It has served to help and encourage some young ministers who have no father in the ministry currently helping them. But many of the older ministers have spoken of the blessing they received through messages by younger ministers. One older minister wrote, The fellowship of the ministers and the prayer sessions were evidences to me the Spirit of the Lord was there, and also those who rendered messages on various topics brought many challenging thoughts to my mind. A young minister wrote, It was as if God was confronting me on areas of my ministry that were terribly lacking. I received information on how to shore up these areas and how to teach them to the membership. The meeting condemned me in a good way and will hopefully make me a better Christian and minister. Tapes and printed materials from each of these meetings have been made available for those wanting to study the material further. I would not necessarily endorse the interpretation of every text found on these tapes. In fact, in some of the exchange sessions at the meeting it is evident that all brethren do not see every point exactly alike. This in itself, though, is a learning experience. A man who will only fellowship those who see eye to eye with him on every subject will soon find he is all by himself. We in no way want to compromise on essential doctrine but brethren can love each other and labor together in spite of minor differences."
Again, all this is but a defense of systematic and structure ministerial education and today's Hardshells need to listen to the wisdom of what Elder Bradley says. They need to repent and turn from what the Black Rockers said on this issue.
Another objection that is often made against theological schools is to say that these schools usurp the authority and work of the Holy Spirit and that those preachers who come out of seminary training are "man made preachers." Hardshell preachers, it was argued, are God called and trained men, but seminary preachers are called and trained by men. But, all this is pure nonsense. It is also nothing but ad hominem attacks. It would be better if the Hardshells would show how theological schools violate the scriptures. If a young Hardshell minister is taught privately by an older and more learned minister, does he become a "man made preacher" in doing so?
Another objection that is often made against giving elders advanced education is that seminaries are new among the Baptists. This was one of the arguments advanced by the Black Rockers in the 1830s. But, as we shall see, this is also not true. We shall demonstrate this in later in this series.