Since Hardshells do not generally believe in any kind of organized and structured ministerial education, nor the systematic teaching of the various branches of Christian science, the typical Hardshell pastor and elder must get this education from some other source or in some other manner.
All agree that the Hardshell elder must learn on his own by private study of Scripture and theological works, especially those of his own forefathers. He must be self trained and NOT formally trained by a school of elders and pastors, for this would be taboo. He must not get any education through any organized or structured classes or courses of instruction, or from a theological school, for this is the wrong way to learn the Scriptures or to become an apologist (which every pastor is called to be). Thus the individual pastor is limited in his manner of becoming "skilled in the word."
It seems that it is allowable that a Hardshell elder study the books used by seminarians and to be benefited by them. I would dare say that the ablest of their ministry are men who have done this very thing. They have read and studied the books used by Baptist seminaries, or read other books by the teachers in those seminaries, and got some education without formally sitting in a class or taking exams. I think anyone can see the inconsistency in such practice.
There are those extreme Hardshells who might even decry reading and studying systematic theology via the works of men outside the Hardshell denomination. These ultraist brethren insist that one can be the best of theologians and Bible interpreters by using basic Bible tools and reading the works of sound "Primitive Baptists." Yet, to my knowledge the only Hardshell to write a "systematic theology" under the "Primitive Baptist" banner was Elder R. V. Sarrels. (note: a book not worthy to be called such, and one from which I cite in my book "The Hardshell Baptist Cult") Such books are the only legitimate source of instruction for Hardshell pastors, according to these extremists. But, if he limits himself to these, he will know very little.
Because of the fact that the Hardshells don't believe in giving too much financial support the average Hardshell pastor must work full time in secular work and this leaves him very little time for intense education in Christian doctrine.
The general lack of systematic understanding of Scripture, of church history, of the original languages of Scripture, etc., are all looked upon by Hardshells with favor and seen as being against the traditional Hardshell idea of preachers receiving heavenly inspiration during attempts to preach (God gives the message to the preacher at the time of preaching). Preparing for sermons by study of a particular subject or text, for the purpose of preaching on it in advance of a coming meeting, is frowned upon and viewed as hindering the Spirit.
My answer to this problem is to visit the Old Baptist Test blog and study and you will become learned in areas of church doctrine and history and it won't cost you anything but your time.
Get a degree from us!
"Primitive Baptist Seminary"