Historical Overview of Theological Education

Apostle Paul Writing

Forthcoming in Festschrift in Honor of Dr. Matthew K. Thomas

While the term “theological education” is sometimes used synonymously with “religious education” and “Christian education” by some, it is advisable to treat the terms as technically distinct. Religious education is a broader spectrum that includes not only Christian education but also Islamic education, Hindu education, and Buddhist education among many.

“Religious education” must also be distinguished from “religious studies”; as some Universities in India have a department of religious studies whose goal is to scientifically pursue the study of religion only; not to teach a particular religion or provide religious education to adherents of a particular religion. A few seminaries and colleges offer degrees in Religious Education (e.g., B.R.E. and M.R.E.) which is more about Christian theology than the study of general religious philosophy and phenomena. “Religious education” may mean Christian education or Hindu education or education given by any religion to its adherents. Thus, it is more a relative term than an absolute one. Thus, among Christians, “religious education” is Christian education while, among Muslims, “religious education” is “Islamic education”.

Theological education is a kind of religious education, but it is more advanced and clerical (i.e., pertaining to the clergy’s work) in nature. Thus, while Sunday School education and religious education are part of Christian education, theological education is that which is formally offered at seminaries and Bible colleges. A certification in theological studies is considered a pre-qualification for the ministry of doctrinal teaching. Of course, a certificate alone does not qualify a minister. Also, it is possible for one to be theologically skilled without having undergone any formal theological training or having a certificate issued by an institution, provided that individual has been educated in a non-formal or informal way.

Theological education may also be informal and non-formal. Bernhard Ott cites the following distinctions made by the European Commission on the forms of education:

Formal Learning
Learning that normally takes place in a school or training centre, is structured (in terms of the goals of learning, the timeframe of learning, or the furtherance of learning), and leads to certification. Formal learning is, from the viewpoint of the learner, goal-oriented.

Non-formal Learning
Learning that doesn’t take place in schools or training centres and normally doesn’t lead to certification. It is, however, systematic (in terms of goals, timeframe and materials). It is, from the viewpoint of the learner, goal-oriented.

Informal Learning
Learning that takes place in everyday life, at work, in the family, or in free time. It is not structured (in terms of goals, time and support) and does not normally lead to certification. Informal learning can be goal-oriented but is, in most cases, not intentional but rather occurs incidentally, in passing.[1]

He notes that formal learning “has no monopoly on learning and should never regard itself as sufficient in itself… On the contrary… formal education must equip the student for lifelong learning of the non-formal and informal variety and never hinder the same.”[2] In recent times, there is increasing call for formal curriculum to incorporate non-formal and informal modes of learning in order for the learner to benefit most from the education process. In this paper, we will attempt a brief overview of the history of formal theological education.

The Apostolic Era (c.32-100)
We do not have any evidence of formal theological education, in the form of schools or seminaries, in the Apostolic Era; however, this doesn’t mean that there was no theological training of any form whatsoever. Among the Jews, we read about the schools of Hillel and Shammai. Gamaliel I, grandson of Hillel, was the teacher of Paul (before his conversion) in his pharisaic training. That to be educated under Gamaliel was a certification of authority in matters of law is evidenced by Paul’s statement in his apology before the Jews of Jerusalem: “I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers” law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today” (Acts 22:3).

Having had theological training under Gamaliel, Paul understood the importance of education; but, more than that, having understood the grace of God and its preciousness, he strongly emphasized upon learning. In fact, his epistles are great examples of doctrinal and practical teaching. He taught by word and epistle (2Thess 2:15). In addition to that, he mentored young people like Timothy and Titus and not only passed on to them knowledge but encouraged them to be diligent in both learning and teaching: “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2Ti. 2:2).

However, the New Testament is clear on the fact that spiritual understanding of Scriptures cannot be the result of mere cramming of knowledge. In fact, Paul states that spiritual understanding requires not just knowledge of letters but also a turning of the will towards God: “Even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away” (2Cor. 3:15-16). The writer of Hebrews asserts that scriptural interpretation requires skill that comes from spiritual maturity: “Solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5:14). Paul states that the things of the Spirit of God can only be spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14).

Also, the Apostle Peter was very keen on the importance of learning for scriptural interpretation; and so he writes: “…our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures” (2Pet. 3:15-16). Peter is saying that there are “untaught” and “unstable” people who misinterpret Scriptures to their own destruction. Now, while Peter himself was not theologically trained in Jewish schools like Paul was trained, he along with the others was trained by Jesus; therefore, the Jews noted when they listened to Peter and John: “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus” (Act 4:13). Obviously, Peter and John reflected the authoritative teaching style of Jesus. Not coming short, Paul does not brag about his former theological training under Gamaliel, but ascribes the authority of his spiritual understanding to the revelation of Jesus Christ: “For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal 1:12).

It is important to note an important distinction between the Jewish schools and the teaching ministry of the Apostles. Jesus forbade His disciples from using the title “Rabbi”, a title very common among Jewish teachers. He said that the Pharisees love to be called “Rabbi, Rabbi.” “But you, do not be called “Rabbi”; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren” (Mat 23:7-8). John Gill understands by this that disciples should not look upon themselves “as men of power and authority over others; as having the dominion over men’s faith, a power to make laws for others, impose them in a magisterial way, and bind and loose men’s consciences at pleasure, as these men do.” The disciples are ones who were taught, and what they teach is what they have also received from the Lord, who Himself received the doctrine from the Father.

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you…  (1Co 11:23)

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, (1Co 15:3)

… that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? (1Co 4:6-7)

In the same vein, Paul writes to the Corinthians: “Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand” (2Co 1:24).

The Lord Jesus Himself made it clear when He spoke of His authority and teaching:

For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. (John 12:49)

The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. (John 14:10)

I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. (John 8:28)

No single person can claim absolute or exclusive spiritual authority of interpretation or doctrine. Divine wisdom is “open to reason” (James 3:17, RSV), and all fellow believers are fellow brethren having access to the spiritual things of God. But, only those who are willing to obey can know the doctrine (John 7:17). The term kathegetes (guide, Master teacher) is forbidden (Matt.23:10); however, the church did have teachers (didaskalos) who passed on what they knew with the aptitude of teaching to faithful others (1Tim.2:7; 2Tim.1:11). The revelation of God calls for humility of grace.

In the Apostolic period, teachers are referred to as a ministry gift given by Christ to the church (Eph.4:11). We read about Paul and Barnabas as teachers (Acts 13:1) who assembled with the church at Antioch and taught a great many people throughout the year they stayed there (Acts 11:26). The New Testament also says that having “gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them… he who teaches, in teaching” (Rom. 12:6,7).

The following are some characteristics we can observe in teachers in the NT:

  1. Teachers are those who themselves have been taught (Tit.1:9)
  2. They hold fast to the faithful word they have been taught (either by word or letter (Tit.1:9; 2Thess.2:15) observing the pattern of sound words (2Tim.1:13))
  3. They are rooted and built up, abounding in the Word (Col.2:7; Jude 1:20; Matt.7:24)
  4. Teachers are skillful in the word of righteousness (Heb.5:13)
  5. Teachers are mature (Heb.5:14)
  6. Teachers have trained senses to discern both good and evil (Heb.5:14)
  7. Teachers have their spiritual eyes opened (Luke 6:39; Eph.1:18)
  8. Teachers are perfectly trained (katartizo) (Lk.6:40; Eph.4:12)
  9. Teachers will receive stricter judgment (Jas 3:1)
  10. There are elders who rule and elders who especially labor in the word and doctrine. Teachers, especially, are to be counted worthy of double honor (1Tim.5:17; Gal.6:6)
  11. Teachers rightly divide the word of truth (2Tim.2:15)
  12. Spiritual Teachers bridle their tongue (James 3:1-18; Eccl 12:11)
  13. Spiritual Teachers don’t engage in foolish disputations of words (2Tim.2:23)
  14. Spiritual Teachers are patient in teaching (2 Tim.2:24)
  15. Spiritual Teachers are meek like their Master (2 Tim.2:25, Matt.11:29)
  16. Spiritual Teachers don’t load students with burdens they themselves cannot carry (Matt.11:30; 23:2-4). True wisdom brings rest.

Among the Apostolic Fathers, Polycarp, the disciple of the Apostle John and a martyr for the faith, is mentioned as a “prophetic teacher” and an “illustrious teacher” in The Epistle Concerning the Martyrdom of Polycarp[3]. The Didache, also known as the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (1st or 2nd century AD), gives instructions for discerning between true and false teachers, which shows that traveling teachers were not few in that period. However, we do not see any school or seminary during the Apostolic period.

The Early Church Age: The Catechetical School of Alexandria (c 100-500)
Some historians believe that the first theological school (known as the Catechetical School) was founded by Mark the evangelist at Alexandria. Jerome (347-420) in his De Viris Illustribus (On Illustrious Men), Letters 8 and 11, wrote that Mark was the first who preached Christ at Alexandria and “formed a church so admirable in doctrine and continence of living that he constrained all followers of Christ to his example.” Jerome also refers to him as the “learned Mark.”[4] Jerome says that Philo the Jew wrote a book on this first church at Alexandria and stated “not only that they were there, but also that they were in many provinces and calling their habitations monasteries.”[5] A number of scholars have concluded, based on such references by Jerome and Eusebius the historian, that Mark was the first Head of the School at Alexandria.[6] Alexandria was a city of learning with one of the largest libraries in the world. It evidently also posed philosophical challenges to the Christian faith. It was, therefore, very compelling for a school of theology to begin here.

Not all agree that this school may have been founded by Mark. For instance, Harold Rowden says that it was founded by Bishop Demetrius towards the close of the second century and that it had a great influence on theological development.

Founded by Bishop Demetrius towards the close of the second century, it grew to its greatest heights under the leadership of the famous Origen before his departure to Caesarea (where he developed a similar institution). Its scope has been well summarised as “an encyclopaedic teaching, presenting in the first place the whole series of profane sciences, and then rising to moral and religious philosophy, and finally to Christian theology, set forth in the form of a commentary on the sacred books”. In all this, Origen was clearly influenced by Alexandrian and Jewish precedents, but that the school was more than a “Christian University” is evidenced by the fact that it produced notable missionaries (e.g. Gregory the Wonderworker, Apostle of Pontus, who studied under Origen at Caesarea).[7]

Max Mueller, speaking about Clement of the Catechetical School of Alexandria, said that at a time when some Christian teachers viewed Greek philosophy as the works of the devil, Clement stood up and argued that there was no antagonism between philosophy and religion.[8] Farrar also praised the endeavors of the Alexandrian school:

Different instruments are needed for different ends. Where Clement of Rome might have been useless, Clement of Alexandria became deeply influential. Where a Tertullian would only have aroused contempt and indignation, an Origen won leading Pagans to the faith of Christ. From Alexandria came the refutation of Celsus, from Alexandria the defeat of Arius. It was the cradle of Christian theology.[9]

Rowdon says that such “schools developed in major centres of Christianity in the East – not only Alexandria and Caesarea, but also Antioch, and further east at Edessa and Nisibis. The last, formed by Nestorians expelled from Edessa is said to have assumed very large proportions―800 students in the seventh century.”[10]

Early Medieval Period (c.500-1000): The Rise of Monasteries and Monastic Schools
Pachomios (292-348) is considered to be the first to encourage the community of monks. Prior to him, monastics tended to live in seclusion from each other. The Early Medieval Period saw a rise of monasteries in different parts of the Christian world. These monasteries became places of learning for the monks who sought separation from the world, communion among them, and intimacy with God. Monks were required to actively engage in reading and learning. In course of time, the monasteries moved increasingly in the direction of theological and philosophical reflection. Jonathan Hill observes:

The Dark Ages had been a time of intellectual stifling. The Christian empire of Byzantium in the East, and the growing centralization of the Catholic Church in the West, permitted no independent philosophical or scientific thought outside the Church. The old philosophical schools lay empty.

Yet learning was kept alive in the monasteries. The ideal of the Desert Fathers, the hermits who took seriously the Gospel command to forsake the world, had developed into tight-knit communities of monks all over the world. After the 4th and 5th centuries, the monasteries were increasingly tightly organized as the monks took binding vows and followed rigid “rules” drawn up by a great monastic founder like Basil of Caesarea or Benedict of Nursia. Here, the scriptures of the Fathers were copied and read….

Monasticism became very popular throughout the devout Byzantine empire…. As centuries passed,… monasteries were founded in increasingly inaccessible places. First there were the “Meteora”, monasteries built on spectacular mountain peaks in Turkey, safe from barbarian hordes. And then there were the famous monasteries of Mount Athos.[11]

Monks and nuns in the medieval monasteries studied not only the scriptures but also philosophy, science, history, classical poetry, and medicine. In fact, the monasteries played an important role in preserving scientific knowledge.

One of the places where some basic written traditions about philosophy and learned medicine was retained was the Christian Church. A founder of a monastic group in Italy, Cassiodorus (480-575), wrote down a set of rules that included the requirement to copy texts, ensuring that some literature would survive; such monasteries also set up schools and had infirmaries for the care of inmates and pilgrims.[12]

However, the tendency was directly towards the training of the clergy, though not ignoring the responsibility to train young pupils. Thus, in 789 the Council of Aix-la-Chapelle urged: “Let schools be built to teach children to read. In all the monasteries and in all the episcopal churches, psalms, hymns, singing, arithmetic and grammar shall be taught.”[13] Nevertheless, the main aim is considered to be “that priests and monks should be trained ‘capable of understanding the Scripture, of reading the office correctly, of performing liturgical functions exactly and intelligently.’”[14]

The Later Middle Ages (c.1000-1500): The Rise of the University
This was an era of Christendom in which the Pope had enormous political power and the dividing line between the sacred and the secular was almost invisible. As a result, training for ministry had nothing much in difference from training for service of God in the state.[15] This era saw the emergence of the university.

In a sense, the university grew out of the bishop’s responsibility to provide clerical training. The 4th Lateran Council of 1215 still exhorted every metropolitan bishop to ensure that theology was taught in the context of his cathedral church, but in fact this duty was being taken up by the universities. Owing to the deepening involvement of bishops in affairs of state as well as the higher politics of the Church, the bishop’s teaching duties had long since devolved upon the cathedral chancellor. Now, as part of a notable renaissance of learning, and in some cases at least developed out of the activities of the cathedral chancellor, the university came into existence as a “studium generale” (i.e. a general resort of students).[16]

According to Rashdall Hastings, the term Studium Generale seems to have implied three characteristics: (1) That the School attracted or at least invited students from all parts, not merely those of a particular country or district, (2) That it was a place of higher education; that is to say, that one at least of the higher Faculties – Theology, Law, Medicine – was taught there, (3) That such subjects were taught by a considerable number – at least by a plurality – of Masters.[17] Some of these Studium Generalia were instituted by the authority of Pope or the Emperor Bulls and such authority was sought for recognition of newer schools. However, there were also the older universities such as Oxford that were not founded or recognized by such procedures and yet had established themselves as reputable institutions of education. Nevertheless, there still existed a tug of war between the “authorized” and the free schools. Thus, for instance, at “Paris, even Oxford degrees failed to command incorporation without fresh examination and license, and Oxford repaid the compliment by refusing admission to Parisian Doctors, the Papal Bull notwithstanding.”[18]

According to Rowdon,

The organisation of the university seems to have been influenced by the structure of the medieval gild. Ultimate control resided in the hands of the Cathedral Chancellor, but effective control was exercised by the Rector or Master of the Schools, who was usually elected by the masters and merely confirmed by the bishop. Masters gave lectures which were attended by the bachelors who at first lived in rooms, privately hired, then in halls where rooms were let to them by a master. When colleges came in the late thirteenth century they were primarily communities in which masters lived a common life under a warden. The course of studies for bachelors was the already stereotyped programme of the seven liberal arts, comprising the Trivium (Grammar, Rhetoric and Dialectic) and the Quadrivium (Arithmetic, Astronomy, Music and Geometry). More specialised studies, such as Medicine, Canon Law (increasingly important with the growing centralised bureaucracy of the medieval Roman Church) and Theology were post-graduate.[19]

Thus, during the Later Middle Ages, we find theological education becoming a higher Faculty within the larger University. Even the schools of the Friars started for training of clergy became soon absorbed into the university set-up.[20] The demand for highly educated clergy was on the rise.

The Reformation Period (c.1500-1700)
Humanism was at heights during the Renaissance finding strong expression in the writings of Christian humanists such as Erasmus and Thomas More. Secular humanism was also finding a vent in books such as The Prince by Niccoló Machiavelli (1469-1527).[21] Among the Reformers like Luther and Calvin, there was an increasing emphasis on sola scriptura and a purging of Christian thought of all superstitious, mythical, and non-biblical elements. The focus turned towards a historical-grammatical study of the Scriptures in the original languages with a willful rejection of the allegorical method of interpretation. Rowdon notes:

The major reformers were more indebted to humanism than is sometimes thought. Melanchthon at Wittenberg, as well as Calvin at Geneva and the numerous centres of training set up in the Netherlands, Scotland, and later North America, under the direct or indirect inspiration of Geneva, gave ministerial training a firm basis in exegesis of the Scriptures in the original languages…. Attention is often drawn to the stream of men coming, fully trained, from Calvin’s Academy at Geneva. It should not be forgotten that the University of Wittenberg had been fulfilling a similar role for decades before the foundation of the Academy, and that Calvin had learned something at least from the stress on biblically based education at Strassbourg under Martin Bucer and the famous educationalist, lean Sturm.

Principal Kingdon has argued that the churches in the Reformed tradition centred ministerial training upon the universities because they were largely under the control of the churches.[22]

The rise of the Protestant centers of education, e.g. at Cambridge, and the challenge posed by erudite Protestant ministers was countered by the Roman Catholic Council of Trent initiating the “lesser seminaries which provided general education, and the greater seminaries to add ministerial training which would enable Roman Catholic priests to match the learning and devotion of some at least of their Protestant counterparts.”[23]

According to Larry Linduist, Protestant reforms viewed the Protestant minister as one who “for the sake of public order was appointed to certain duties every Christian was entitled to perform. Pastors with more education and training served churches in towns, while those with less training served country parishes.” He also notes that education was a serious priority for the reformers. In fact, Melancthon, known as the “teacher of Germany,” established more than 60 schools that “emphasized the need to prepare youth for the ministry and civil government.”[24]

Post-Reformation – Mission Era (c.1700-1980)

The Post-Reformation period saw increasing conflict between secular university interests and the need for sincere theological study. Some bishops attempted gathering trainees for regular biblical exegetical study. But, lacking encouragement, not all attempts could continue for long. Pietism in academics began to largely diminish as church Colleges were viewed skeptically as rivals by Universities that were being overtaken by the rational spirit of the Enlightenment. The emergence of the missionary movement saw the establishment of mission training centres such as C.M.S. Institution at Islington (1815). Alfred Peache and his sister Kezia founded the London College of Divinity at St. John’s Wood in 1863. Among leaders who discerned the need for spiritual training was John Wesley who met with his leaders from time to time giving them lectures on theology, logic, and pastoralia.[25] Also notable were the Bible Training Institutes founded by D. L. Moody situated in cities like Chicago and Glasgow. Moody’s training institutes emphasized on leadership training and evangelism over academic standards. The 19th century marked the emergence of theological colleges. Also, notable is the increasing trend to shift theological training from the church to the university. Rowdon observes:

From the seventies, however, with the reform of theological syllabuses, the emergence of teachers of the calibre of Lightfoot, Westcott and Hort, and the opening of the universities to men of all religious persuasions, there was a tendency, which has been gaining strength ever since, for the study of theology to focus upon the university rather than the cathedral. Colleges – both anglican and nonconformist – became associated with universities. Wycliffe and Ridley, founded to stem the tide of rationalism as well as of ritualism, were sited in Oxford and Cambridge respectively. The Congregational college at Spring Hill, Birmingham, moved to Cambridge, while the Baptist college of Regent’s Park moved to Oxford.[26]

In India, the Serampore College was started by William Carey, Joshua Marshman and William Ward in 1818, and favored with the Royal Charter by the King of Denmark in 1827. By the end of the 19th century, it had totally become a Baptist College. The Royal Charter was no longer in use and its validity was questioned. George Howells, the then principal of Serampore College, worked hard to reorganize Serampore and, consequently, the first B.D. degrees were conferred in 1915. The Government had decided that a faculty of theology in universities was not practical, but the missionaries opined that Serampore charter be utilized on university lines. Thus, the Serampore College Act was passed in 1918. Following are some of the colleges that affiliated with Serampore in the initial years:[27]

  • United Theological College (1919) at B.D. Level
  • Pasumalai (1919) at L.Th. Level
  • Bishop’s College, Calcutta (1920) at B.D. Level
  • Arcot Theological Seminary, Vellore (1922) at L.Th Level
  • North India Theological College, Saharanpur (1927) at B.D. Level

When Serampore began to lean more towards liberal approaches, evangelical colleges shifted towards accrediting associations such as the Asia Theological Association in the past few decades. When Indian believers first began to experience the power and presence of the fullness of the Holy Spirit, training centres emerged that focused on prayer, faith, sound doctrine, evangelism, and church planting. One of such institutions was the Bharosa Bible Institute founded by Late Rev. Dr. Kurien Thomas in 1962 at Itarsi. Today, there is an explosion of training centers and colleges all over the country. There are a number of accrediting associations as well. There are also pseudo-colleges giving fake degrees.

Central India Theological Seminary
In 1962, when Rev. Kurien Thomas felt led by the Lord to start a theological institution at Itarsi, the only driving force was the divine mandate and the great need felt for training Gospel workers. The institute was called Bharosa Bible Institute, “bharosa” meaning “trust”. The mission was clear: training laborers to reach the unreached with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The means was equally clear: trust. Rev. Thomas wrote:

It was in 1962. The border war between India and China had just ended. I realized that the battle for the souls of India would continue until the last day. For this battle we needed young men, not foreigners, but young men of India to become soldiers in Christ’s Army — Men who were so filled with the power of God that they could stand in the Name of Jesus and defeat the spiritual powers which foolish men worship. Young men, with a knowledge of God’s Word, who would be able to lead this generation into the path of righteousness. So there was born in my heart a vision of a Bible School in Itarsi.

I shared this vision with the local church and at once all the believers, having God’s witness in their own hearts, said “Amen.” And so in July 1962, we started. There was no Mission Board we could apply to for help. No bank account we could lean on. No fund from which we could meet the financial need. The only person we knew who would be interested to help us was Jesus Christ. We would have to walk from day-to-day trusting Him. The Bible School would have to run by Faith and so it was called “Bharosa Bible School.” (“Bharosa” being the Hindi word for “Faith.”) At first the course was for three months only — July, August and September. These are the monsoon months in India and the almost non-stop torrential rain makes any kind of outside work impossible. We had no special building to accommodate the students; so we housed them in the veranda of the church. Here the students were protected from the weather by a thin wooden lattice. Through this lattice would come the heat in the summer, the cold in the winter and the rain in the monsoon. The mosquitoes entered at all seasons and seemed to thrive on the holy blood of the saints sleeping inside. The conditions were primitive, but I don’t recall many complaints from these young men who joined us in that first year. They had dedicated their lives to the service of the Master and were prepared to sacrifice their lives for Him, if need be.[28]

 

Humble as the account may seem, the Lord used this theological ministry to equip numerous individuals over the years to serve in His work field with great efficacy of power and fruitfulness. I feel tempted to name some notable alumni, but choose to desist from doing this, for what is “notable” in human eyes may not be as notable in the Lord’s eyes – “those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty.” (1 Cor. 12:22-23, NIV). The light of the Gospel shines in the remotest corners of India as young men and women, committed to the cause of the Cross, courageously and unswervingly stand with the living and life-giving Word of God.

Bharosa Bible Institute was renamed as Central India Bible College when it upgraded to offer undergraduate programs and as Central India Theological Seminary when it began to offer postgraduate programs. During its phase as Central India Bible College, until 1992, it was associated with the Asian Theological Association (ATA) but voluntarily pulled out for some time until recently, when it has sought membership and is again in process of accreditation by it. Meanwhile, the Seminary has progressed by leaps and bounds in matters of academic programs (both regular and extension), library, infrastructure, and publications.

Dr. Matthew K. Thomas took the baton of the College’s leadership as President/Principal from Dr. Kurien Thomas in 1992. In 1996, the Master of Divinity program was launched; in 2010, the department of Distance Education was inaugurated in order to extend the program to those who couldn’t join the regular mode of education. In 2013, the Master of Theology program in Christian Apologetics was launched. Undergirding all these accomplishments is the divine vision to equip the minister of God with information and skills necessary to execute the divine task in the world. The emphasis is clearly on the preeminence of Christ, the primacy of the Holy Spirit, the pursuit of holiness, the practice of excellence, the proclamation of the Word, the pulse of compassion, and perseverance to the end.

NOTES


[1] Bernhard Ott, Understanding and Developing Theological Education (Cumbria: Langham Global Library, 2016), 89-90
[2] Ibid,  90
[3] Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson (Eds), Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol.1. The Apostolic Fathers, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus. Chs.16:2; 19:1.
[4] De Viris Illustribus, Letter 8. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2708.htm. (Accessed on Nov 13, 2017)
[5] Ibid, Letter 11

[6] Willem Hendrik Oliver, Influence of the Catechetical School of Alexandria on the growth and development of Christianity in Africa, unpublished PhD thesis (University of South Africa, 2016), p117ff. http://uir.unisa.ac.za/bitstream/handle/10500/22668/thesis_oliver_wh.pdf. (Accessed on Nov 13, 2017)
[7] Harold H. Rowdon, “Theological Education in Historical Perspective,” Vox Evangelica 7 (1971): 76
[8] Max Muller, Theosophy or Psychological Religion, Lecture XIII. (London: Longmans, Green, and Co, 1917), 436
[9] Frederic W. Farrar, Lives of the Fathers, I (Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black, 1889), 352.
[10] Rowdon, “Theological Education…”, 76
[11] Jonathan Hill, The History of Christian Thought (Oxford: Lion Books, 2003), 123
[12] Mark Jackson (ed), The Oxford Handbook of the History of Medicine (Oxford University Press, 2011), 193
[13] Rowdon, Theological Education….,” 78
[14] Ibid, 78
[15] Ibid, 78
[16] Ibid, 79
[17] Rashdall Hastings, The Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1895), 8-9
[18] Ibid, 16
[19] Rowdon, Theological Education…, 79
[20] Ibid, 80
[21] Domenic Marbaniang, Secularism in India: A Historical Analysis (Bangalore: Pothi, 2011), 20-21
[22] Rowdon, Theological Education…., 80
[23] Ibid, 81
[24] “Leadership Development in the Reformation Era” in G.T. Kurian and M.A. Lamport (Eds), Encyclopedia of Christian Education, Vol. 3 (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015), 704
[25] Rowdon, Theological Education…, 83-85
[26] Ibid, 84
[27] Siga Arles, Theological Education for the Mission of the Church in India: 1947 – 1987 (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 1991).
[28] Kurien Thomas, God’s Trailblazer in India and Around the World, 2nd edn (Bangalore: CfCC, 2012), p.69

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Abstract Vs Concrete God in Human Reason Vs Experience

Rational a priori categories possess properties of unity, transcendence, immutability, infinity or universality, and necessity (see Epistemics of Divine Reality for supportive arguments). On the contrary, empirical categories possess properties of plurality, immanence, flux, finitude or particularity, and contingency. No doubt then, rationalization of being leads to abstract theologies such as monism and non-dualism, while empirical approaches are characteristic of concrete theologies such as polytheism and spiritism.

Both these extremes are actually forms of atheism since in both God is not the transcendent wholly other being who created the universe. In the former, God is just the abstract substratum of this illusive phenomenal world, while in the latter, God (or gods) is part of the phenomenal world.

Theologians err when they try to analyse God and His experience in either abstract terms or in purely empirical terms only. Western theology based on Aristotelian philosophy suffers much from confusions around the conflict between the abstract and the concrete. The conflict is evident in issues such as the arguments for divine existence, the attributes of God, the meaning of Trinity, and issues regarding the divine and human natures of Christ.

Perhaps, it is too much for any limited human to not recognize that theology is not mathematics. The mind can discover mathematical principles through pure reasoning, but one cannot know God apart from God’s revelation of Himself. And, we only see Him now as in a blurred mirror and do not yet see Him as He is. Faith is not unreasonable, but faith also cannot exist without the revealed word.

If God Is Love Means The Father Eternally Loves The Son, Does God Is Judge Means He Eternally Judges The Son?

Source: If God Is Love Means The Father Eternally Loves The Son, Does God Is Judge Means He Eternally Judges The Son?

Augustine in the eighth book of On Trinity begins to talk of love as involving three substances: the lover, the loved, and love. Modern apologists like Ravi Zacharias have argued that the statement God is Love could only be true if God is essentially and eternally a Triune being: the Father eternally loves the Son through the Holy Spirit. Thus, it was not that God was all alone (a monad) before the creation and had nothing to love, but being the Triune inter-personal God, He ever existed as Love.

Of course, Augustine also talks about the possibility of loving oneself and sees three things involved in this as well: “when the mind knows itself and loves itself, there remains a trinity: mind, love, knowledge; and this trinity is not confounded together by any commingling”. However, in this mono-love, there is only one person, though one may divide the experience into the lover, the loved, and love. Loving oneself is not inter-personal, and therefore possesses no love act of self-giving and submission. Therefore, the concept of the Triune God as Love is considered significant.

One objection raised to this argument goes something like this: If God is love means the Father eternally loves the Son through the Spirit, does God is Judge means the Father eternally judges the Son through the Spirit? And this applies to all statements such as “God is jealous” or “God is a consuming fire”. Is the Father eternally jealous or eternally consuming the Son? The objection tries to reduce the argument to ad absurdum.

A few clarifications are necessary. The objection misses the difference between love and the other mentioned predicates. “Jealous” here is an adjective, not a noun. “Consuming fire” is metaphorical for the righteousness of God in His judgment. “Judge” is an office which stands in relation to the created world. The statement “God is Love” is not the same as “God is Loving”. When one says that “God is Love”, there is an identity of substance and not just participation in or possessing of an attribute. This cannot be predicated of any other being. For instance, one cannot say that Mr. A is Love; we only say Mr. A is loving in nature. To say God is Love is to speak in absolute and infinite terms. The statement “God is Love” points to God as the ground of all morality and personality. Note the following excerpt from a previous post:

There are at least three approaches to understanding Trinity.

The Rational Approach. … personality finds its best explanation in the personal nature of God, whose existence as three persons (I-YOU-HE Sufficiency) in one Godhead is the ground of personhood.

The Moral Approach. It seeks to find in the doctrine of Trinity a rational ground for the absolute nature of moral virtues, such as love, goodness, and joy. If God didn’t eternally exist in a subject-object relationship, then He would be amoral and morality would not be absolute. The doctrine of Trinity provides a rational ground for any discussion of morality with respect to its absolute nature…. [See Illustrating Trinity]

Love is the summation of morality and personality and morality cannot be dissected of each other. To be a person is to be moral. Therefore, the reality of personality and morality must find an ontological ground in an infinite inter-personal Beginning and End of all things. The Triune Persons cannot be FOUR since inter-personal sufficiency is sufficed by the I-YOU-HE tri-personal Sufficiency), or else infinitude would be reduced to finite polytheism without any essential unity. Thus, the revelation of God as Love is crucial to our understanding of every other contingent reality of moral personhood.

Is Fallenness Present As Opposite Sex Attraction In Some And Same-Sex Attraction In Others?

Source: Is Fallenness Present As Opposite Sex Attraction In Some And Same-Sex Attraction In Others?

Sometime back, a pastor and leader in a reputed apologetic ministry commented that temptation to him occurred in the form of same-sex attraction, emphasizing that Christians must not regard temptation as sin but fight against temptation. He then went on to state that the fallenness of humanity is common to all and that while depravity may be manifest as opposite sex attraction in some, it appears as same-sex attraction in him and others. His comments went viral on social media. However, I disagree with his latter theological comment. Let me clarify the reasons:

1. Opposite sex attraction is considered natural in the scriptures and in common human history as well. Perversions exist with regard to this in the form of incest, adultery, sadism, and the like. However, this is not the case with same-sex attraction. It is by nature unnatural and cannot be put in the same terms as opposite-sex attraction. The statement made by the apologist hints at an understanding of same-sex attraction as something that exists as congenital perversion, i.e.present from birth as a pervert orientation. I believe that this is theologically inaccurate. It not only suggests that perversion is not uniform but also that it is diversely transferred as particular sin-acts and not just principle at birth. The blame is thrown on original sin. The Bible, however, states that God fashioned all hearts alike, but humans have perverted their ways. Romans 1 doesn’t say that people became homosexuals because they were wired in that way. It says that they became so because they rejected God.

2. One must distinguish between addictive slavery to acts and dispositions of human nature. For instance, nobody is created with orientation to smoking. They get addicted to it by beginning to try smoking. Later, they turn slaves to it. Then, even after some accept Christ, the temptation to smoke may exist unless one is completely delivered. But, for one who has never smoked, this temptation doesn’t exist. It is not due to congenital depravity but due to bondage inflicted by acts. The same applies even to sexual attractions. The one in bondage needs deliverance from that form of perverse and unnatural bondage. Nobody is wired to specific acts of sin at birth. They get snared by their choices. Some bondage could even have resulted from not being able to recover from abuse.

3. The Bible also talks of evil spirits and temptation by the devil towards greed, murder, pride and sin. If someone is in bondage because of giving in to evil powers, that person needs deliverance by the Holy Spirit. One cannot resist the devil, however, unless one has submitted to God. And, when that happens, the devil will flee.

The only true kind of deliverance is spiritual. The battle, whether of attraction or addiction, is in the mind. The Bible calls for renewal of mind. It means to reject any psychological or pseudo-theological opinion that tries to shift blame on a “sinful nature” that cannot be removed. Deliverance is real. There are many cases of people who have been delivered and have absolutely no desire for say smoking or alcohol anymore. They can’t stand these. The songs of worship which were boring to them once are now sweet and refreshing to their souls. They can’t sit with the scornful talking worldly things. There has been a change of nature, change of appetite, change of disposition. But, they had to first take that first step, though seemingly weak, towards repentance and faith in the Savior. They also must choose to be renewed in the spirit of their mind.

What Is Wrong With Homosexuality?

Sodomites trying to attack Lot are striked blind by angels

The contention of being “oriented” argues from a supposedly ontological basis. Just because a person claims to be so oriented, gives him/her justification to act in the way he/she claims to be oriented. The premise is: Whatever is natural (or the nature of one) is moral and justified. However, there is a problem with this premise.

First of all, the objective nature of the claim has to be conclusively established — the claims themselves being subjective and the nature of the investigation being empirical makes this quite unrealistic.

Secondly, it is quite superfluous to assume that within members of the same species, opposed “natures” or “orientations” exist. Obviously, that defeats any attempt to definition. Originally, one understands what a man or a cat or an elephant is by nature. If any member of a particular species seems to be behaving differently or contrary to this nature, the behavior is considered to be unnatural. But, if a multiplicity of “orientations” were allowed as natural, the definition of what is natural suffers.

The Bible calls homosexuality as being “against nature”.

For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.
Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful,and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. (Rom 1:26-27)

Those who have no interest in the Biblical pronouncement, however, must explain their grounds for basis a moral argument for homosexual rights. Obviously, it will be self-defeating for them to accept the subjective “orientation” arguments. For, if they accept that, they would also be legitimizing every other form of sexual “perversion” (as we understand all such acts that are contrary to nature). [Check the Wikipedia List: List of Paraphilias]

For an atheist, the issue might be quite subjective and moral norms a matter of majority judgments. For instance, Bertrand Russel, in his debate with Father Copleston, argued that cases such as Hitler’s in which he felt his actions to be right may be compared to people who have jaundice and so saw things as yellow. But, if the jaundiced were the majority, their view would be considered “natural” and the others “unnatural”. Such an argument is ultimately self-defeating. How would a society in which everyone believed that murdering each other was good and protecting each other was considered evil be like? How about a society in which homosexuality is considered natural because the majority are homosexuals and heterosexuality is considered unnatural? In both the cases, if all other implications of the argument are worked out, there should be no human left to sustain the argument. Everybody will kill each other and sincere homosexuality would put an end to human reproduction, wouldn’t it? Certainly, something is wrong here.

Sadly, the “think-tanks” of liberation only want to sing the chorus of feelings and independence. These are their only absolutes that they fight for. But, how can one claim to have an answer without first working out all the implications of a problem? How can one have arrived at a conclusion without first following all the necessary steps involved in working out the solution of a problem? These are not “think-tanks”; these are choruses.

The word “homosexual” is malakos in the Greek Bible. It means:
1) soft, soft to the touch
2) metaphorically, in a bad sense
2a) effeminate
2a1) of a catamite
2a2) of a boy kept for homosexual relations with a man
2a3) of a male who submits his body to unnatural lewdness
2a4) of a male prostitute

The word “sodomites” is arsenokoites in the Greek Bible. It means “one who lies with a male as with a female, sodomite, homosexual.”

The Bible gives the judgment:

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. (1Co 6:9-10)

Source: What Is Wrong With Homosexuality?