CRC Principle for Having a Separate Seminary


Does the denomination have some principle in mind for having a separate seminary where theology is pursued apart from the other academic disciplines? Why not incorporate it into a university setting? I recently heard a sermon on Genesis 1 and 2, be it an enthusiastic one with some valid points, but one that displayed a definite ignorance about obvious scientific facts.

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There have been some serious debates or controversies about this matter in the early stages of our denomination’s life. Followers of Abraham Kuyper argued that his approach of teaching theology as one discipline among many at a Christian university should be our guiding principle. But those who traced their heritage to the earlier Secession of 1834 in the Netherlands, Professor Foppe ten Hoor, for example, argued that the church must itself train its future ministers and that professors of theology are nothing other than ministers of the Word with a special task. Proponents of this position even sought to base their arguments on biblical texts such as 2 Timothy 2:1-2, where Paul was said to be giving that charge to his “son” in the faith. I must say I have considerable difficulty interpreting the text that way.

Personally, I believe that even if it were preferable, the Ameri- can environment makes the realization of Kuyper’s vision a terribly difficult one to implement. I also believe that the CRCNA is com- mitted to both “principles” or concerns: a seminary that is under no other control than that of its own synod and, at the same time, a seminary that does not teach theology in seclusion from what its students have already absorbed in other subjects such as the natural sciences and psychology.

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I think this is a far more interesting topic than perhaps some people realize. I myself would lean towards agreeing with Karl Barth that, in reality, there is no science, or even knowledge, that is not in reality "theology" Our talk about physics, chemistry, biology, etc. is all really, in Barth's estimation, talk about God. In Church Dogmatics he deals with this and argues the following, I believe:

1) That theology is not and cannot be a science in that it cannot be submitted entirely to the same "scientific" principles that the other "sciences" claim.

2) That theology is, properly speaking, the only true science and that all the other disciplines are, in reality, subsets of theology.

3) That, practically speaking, theology must (in spite of poitn two above) remain somewhat separate from the other "scientific disciplines" so that it is not tempted to fall into the mistake of thinking of itself as "just another science"

These three beliefs (he says more, of course) are important, I believe in considering your comments regarding Kuyper and the earlier secessionists. It seems to me that the tension between "independence" and "accountability", while at the same time trying to wrestle appropriately with issues brought forth by other academic/cultural/scientific disciplines is a critical one for us to maintain. If we attempt to shut down dialogue on issues brought forth by the scientific community, for example, because they don't fit with our "doctrine", and we want to keep our preachers "pure" of harmful influences, then we will be aiming a gun at ourselves, in effect--playing russian roulette with our seminarians: When will this scientific stuff blow up in our faces?

If, on the other hand, we extend "independance" so far that students/staff/faculty are no longer required to adhere in any way to doctrinal standards then we play a different kind of russian roulette with ourselves such that we wonder when all this "independence" will lead us down a similar theological road to that which other mainline churches in Canada seem to have taken...

In short, I'm not at all sure that this is a tension that ought to be resolved. I think rather that the tension ought to be maintained as a healthy and important one.