Friday, May 25, 2012

Restoration Education: Beware!

History is a great teacher.  Often dismissed as dry as dust and something to be ignored, it still has much to say about our present and our future.

Training a faithful ministry is of critical importance to me.  Not only as my 'profession,' but now even more so as I want my children and grandchildren, and their children to hear the truth of God's Word proclaimed.  My interest in this subject did not begin with a blog written months ago or its subsequent publishing in the May 2012 Restoration Herald.

Now my thoughts have turned to reviewing the historical perspective of higher Christian education in the Restoration  Movement.  I'm convinced as I read some of the literature that we are witnessing the very same things as our Restoration forefathers experienced.  I'm going to share a few of these highlights in this blog.  I could wish I had a wider audience, but perhaps it will circulate beyond a few, and cause many to ask similar questions, and motivate them to take action to stem the tide of liberalism in once faithful Restoration schools.

Let me at the outset give credit to the classic Restoration History textbook, Christians Only by James D. Murch (Cincinnati, Standard Publishing, 1962).  I've been glad to dust this old book off and read anew his history and assessment of the Movement.

Bethany College was chartered in 1840, welcoming the first students on Oct. 21, 1841. (145)  The first commencement was held on July 4, 1843. (146)  Listen to Murch's assessment of the quality and impact of those early graduates:

Soon a steady stream of well-equipped ministers of the gospel was flowing out to give leadership to the churches from coast to coast.  These men reflected a methodology in preaching that was peculiar to Bethany.  They carried their Bibles with them and their great familiarity with the passages pertaining to salvation and the pattern of the New Testament church amazed their listeners.  The gospel which they preached was characterized by simplicity.  All abstruse and metaphysical theology was put aside and "Christ and him crucified" was exalted in every sermon....  If a "thus saith the Lord" could not be produced for the preacher's teaching, it was forthwith rejected by the elders and the people who came to the services with their Bibles and "thumbed the references" to "see if these things were so."  People from the community marveled, and said, "We never heard so much Scripture in sermons anywhere." (146)
 Something strikes me about the dates.  History is going to teach us something!  Bethany College first received students in 1841.  By the early 1900's the Liberals were already attacking and taking over many schools.  By 1912 formerly stalwart schools were turned liberal by "higher education."  J. W. McGarvey, president of College of the Bible in Lexington, KY died in 1911.  Murch sadly notes what happened to that school upon McGarvey's death:
The liberal strategy at Lexington was exactly the same as that used by educators in all Protestant denominations.  They insisted that the educational standing of the College needed to be improved.  There were too many students who had received improper preparatory training.  Some men were beyond the 'teaching age.'  Teaching methods in use were obsolete.  Professors were needed who could lecture and conduct 'cooperative' inquiry between student and teacher, with much reading and broad research on 'all sides of a question.'  There ought to be much freedom of discussion (as if there had never been any) and stimulation of students to come to "their own conclusions."  Motive and viewpoint in studying the Bible had changed, and the "new approach" was essential if the school was not to be "typed" and ostracized by the accrediting agencies.... (242)

 Yogi Berra was right.  This is Deja Vu all over again!  These early schools went from training faithful preachers to worrying over what the accrediting agencies would say!  Think of other schools that began in the 1940's who in 2012 are now concerned more with secular standards and requirements than training a faithful Gospel ministry.  In 1919 the Christian Standard called out the Liberal strategy.  It noted, "Instead of forming a training force sufficient for a great Bible ministry, our colleges are too largely spending their energies in feeble rivalry of State institutions, under secular and not under Scriptural, standards of efficiency." (247)  Schools once "set for the defense of the Gospel" are now seeking mainstream secular acceptance, acquiescing to worldly academic standards, relegating Bible education to a place of lesser prominence.

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