(The following essay was written in 2013 for the Gospel and Plow School of Theology (GPST) at the Sam Higginbottom University of Agriculture, Technology and Sciences (Then SHIATS) at Allahabad. It has now been published in “Don’t Let Schooling Stand in the Way of Education: A Biblical Response to the Crisis in Public Education” (2021 by Darrow Miller)
In order to bless India, the pioneers of the modern missionary movement did not establish a Bible seminary/institute or school. Instead, these Calvinist-Baptists founded Serampore College in 1818. Their leader,William Carey, was one of the greatest Bible translators/publishers of all times. Yet, along with teaching the Bible, that cobbler-turned-linguist taught botany, horticulture, astronomy, forestry, and agriculture. He founded India’s Agri-Horticultural Society built up India’s second-best botanical garden in Serampore College, published scientific books, and pioneered Indian journalism. The college rapidly grew to become Serampore University in 1827. SG-4a Later, the Serampore University Senate handed over the departments of liberal arts and science to the secular government and confined itself to teaching theology.
Did the university’s theology unwittingly and fatally separate the so-called “sacred” subject of divinity from “secular” studies?
This essay is a big-picture critique of the modern movement of theological seminaries/Bible institutes/Bible schools. .
TROUBLING QUESTIONS :
William Carey’s generation triggered India’s renaissance.
Has our fragmented worldview made theological education relevant for heaven but irrelevant for earth?
As of today (2013), one cannot find a single copy of Sam Higginbottom’s book, The Gospel and the Plow (1921), in the library of the Sam Higginbottom Institute of Agriculture, Technology and Sciences. Is it because our theological education has no genuine interest in integrating theology with the “plow”? That is, with the science, sociology, economics, law, politics, and technology needed to bless India?
Why did twentieth-century theology cease making the church the light of the world?
Did the corruption of Western theology inflict this disease upon India? More importantly, is this separation of theology from the rest of the academy responsible for marginalizing Christianity in the world’s premier Protestant nation—the United States of America?
WHY CHRISTIANITY LOST AMERICA
“Liberal theology” has self-destructed.
From the outset, the idea was foolish that the Bible is humanity’s Word, not God’s, yet human reason can systematize the “science of God” (theology). Today, hardly anyone studies liberal theology to try to know God. Therefore, in this essay, the “Bible Institute/School/Seminary” movement generally means evangelical, theological institutions.
The theological ethos that established these institutions was radically different from the worldview of the Puritans who founded Harvard (1636), Yale (1701), and Princeton (1746). These universities were created to train men and women to serve the church and the world that God loves.
According to its motto adopted in 1692, America’s first college, Harvard, was started by Puritans for “Christ and the Church” (Christo et Ecclesiae). Harvard, which arguably wrote America’s DNA, is still the world’s number one university. It continues to shape America.
Christianity lost America for several reasons, principally because it gave up its best Christian colleges and retreated into the Bible seminary movement.
THE HEART OF THE MATTER: UNIVERSITY versus SEMINARY
Harvard’s iconic crest was adopted in December 1643. It made the pursuit of truth (veritas in Latin) the purpose of the university’s existence, because God wants “all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
The Harvard Crest inscribed VE RI TAS on three books: (1) God’s words, (2) God’s works, and (3) God’s reason, reflected in His image—man. In order to discover truth, a student had to study all three and connect the dots discovered through them.
The Bible institute/seminary movement departed from this wholistic epistemology in an attempt to derive truth exclusively from the Scriptures— the book of God’s words.
The immediate intellectual force behind the Harvard crest was John Amos Comenius (1592–1670), the last bishop of The Unity of the Brethren church. His ninety books on education made him the father of modern education. He also helped shape the modern Protestant theology of “Nation” that forged the 1648 “Peace of Westphalia.”
That theology created nations such as the United States of America and India.
Samuel Hartlib and John Milton invited Comenius to England in the early 1640s to launch what would have been the world’s first “modern” college in Chelsea, London. The Civil War prevented the establishment of that college, but two significant things came out of his time in London:”
Comenius laid the intellectual foundations of the Royal Society. A majority (62 percent) of its founders were Puritans. At that time Thomas Hobbes was the only atheist thinker in England, and that disqualified him to be a member of history’s most influential scientific society.
New England’s Governor John Winthrop interacted with Comenius and brought his philosophy of Christian education to America.Besides Comenius, Christian thinkers who shaped Harvard’s educational philosophy included Francis Bacon (1561–1626), Alexander Richardson (d. in or before 1629), William Ames (1576–1633), and Johann Heinrich Alsted (1588–1638). They believed that truth is known through rational revelation.
Martin Luther was an Augustinian monk and a professor at Wittenberg University. For a thousand years, his theological tradition had believed that in order to know truth one had to study God’s two books: the book of God’s words and the book of God’s reason, reflected in His image—the human mind.
The first book (Scripture) is understood through the second (reason). Luther’s iconic declaration at the Diet of Worms in 1522 articulated this worldview:
“Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other. My conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.”
THE BOOK OF GOD’S ’s WORDS —SCRIPTURE
Jesus confirmed the Old Testament view that truth and falsehood are both communicated in words and that God’s Word is a source of our knowledge of truth.
The Sidonian widow of Zarephath said to Elijah,
“Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth” (1 Kings 17:24).
- “Your word is truth” (John 17:17);
- “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35);
- “If you abide in my word, … you will know the truth” (John 8:31–32),
The apostles reinforced the Lord’s teaching: Paul affirmed,
- “All Scripture is breathed out by God (2 Timothy 3:16).
- “No prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).
THE BOOK OF GOD’S ’S REASON
Luther taught Aristotle to his students and considered parts of the Greek philosopher’s writings to be a corrupting influence upon Europe’s intellectual life. Yet Luther—one of history’s most important champions of God’s Word—agreed with Aristotle that learning truth requires studying and using reason, including logic and mathematics.
This aspect of medieval education came via Augustine, who considered reason to be God’s distinctive gift to man. That is why Augustinian tradition believes that the mind must be developed, just as we multiply other talents given to us.
Augustine’s theology of reason was grounded in the apostle John, who presented God as a rational person. For very good reason, Reformed theologian Gordon Clark translated John 1:1 as “In the beginning was reason [logos, word], reason was with God, and reason was God.”
What makes WORD different from “mantra?”
A word is a sound with sense. A proposition makes sense only because it is a logical arrangement of words and sentences. Many Bible schools no longer teach logic. Traditionally, however, theology required the study of logic. Timothy’s pastoral role required him to study to show himself approved unto God, one who exegetes the word logically (2 Timothy 2:15). Paul did not ask Timothy to memorize his words, for the Judeo-Christian Scriptures are not mantras to be memorized and enunciated correctly. God’s Word is His wisdom. Therefore, Paul commands Timothy to “think over”his words (2 Timothy 2:7).
To do theology is to think and interpret revealed data logically. It calls one to cultivate a logical mind.
THE BOOK OF GOD’S WORKS
William Carey taught astronomy and botany. Sam Higginbottom taught agriculture, science, and technology because by their time Protestant theology had improved upon Luther. Luther studied the books of God’s words and reason, but these could not teach him the truth about the solar system.
In his usual bombastic style, Luther (1483–1546) wrote a pamphlet denouncing Copernicus’s (1473–1543) theory that the earth revolves around the sun, not the sun around the earth.
Soon afterward, Galileo’s (1564–1642) careful observations of God’s works —the actual motions of the planets—confirmed Copernicus’s theoretical model. Galileo took pains to exegete the Bible and argue that his suncentered view of the solar system was consistent with the Bible. Yet his discovery challenged Luther’s epistemology as much as it challenged the Pope’s infallibility. Protestants and Catholics had to come to terms with the fact that it was not enough to study God’s Word and reason. God asks us to study his works also.
That study is necessary for us to rule over the earth (Psalm 8:6; 64:9; 72:12;92:5, etc.).
It was Francis Bacon (1561–1626)—often called the father of modern science—who forcefully championed the necessity of studying God’s works. The Scriptures say that “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1a).
In Romans 1:19–20, Paul says that “God’s works reveal the truth about God and His attributes, including His power, wisdom, and glory (see also John 9:3; 11:40).
Bacon’s exposition of the Bible was the reason Cambridge University inscribed Psalm 111:2 at the entrance of Cavendish Laboratory—history’s first scientific lab:
“Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.”
The psalm celebrates God’s work, both in nature and in culture. The Old and New Testaments record God’s works so that we might study them in our quest for truth and then teach them to others. God’s works reveal His love as much as His words do. That is why the church established research universities. Christian scholars researched all three books of God: the book of God’s words; the book of God’s works; and the book of God’s reason (including logic and mathematics) because, as Bacon reminded Christian scholars, God reveals as well as conceals truth.
“It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out” (Proverbs 25:2).
The rising and setting sun conceals the fact that day and night are caused by the earth’s revolution, not the sun’s.
Evangelicalism was America’s dominant force during much of the twentieth century. Yet it did not build a single research university during its heyday. Why? One reason was its truncated epistemology that in order to know truth Christians should study only the Scriptures. Another factor was the belief that revelation means that God is in the business of revealing, not concealing matters.
Research universities and labs were built on the knowledge that God’s words and works conceal matters; we are endowed with reason in order to discover hidden treasures.
FRAGMENTATION OF KNOWLEDGE:
From Modernism to Postmodernism
Medieval as well as modern universities saw theology as the queen of all sciences.
When Isaac Newton (1642–1726/7) came to Cambridge, there was no department of science. What we call science was, for Newton, a study of the book of God’s works. It was called Natural Philosophy, meaning wisdom and revelation concealed in God’s creation but available to all.
The current fragmentation of knowledge began when Europe’s Protestant philosophers surrendered to a Roman Catholic heresy that gave to the book of reason the controlling authority over the books of God’s words and works.
Reason is necessary to understand Scripture, nature, and culture. However, reason’s job is to understand, receive, interpret, synthesize, apply, and articulate revelation, not to judge it.
Enlightenment rationalism began as a Roman Catholic heresy. Catholic theology affirmed the ultimate authority of the Scriptures and the Church. The Church’s interpretation of the Scriptures claimed infallibility. It did not grant final authority to individual reason because it believed in original sin. Therefore, it was not traditional Catholicism but a heresy to think that Adam and Eve’s “fall” affected the heart but not the mind.
Therefore, the mind (reason, logic) could discover truth without grace, without revelation or inspiration.
René Descartes’s rationalism ignored total depravity and exalted the book of reason above the books of God’s words and works: this was the beginning of humanist hubris.
For revelation is the only reason a section of the Roman Catholic Church had trusted reason. The Orthodox Church failed to develop universities because it did not fully embrace Augustine’s biblical perspective on human reason as God’s image.
The Protestant Reformers were theologians. Through thinkers such as Luther and Calvin, Protestantism inherited the best of Catholic thought. European thinkers built upon that foundation.
Tragically, however, some of their European followers, mainstream Protestant philosophers, theologians, and apologists, surrendered to rationalist arrogance.
They, too, put reason above revelation and undermined the authority of Scriptures, of Logos (Word become flesh), and quickly of reason itself.
Modernism failed to give us the knowledge of truth because it destroyed revelation—the only available ground of our confidence in “reason.” Its overconfidence in reason quickly degenerated into skepticism, ignorance, unbelief, immorality, and defiance of God’s authority.
Western rationalism (including theological “modernism” or liberalism) undermined confidence in the Scriptures because it was oblivious to the fact that it was sawing off the very branch upon which it sat. That, however, was a lesser tragedy.
More disastrous was Christian “fundamentalist” (i.e., evangelical) reaction to “liberal” modernism.
During the twentieth century it abandoned the university in favor of Bible institutes/seminaries. Evangelicalism threw the baby out with the bathwater.
In reacting against rationalism, fundamentalism abandoned studying the books of God’s works and reason.
The Reformers’ slogan, “Sola Scriptura” (Scriptures alone), began to be misunderstood to mean “Study only the Scriptures.”
A theologian may learn Greek, but he does so to study the Bible, not Plato.
WHY SEMINARIES PLUNGED UNIVERSITIES INTO INTELLECTUALMORAL DARKNESS
In 1944, the Socratic Club in Oxford invited C. S. Lewis to speak on the theme “Is Theology Poetry?”
No one writes theology in verse. So, the question was not whether theology should be classified as poetry. The issue was whether Christians believe the creeds because those propositions are true or because they satisfy poetic imagination.
Lewis concluded his magnificent speech with a statement that has become classic:
“I believe in Christianity as I believe in the rising sun. Not simply because I see the sun, but because through it I see everything else.”
Lewis’s argument was that theology is the university’s queen of sciences because the Bible is the Sun that gives light to every branch of inquiry. God’s Word gives confidence in (humble) reason. Together, the Scriptures and reason make sense of everything else. That epistemology of rational revelation enabled the university to develop a coherent “world and life view.”
Without the Bible, the university is without a central or common source of light (a sun) through which each department can comprehend its subject and connect it with other branches of knowledge and with life outside the academy.
Postmodernism completed the fragmentation or silofication of knowledge. Without the sun, without revelation, it had to discard the very notion of truth—Veritas.
Education ceased being the pursuit of truth. It became merely the acquisition of information, skills, and degrees in the quest for employment and power (sometimes, mainly an opportunity for sports, fun, and networking).
This turned every university faculty into a silo. Deprived of the sun, every silo had to invent its own light, which took the form of a distinct vocabulary, creeds, and initiation rituals that could not be questioned by novices or non-initiates.
The Bible seminary started the problem. Two illustrations may help bring clarity:
Can God turn water into wine in an instant? Could He have made Eve a fully grown woman at the moment of her creation?
If so, He can also create in an instant a fully developed universe. But did He?
How is that question to be investigated?
A young-earth creationist may maintain that, about four thousand years before Christ, God created the universe in six days, each of twenty-four hours.
Did he arrive at that conclusion because he carefully synthesized all the information gleaned from the books of God’s Word, works, and reason? Or does he hold his belief as a dogma, because he believes that we know truth by reading only the Scriptures?
Is it biblical to not study God’s works (science) objectively? Why does an evolutionist believe that a professor of law, logic, or mathematics cannot understand or question the evidence for macroevolution?
It is because evolution—a great theory—has become a dogma. Evolutionists do not allow nonspecialists to scrutinize their dogma because postmodern biology, geology, and paleontology are silos—dogmatic, occult sciences accessible only to the initiated, not to outsiders.
Why Is the Postmodern University Sinking into Intellectual and Moral Darkness?
The sad answer is that the Bible institute/school/seminary movement put the university’s sun—the Bible—into an academic silo. Instead of seeking truth by synthesizing knowledge revealed in the books of God’s words, works, and reason, the Bible seminary isolated God’s words from his works and reason. Silofication of the sun pushed other departments into darkness.
The Gospel and Plough School of Theology(GPST) is uniquely placed to begin reversing the destructive epistemology of previous centuries. GPST can chart a new path for global theology if it takes seriously the vice chancellor’s call to equip and enable theology students to go to other departments to study books of God’s works and reason. Likewise, the theology faculty must equip itself to welcome students of agriculture, science, technology, and the humanities to take courses in the book of God’s words.
The day must come when professors of physics, anthropology, and medicine will pursue postdoctoral research in theology, not to become pastors but in order to synthesize information gleaned from God’s three books.
Too much of today’s discussion of education focuses on the programmatic and policy level of education; it focuses on the what and how of education, as well as the latest educational techniques and technologies.
In a deeper understanding focus is necessary on the most basic, most unasked, and most important question:” Why Education?”
“Truth and Transformation” was the first of several results of that study. The latest is The Third Education Revolution (See www.ThirdEducationRevolution.com)
“Don’t Let Schooling Stand in the Way of Education: A Biblical Response to the Crisis in Public Education” by Darrow Miller (General Editor) which kindly published this essay as a chapter is another.
Other books by Vishal include:
- This Book Changed Everything: The Bible’s Amazing Impact on Our World (2019)
- The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization (2011)
- Truth and Transformation: A Manifesto for Ailing Nations (2009);
- Corruption versus True Spirituality [with Francis Schaeffer] (1998)
- India: The Grand Experiment (1997)
- Missionary Conspiracy: Letters to a Postmodern Hindu (1996);
- What Liberates a Woman? The Story of Pandita Ramabai: A Builder of Modern India [with Nicol McNicol] (1996)
- The Legacy of William Carey: A Model for the Transformation of a Culture [with Ruth Mangalwadi] (original edition 1993).”
Bibliography recommendations. on this Chapter by Darrow Miller
1.Bibliography On Sam Higginbottom:
Hess, Gary R. 1967. Sam Higginbottom of Allahabad: Pioneer of Point Four to India. Charlottesville: The University Press of Virginia.
Higginbottom, Sam. 1921. The Gospel and the Plow: Or, The Old Gospel and Modern Farming in Ancient India. New York: The Macmillan Company. (available from www.ThirdEducationRevolution.com )1949. Sam Higginbottom, Farmer: An Autobiography. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
Mangalwadi, Vishal, and Ruth Mangalwadi. 1999. The Legacy of William Carey: A Model for the Transformation of a Culture. Mussoorie, UA: Good Books.
3.On Why Christianity Lost America:
Grant, Edward. 2001. God and Reason in the Middle Ages. Cambridge University Press.
Marseden, George M. 2006. Fundamentalism and American Culture. Oxford University Press.
Noll, Mark A. 1994. The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
4.On the Place of Reason in Christian Education:
Cochrane, Charles Norris. 1940. Christianity and Classical Culture. Oxford University Press. Cochrane, Charles Norris. 1940. Christianity and Classical Culture. Oxford University Press.
Scott, David Hill. “A Vision of Veritas: What Christian Scholarship Can Learn from the Puritan’s [sic] ‘Technology’ of Integrating Truth,”
[LeadershipU, leaderu.com/aip/docs/scott.html. ]
5. On Biblical Theology and the Making of the Modern World:
Mangalwadi, Vishal. 2011. The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.”
Note: The Kingdom Education Hub (KEH), the movement behind the The Third Education Revolution, is bringing together scholars from around the world to re-consider divine revelation as the source of human knowledge of truth. As a prelude to creating Kingdom Curricula online, we are discussing the Kingdom Philosophy of Curriculum. Presentation #1 is available on request from www.ThirdEducationRevolution.com