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That is: why is it necessary that a minister of the Gospel acquire an education and be a graduate from a seminary?

Perhaps if we put it in conversational form, letting the first speaker each time present the objections to an educated clergy, and the second speaker represent the view of the undersigned in answer thereto, we could make the matter clear.

First Speaker: I believe that if God singles out someone to preach the Gospel, He puts the message into their hearts. For we read in Mark 13:11, “Take no thought what ye shall speak, neither do ye pre-meditate, but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye.” Then they speak that which they heard from God and not something which they memorized at the feet of some professor.

Second Speaker: In Mark 13:11 Jesus is not prescribing what preparation is or is not necessary to the ministry, but is assuring His persecuted followers that He will not forsake them in the hour of trial for He will give them His Spirit and they shall testify. Besides that, however, God does not put messages into our hearts. God has put His whole message in the Scriptures and if we will have His message in our hearts we must get it, not out of the air, but out of His word. Then Paul says, “Study to show thyself approved unto God” and, again, “Meditate upon these things, give thyself wholly to them.” In the effort to do this more efficiently and whole-heartedly an education is an absolute requirement. Gold is beautiful but it requires mining, God’s message is beautiful but it requires study. A man one time said, the Bible was not written for lazy people.

First Speaker: We need ministers such as Amos, the prophet, he said, “I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son, but I was a herdman…and the Lord took me as I followed the flock.” Amos did not go to school a few years, instead, the Lord prepared Him in His own way. Amos could say, all I know is what the Lord taught me.

Second Speaker: Every godly minister is taught of the Lord, according to Isaiah (and John 6:45). But you forget two things. First of all you forget that the O.T. days of shadows and types are terminated, the days of special revelation and inspiration have passed. To wait for their return is to tempt God. God still teaches His ministers but He does this through the means, preparation and education under godly teachers, ministers and professors. But you also forget that Moses had preparatory training, so did Samuel and Joshua, and don’t forget the Apostle Paul. Long- ago the churches realized that preparatory training was necessary in order that a minister might rightly divide the Words, defend and preach it with all the talent at his command. Therefore in 1618-1619 they penned these words: “The Churches shall exert themselves as far as necessary, that there be students supported by them to be trained for the ministry of the Word.” And, again, “The consistories shall see to it that there are good Christian schools.” (D.K.O. Arts 19, 21 resp.).

First Speaker: A minister is called to preach the simple Gospel. If he have the gift of reading he can read it for himself for the Bible is so simple that a child can understand it. Coming from schools our ministers often preach big words, latest ideas, modern views and they treat us to indigestible pieces of philosophy. Besides, we read) in I John 2:27, “ye need not that any man teach you.”

Second Speaker: Your interpretation of I John 2:27 proves exactly that the Gospel is not so simple and if our ministers would all read the whole Bible as wrong as you read that text would deceive the church of God by our lack of learning and failure of knowing how to read the simple Word;. It is not a simple things to read the Word of God, much less to preach it. The ministers must do both.

Here I would like to emphasize three things. First the preaching of the Gospel is so immense and so sacredly holy a work that the preparation for it cannot be too thorough and careful. Even the barber has to take a preparatory course. You would not want your horse treated by any but a certified veterinarian. Is God then so careless of His Holy Word that He will have it administered by men unskilled therein? Consider that the Gospel is the Word of the eternal God, the power of God unto salvation, a Key of the Kingdom. How serious to misread; and misinterpret it. I know, the most skilled and highly talented are continually capable of error, and every one of us makes errors, but if these errors are due simply to negligent preparation and faulty training the matter is that much worse.

Secondly, the minister must be able to interpret Scripture with the Scripture. And then, as Terry says in his Biblical Hermeneutics, “A thorough acquaintance with the genius and grammatical structure of the original languages of the Bible, is essentially the basis of all sound interpretation.” A little later he says, “A translation, however faithful, is an interpretation, and cannot safely be made a substitute for original and independent investigation” (p. 69). We see thus that acquaintance with Hebrew and Greek is essential and whoever has seen an Hebrew Bible will admit that it might take a few years of study before you will read it.

Finally, the minister’s work is not merely to talk about an isolated text for a while and; probably later draw some valuable lessons from it, as is the habit of many. But he is called to preach the Whole Counsel of God. To preach the text, in the text to preach Christ, in Christ to preach God, and in that to preach the way of salvation so earnestly and convincingly that even the devils will say, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, which show unto us the way of salvation.” Acts 16:17. The preparation for this mighty work cannot therefore be too thorough.

First Speaker: I believe so much education spoils them. They learn creeds and doctrines and their preaching is cold. I believe “Hij moet eerst’s doorfareken, dan kan hij wat vertellen.” Then it comes from the heart, not merely from the head.

Second Speaker: I grant that there are many so-called pre-seminary courses which fill ministers with science, falsely so called. But the fault lies not in education and instruction but in the instructors themselves who evidently were not educated of God. I know, many schools and universities have become ashamed of the doctrines of the Fathers. But the true idea of education along this line has been preserved for us in The Ordination and Installation of Professors of Theology. (Which you may read for yourself in the rear of our Psalters). Let me quote Paul, he writes to Timothy: “And the things which thou hast heard from many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others.” The form packs this all together as follows: “It follows therefore that the Church has the divine mission to proclaim the Word of God, to collect from that Word of God her standards of faith, to study theology according to these words.” A seminary which commits itself faithfully to this high calling, will, by the grace of God send forth from her halls men who know the truth and love it, and who with head and heart shall defend and preach it.

First Speaker: But it is much better that a minister know the needs of the sinner than that he know all the languages and creeds.

Second Speaker: Certainly no one can be a true minister of the Gospel except he know himself as a sinner and know the needs of sinners in general. That is the principle of all sound wisdom. But since our knowledge of sin comes from the Word of Gold, what could be better for the minister than that he be able to read and interpret that Word skillfully? The more he does that, the more he and the congregation will begin to know the true heights of grace and fathom more fully the depths of sin. There are men who have visited the depths of sin, walked therein for years, were then converted and later became ministers. But it is to nobody’s honor, least of all to God’s, that he spent the first part of his life in sin. Our pre-seminary course follows the covenant way of gradual development in sin-consciousness and grace-consciousness. The minister does not lose these by acquiring an education, rather he is strengthened in them and then becomes “apt to teach” others in them later.