The seminary and piety: a surrejoinder

If we define a faithful minister of the Word along the lines of Acts 6, a man devoted to the Word and prayer, it seems to me that in the twentieth century faithful orthodox seminaries have done fairly well in training men in one half of this equation: the Word. But what of the other? Well, I think many leaders in former generations expected these things to be caught by osmosis even though Jesus responded positively to the disciples’ request that he teach them how to pray. Spirituality needs to be “taught” and handed on. And while all professors in a seminary need to approach their specific subjects with an answerable spiritual frame, it is not wrong for some to focus on spirituality. Given the fact that spirituality and spiritual formation are increasingly huge engagements for both our larger cultural “moment” and within the boundaries of the Church, it is not unrealistic to ask certain men to specialize in the praxis of spirituality and the history of biblical spirituality.

As an historian, I feel the latter is very important: during the course of the twentieth century for a variety of reasons many of those who loved the Scriptures as the inerrant Word of God and faithfully upheld biblical orthodoxy failed to pass on the rich piety of their forebears in the Reformation, Puritan, Pietist and early Evangelical traditions. And surely this is one of the reasons why certain communities within the broad stream of twentieth-century English-speaking Evangelicalism became enamoured of the Spirit and talked as if they were the first to discover him since the Pentecost: they looked around and saw a tradition that seemed to have little place for piety, experience, and dare I say it, rapture (no I am not talking about an eschatological item!). Incidentally, here is where a man whom Carl has been writing about in recent days, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, is so helpful: his balance of Word and Spirit is admirable (re other matters Carl has raised about the Doctor, this is not the place to go into those, though I agree with Carl that the recent collection of essays on the Doctor is by and large a welcome addition to the books on that remarkable servant of God).

Maybe, I need to take up Carl’s offer and we can do a book together on this subject of the seminary and piety—and maybe Dr Lucas, if he is so inclined, could also be involved!