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Between Athens And Berlin: The Theological Education Debate by David Kelsey

David Kelsey is Luther A. Weigle Professor of Theology at Yale University Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut. His article is based on his convocation address in 1996 inaugurating a new academic year in which YDS, under the leadership of its new dean, Richard Wood, set out to develop new curriculum and programs recommended by a review committee, which was chaired by Kelsey. This book was published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.,1993. It was prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock.

Chapter 1: Between Athens and Berlin

In the 1980s Christian theological educators in North America produced the most extensive debate in print about theological schooling that has ever been published. The debate is remarkable in several respects. For one thing, it is remarkable that it happened at all. Most types of higher education in America, from liberal arts colleges through research universities to schools of medicine and law, have periodically gone through seasons of self-critical debate about the nature and purpose of their enterprises. Often debate has led to educational reform. Such critical self-examination has not, however, been a notable preoccupation of theological educators. Almost thirty years had passed since the last major, comprehensive, and theologically self-conscious study of Protestant theological education.1 It is also remarkable, indeed unprecedented, that such a sustained debate emerged, not in response to one large study of theological education, but as a conversation among several quite different theological points of view.

Most striking of all, perhaps, is the fact that it has been a theological debate. Its central focus has been the question, "What is theological about theological education?" The debate has not focused on pedagogical questions, on variations of the question, "What is the most effective way to teach in theological education?" Presumably, pedagogical insights are applicable to teaching anything. No doubt theological teaching would profit enormously by being more deeply shaped by such insight. But that type of improvement would not necessarily make the education better theological education. Nor has the debate focused on questions about the future integrity of the enterprise of theological education: for example, "How can we strengthen and preserve its financial resources?" or "How do we attract abler students?" or "How do we make our course of study more responsive to the churches’ multiple demands without fracturing into a collection of unrelated programs?" Rather, the central question in the recent debate has been this: "What is the nature and purpose of specifically theological education? What sets it off from other apparently closely related academic enterprises as, precisely, theological education?"

The participants in the discussion have largely, although not entirely, been white male faculty members of theological schools that can fairly be described as "mainline Protestant" schools. It is important to acknowledge at the outset that this is a major limitation of the discussion. Theological educators who are women and people of color, Roman Catholic and evangelical Protestant have participated in the discussion. However, with one exception (the feminist Mud Flower Collective’s God’s Fierce Whimsy, discussed in Chapter 4), book-length essays about the nature and purpose of theological education written from any of their perspectives have not yet been published. Hopefully, that situation will soon be changed.

The premise of this book is that in the meantime it is important for the literature that has been generated by this debate to be widely understood and critically analyzed. This literature is important in fairly obvious ways for theological educators; after all, it is their enterprise that is under scrutiny! It is, I think, also important more broadly for anyone concerned about the health of the enterprise of "doing theology." There are two interlocking reasons why this is the case. The reasons are, first, that the literature reveals deep incoherences in the way theological education is, in actual practice, theologically conceived; and, second, that the literature sharply focuses much of what is at stake in different understandings of "the nature of theology." These two reasons interlock because of a crucial fact in the sociology of theology: the institutional context in which most "intellectually serious" or "formal" theology has been done in North America for more than a century and a half has increasingly been the theological school. Indeed, much of the time the term theology is used as shorthand for "academic theology," theology done in the academy and in large part answerable to the academy. Accordingly, if you profoundly reconceive theological schooling, you end up reconceiving what it is to do theology, and vice versa. Clearly, then, it is important for anyone concerned about the health of theological education, or, more broadly, for anyone concerned about the health of theology, to be aware, not simply of one or another of the voices in the debate, but of the overall structure and movement of the debate as a whole. On the one hand, it is important critically to see the force of claims about deep theological incoherence in theological education and their implied criticisms of what "theology" has become; on the other hand, it is equally important to see how differing pictures of the nature and purpose of theology call for differing changes in our understanding of the nature and purpose of theological education.

My goals in this book, then, are to give as fair and readable an account as I can of this literature, to describe the debate’s internal movement and structure, and to draw attention to what is at stake theologically between contrasting voices in the debate, including what is at stake regarding the nature of theology itself. I identify five voices in this debate that I take to be the most completely developed and importantly contrasting "positions" in the conversation: Edward Farley’s Theologia: The Fragmentation and Unity of Theological Education and his The Fragility of Knowledge: Theological Education in the Church and the University; 2 the Mud Flower Collective’s God s Fierce Whimsy; 3 Joseph C. Hough, Jr., and John B. Cobb, Jr.’s Christian Identity and Theological Education;4 Max L. Stackhouse’s Apologia: Contextualization, Globalization, and Mission in Theological Education; 5 and Charles M. Wood’s Vision and Discernment.6 Although each of these voices makes important claims in its own right, which I hope to summarize as briefly as clarity and fairness permit, what is most important, I think, is the largely implicit interplay among them of contrasting insights and themes. This is what I mean by "the debate’s internal movement and structure." Hence, even more important than summarizing accurately what they propose will be the effort to trace the movement of their thought as they seek to persuade us of the wisdom of their proposals; so too, more important even than identifying where their proposals explicitly or implicitly exclude one another will be the effort to see how tensions among their contrasting but equally valid insights actually bind them together and force us to find new conceptualities, new frames-of-reference for our analyses of what is theological about theological education. What I want to throw light on is not simply the important contributions these five voices make one by one but rather what we might call the "field" of conceptual tensions --conceptual conflicts, but also something like conceptual synergisms generated by the debate.

As a kind of axis or armature around which to organize discussion of these voices, I propose a typology. I suggest that for historical reasons Christian theological education in North America is inescapably committed to two contrasting and finally irreconcilable types or models of what education at its best ought to be. They are normative models, models of "excellent" education. For one type I shall suggest that "Athens" be the symbol, for the other "Berlin."7

Although persuasive theological arguments can be given for adopting each of these types, neither of them can be said to be somehow theologically mandated by the very nature of Christianity. Indeed, Tertullian’s ancient question, "What has Jerusalem to do with Athens?" might suggest that, with its roots in "Jerusalem," Christianity in fact theologically mandates a third type of excellent schooling altogether, one hitherto ignored by major Christian communities. Whatever the theologically normative case might be, however, it is the case de facto that modern North American Christian theological education is committed to "Athens" and "Berlin," and it is committed to both of them for historical reasons. Moreover, it is deeply committed. Both types of excellent schooling are deeply institutionalized in the practices that constitute American theological education of all sorts; neither one can simply be abandoned by a faculty vote!

Each type of excellent education has definite implications regarding a number of features of theological education, such as the relation between teachers and students, the characteristics looked for in an excellent teacher, what the education aims to do for the student, what the movement of the course of study should be, and the sort of community the school should be. We will return to these implications later in the chapter when we contrast "Athens" and "Berlin" to each other.

Christian theological education in North America is ineluctably located between "Athens" and "Berlin." Every theological course of study rests on some sort of more or less implicit negotiated truce between these two models of excellent schooling. My larger point will be that the five major voices in the current debate about theological education represent a set of overlapping, sometimes mutually conflicting, but sometimes mutually deepening and enriching patterns of negotiation between "Athens" and "Berlin." The rest of this chapter is devoted to outlining each "type" and suggesting how theological education came to be assimilated to it.


Because it was the picture of schooling celebrated in the culture of ancient Greece, we will let "Athens" stand for a type of schooling for which paideia is the heart of education. In Greek paideia meant a process of "culturing" the soul, schooling as "character formation." It is the oldest picture of education to be found in Christianity and has been powerfully retrieved in the current debate about theological education. By the end of the first century, Christians in a Hellenistic culture had already unselfconsciously come to think of Christianity as a kind of paideia. This model exercised a very long hegemony over Christian understandings of both Christianity and education. Toward the end of Early Christianity and Greek Paideia, Werner Jaeger, the foremost historian of paideia, claims that this model of education "can be pursued through the Middle Ages; and from the Renaissance the line leads straight back to the Christian humanism of the fathers of the fourth century A.D."8 At this end of the historical line, this model was introjected into the debate about theological education by the book that can fairly be said to have started the current discussion, Edward Farley’s Theologia, "which," in its own words, "purports to promote a Christian paideia."9

Of course, the idea of paideia has passed through some important changes during this long history. It was already more than four centuries old when the Christians arrived on the scene. In ancient Athens, "paideia" simply named an unself-conscious educational process through which young free males were "formed" by those virtues they would need in order to function as responsible adult citizens. The process involved the whole person. Their bodies were subjected to physical discipline, and their souls were in-formed by ancient Greece’s traditions and customs, chiefly by studying Homer, so that the young would emerge deeply shaped by the dispositions that make for good citizens. The goal of education as paideia was something both very public and very political: the cultivating of politically skilled citizens for an idealized "democratic" self-governing polis or city.

By the fourth century B.C., Athenian culture had become self-conseious about its ideal of both culture and education -- or, more exactly, about education as "culturing" the young.10 At that point Plato introduced the first major modification in the idea (though, as it turned out, not the practice) of paideia. In the Republic he proposed to refine the kind of education needed to provide public leadership by distinguishing two specific forms of paideia. The education of one group, whom Plato called the "Guardians," should aim at inculcating in them the civic traditions and the virtues (chiefly courage) they would need to protect the polis. This form of paideia would consist in largely unreflective, mostly rote training in traditional customs and practices. Another group, whom Plato called the "Philosopher Kings," were needed to rule the polis wisely and well. To do that they had to be capacitated for knowledge of the Good itself, and not simply for knowledge of traditional beliefs and practices. This would be accomplished by means of a form of paideia that would cultivate in them the "philosophical virtues," shaping in them habits of analytical and critical thinking. Clearly, even in Plato’s proposed revision, paideia is a model of excellent education defined by the goal of capacitating people for political and public action.

By this point in its career, paideia had come to have four aspects that continue to mark it thereafter, despite changes in other respects.11 These aspects are largely the legacy of Plato’s proposed reform of Athens’ traditional educational practices. They became intellectual and cultural commonplaces, generally accepted characteristics of what education "ought" to be, no matter how it was actually conducted. We will abstract them as an ahistorical construct, a type of excellent education, for which "Athens" will be the emblem:

(1) The goal of paideia, which is the cultivation of the excellence or arete of the soul, consists not in acquiring a clutch of virtues but in knowledge of the Good itself Education as paideia is defined as inquiry into a single, underlying principle of all virtues, their essence. To be shaped by arete simply is to know the Good.

(2) The Good is not only the underlying essence of the moral and intellectual virtues; it is the highest principle of the universe. It is the divine. Plato came to be understood as the founder of a religion, and paideia was understood to be an education whose goal was in some way religious as well as moral.

(3) The goal of paideia cannot be taught directly -- for example, by simply conveying information about various philosophers’ doctrines regarding virtue. Knowledge of the Good only comes through contemplation, the ultimate fruit of which is an intuitive insight, a gnosis of the Good. Accordingly, all a teacher can provide a student is indirect assistance, intellectual and moral disciplines that will capacitate the student for the student’s own moment of insight. This can be accomplished by the study of texts -- not merely Homer now, but the philosophers as well, especially Plato.

(4) Insightful knowledge of the Good requires a conversion, a turning around of the soul from preoccupation with appearances to focus on reality, on the Good. This conversion results from a long educational process that Jaeger characterizes as "slow vegetable growth.’’12 It requires, like vegetable growth, a climate and nutrients that can only be provided by a society and its culture, by the right polis. Education as paideia is inherently communal and not solitary.

Reconceived by Plato, paideia subsequently went through a second major change before Christians appropriated it (or before it appropriated the Christians). Over centuries, the goal of paideia increasingly shifted from the public to the private realm, from capacitating persons for public and political action to preparing them for inward and religious transformation. Moreover, increasingly it was stressed that divine assistance is needed for the conversion of soul that is required for knowledge of the Good; not even the "slow vegetable growth" fostered by paideia could be counted on to produce automatically the necessary turning of the soul. Perhaps these changes in paideia were rooted in massive changes in its social context. The Athenian polis lost its political integrity to Alexander’s empire, to the empire’s successor states, and then to Rome. Paideia had no further role as the education of citizens for a self-governing city. What it could offer was an education in inward happiness in the midst of outer social and political oppression and conflict. In any case, whatever the reason, the pagan paideia that Christians knew had itself "become a religion and an article of faith."13

For educated Greek-speaking people in the first century A.D., "culture" simply was, in a broad sense, paideia. When some of them became Christians, whether from pagan families or from Jewish families assimilated to Hellenistic culture, they came to Christianity as persons who had already been schooled in this way. It was unavoidable that they would construe their new Christian faith as an alternative paideia. Thus Clement of Rome, writing pastorally in A.D. 90 to the church in Corinth when it was divided by controversy, used literary tropes and patterns of argument likely to sway people formed by traditional paideia, referred to the "paideia of God" and the "paideia of Christ," and explicitly associated his letter with paideia to make it clear that the letter was to be read as a piece of Christian education.14 Presumably an analogous approach to pagans would be effective as a way to commend the faith: "Christianity’s not so alien; it’s a paideia like yours, aiming at the same goal, but superior in the way it does so."

Almost a century and a half after Clement of Rome, Clement of Alexandria and his brilliant student Origen were self-consciously affirming, not that Christianity was like paideia, not that it could simply make use of received paideia, but that Christianity is paideia, given by God in Jesus Christ, turning on a radical conversion possible only by the Holy Spirit’s help, and taught only indirectly by study of divinely inspired Scriptures in the social context of the church understood to be in some ways a school. Thus, very early in the history of Christianity, paideia was simply built into the very way in which Christianity was understood by Christians themselves.

That is the historical reason why Christian theological education in North America is so deeply committed to "Athens" as a normative type of education. If Christianity is seen as a paideia, as it has been in its most ancient traditions, then it is simply a theological education whose goal is knowledge of God and, correlatively, forming persons’ souls to be holy. However else theological education may come to be conceived -- say, more narrowly as the education of clergy -- it nonetheless will simply be a mode or variation of the paideia that Christianity itself more broadly is.

Thus far we have only shown the deep historical roots of this type or model of excellent education, which survived the massive cultural and intellectual changes introduced into Christianity in the eighteenth century by the European Enlightenment and continued to be an influential model in the modern period. After a sketch of the second type we shall return to examine a nineteenth-century version of the "Athens" model that has been particularly influential in the English-speaking world.


The decision, reached after considerable controversy, to include a faculty of theology in the newly founded University of Berlin in 1810 created a new type of excellent theological education for which we shall let "Berlin" be the symbol. This type of education is bipolar: it stresses the interconnected importance of two quite different enterprises --Wissenschaft or orderly, disciplined critical research on the one hand, and "professional" education for ministry on the other. Several features characterize each of these interconnected poles. We can most quickly identify them through a brief sketch of the principles that shaped the original design of the University. They can then be abstracted into the artificial ahistorical type of excellent education that has in fact exercised hegemony over twentieth-century North American theological schooling.

Because the University of Berlin was deliberately designed to instantiate a newly emerged type of school, the "research university," it was an open question whether a theological faculty had any proper place in it. The University was founded as part of a reform of the Prussian educational system following Prussia’s defeat by Napoleon, and it reflected a broader movement throughout Europe to reshape education along Enlightenment principles.15 For a few months in 1809 and 1810 Wilhelm von Humboldt was head of the Prussian government’s section on cultural and educational affairs, and he appointed a three-person committee, including theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher, to help him draft provisional statutes for a new university in Berlin. Schleiermacher wrote the founding document. The overarching and organizing goal of the university was to be research and teaching students how to do research; its goal was to be inquiry that aims to master the truth about whatever subject is studied. The only degree this university would award was the doctorate, the research degree. Only scholars who had published important research beyond the doctorate could be considered for faculty appointments. Only full professors would be considered members of the various faculties of the university. Whereas secondary schools teach students knowledge that is well established and no longer problematical, research universities, in Humboldt’s words, "always treat knowledge as an as yet unresolved problem, and thus always stay at research."16 The "Berlin" type of excellence in theological education can fairly be said to be part of Schleiermacher’s enormously important theological legacy. However, even Schleiermacher had to make a case for including theology in the new research university; it was not self-evident that it should be so.

The reason for this lies in the very idea of "research." What is definitive of the research university is the sort of inquiry to which it is dedicated. Paideia, after all, also involved inquiry, especially into texts (classically, Homer; then also the poets; then the philosophers, especially Plato), the study of which was deemed to be the indirect way to come to know the Good itself. It was in its own way "critical": it involved testing what was studied for clarity, logical validity, and coherence. However, the inquiry that paideia calls for begins with the assumption of the authority of certain texts in regard to both secular and sacred matters. Notably, the alleged antiquity of a text was enough to establish its authority. Inquiry in a research university, by contrast, is far more radically critical in that it begins by requiring justification of all alleged authorities or bases for truth. 17 In principle, neither the antiquity of an opinion, nor the esteem of persons who hold the opinion, nor alleged divine inspiration alone justifies acceptance of any opinion as an authority. Furthermore, such inquiry is disciplined in the sense that it is highly self-conscious about the methods that are used to establish the truth about whatever is under study. These methods must provide ways rigorously to test and test again any claim to have discovered the truth about the subject under study, and the tests must be shown to be appropriate to the sort of thing being studied and to the sort of questions being asked about it. Moreover, such inquiry is orderly in that it seeks to locate its subject matter in the context of the largest possible set of relations to other things. Such inquiry is marked by a strong drive to build all-encompassing theories within which the interrelationships among all things can be traced. Orderly, disciplined, critical inquiry of this sort is the Wissenschaft (often misleadingly translated into English as "science") that makes a research university genuinely a place of research. On this model only the results of inquiry that is wissenschaftlich can count as "knowledge."

Theology’s place in a research university was in doubt because theology had traditionally rested on "revelation," on authorities whose authoritative status could not itself be examined in an orderly, disciplined, and critical way. That theology was problematic is evident because of three characteristics of the research university that flow from its making Wissenschaft its defining goal. For one thing, in a research university Wissenschaft was united to teaching. Theological education had always involved teaching in the way paideia does -- that is, teaching aims at indirectly cultivating capacities for knowing God. In a research university, however, teaching is aimed at cultivating capacities to do research, to engage in Wissenschaft. The research university was not to be simply a research center; it was to be a teaching institution -- teaching not just the results of critical inquiry but also how to engage in critical inquiry so as to advance genuine knowledge. How could the sort of teaching appropriate to theology be united to this sort of inquiry, to Wissenschaft?

Furthermore, the hegemony of theology in the university had been explicitly overthrown. From the rise of the institution of the university in the Middle Ages onward, because of its base in divine revelation theology had been the highest and dominant faculty, superior to the faculties of arts and sciences and to the faculties of law and medicine, for theology was the "queen of the sciences" whom all other inquiries ultimately served. In the research university the basis of theology’s claim to overarching authority was not recognized, and in effect the faculties of arts and sciences were made dominant. Granted, disestablishment does not necessarily mean eviction. Nonetheless, so radical a restructuring of power in the university left it very unclear whether theology still had any role in it.

Third, essential to a research university is the protection of academic freedom. "Freedom to learn" (Lernfeiheit) and "Freedom to teach" (Lehrfreiheit) are its central mottoes. This was a deliberate rejection of theology’s right in traditional universities, by virtue of being the superior faculty and often by virtue of civil law, to be the final court of appeal, and hence the ultimate censor, of what could be learned and taught. To include theology in a research university could easily seem a betrayal of the educational revolution that the research university represented.

Schleiermacher had an answer to these objections, and his successful argument for including a theology faculty in the University of Berlin added a second pole to the "Berlin" type of excellent theological education: Theological education should be included as "professional" education. His argument is partly sociological and partly philosophical-theological. The sociological argument is that every human society has sets of practices dealing with bodily health, social order, and religious needs. These are socially necessary practices -- necessary, that is, for the well-being of society as a whole. Each of these practices requires properly trained leadership. Leadership will be properly trained only if it is given the best possible education. Therefore, a research university like the University of Berlin ought to include faculties of medicine, law, and theology in order to contribute to the well-being of society as a whole. A theology faculty ought to be included, as Edward Farley summarizes the argument, "to give cognitive and theoretical foundations to an indispensable practice."18

Schleiermacher’s argument thus far seems to leave him in a bind. If we agree with him, he has given a strong sociological reason for including theology in a research university; but the very notion of a research university seems necessarily to exclude theology.

Schleiermacher attempts to ease that bind with the philosophical-theological side of his argument. He agrees with his opponents that Christian theology is not a "pure" science. That is, its principles do not derive from universal principles that are available to any inquirer. Therefore, he agrees, theology is not an inquiry that can be included in the arts and sciences, which attend only to "pure" sciences. Theology, he stresses, is rooted in something specifically historical and cultural --the Christian church -- rather than in universal principles. It is a "positive" science -- that is, it is rooted in something historically simply "given" (or "posited"). Schleiermacher grants all of this to his opponents.

However, he then argues, it is precisely those features of theology that make it a possible subject of inquiry in a research university. The fact that a research university necessarily sets aside any subject’s claim to rest on revealed principles that cannot themselves be the subject of critical inquiry poses no serious problem because, Schleiermacher argues on philosophical grounds, religions like Christianity do not rest on principles in the first place, revealed or otherwise. They rest on a kind of intuition or insightful experience, which can be the subject of philosophical inquiry. Hence Christian theology can be a subject of wissenschaftlich inquiry without threat of compromise either of Christianity’s integrity or of the integrity of the university.

In the first place, the word Christian may be used descriptively to name a great array of historical and cultural phenomena called "Christian churches" and "Christian practices" and "Christian teachings" and "Christian texts" (including the Bible). These may all be researched historically. Schleiermacher called this "historical theology."

Second, the word Christian may be used normatively to designate that which is authentically Christian. What are the criteria of that? To answer that question, the results of historical study of Christianity can be subjected to philosophical analysis to determine the essence of Christianity, that which defines it and yields criteria by which to assess any particular teaching, institution, or practice that claims to be "Christian." Schleiermacher called this "philosophical theology."

Third, the results of the first two wissenschaftlich forms of critical inquiry can be put to work to determine the normative rules for carrying Out the tasks of specifically Christian ministry. 19 Schleiermacher called this "practical theology," and he saw it as a theoretical undertaking, attending to normative rules implicit in authentically Christian practice. This brings the description of theology in the research university back from research to "professional" education. Thus in practical theology the socially indispensable practice of church leadership is given cognitive and theoretical foundation by Wissenschaft (historical and philosophical theology). Theology can be included in a research university, but only by maintaining the interdependence between education for Wissenschaft and professional education. This bipolarity is the central structure of the "Berlin" type of excellent theological education.

For historical reasons, North American Christian theological education has come to be as inescapably committed to the "Berlin" type of excellent education as it is to the "Athens" type. This is a result of the history through which the model provided by the University of Berlin came to dominate American standards of higher education generally. Historians of American higher education generally point to the founding in 1876 of Johns Hopkins University, the first graduate university in the United States, as the moment when the "Berlin" model became decisive for American higher education. The Ph.D. degree it awarded was based on the German Dr. phil. degree, the research degree that was the highest degree awarded by a German faculty of arts and sciences. By 1884 virtually all of Johns Hopkins’s faculty had studied in Germany, and thirteen had been awarded German doctorates. During the last third of the nineteenth century the research university exemplified by the University of Berlin became the normative model of excellence in higher education of all sorts in the United States. "Throughout this period of birth and development of the American university," Daniel Fallon writes, "the dominant influence, the overriding ideal, was the model of Humboldt’s enlightenment university."20

The influence of this development in higher education on theological education was indirect and subtle. Theological schools in North America in this period did not turn into research universities. Most theological education had been and continued to be done in freestanding institutions making no claims to be versions of research universities. However, the "Berlin" type of excellent schooling did dictate prevailing standards of academically respectable education, which theological education embraced and to which it has held itself accountable. This is evident in many ways: in standards for academic accreditation, in research expectations of faculty, in attitudes toward the importance of library holdings, in privileging seminars as a way of teaching, etc. We shall see in Chapter 3 how the "Berlin" type has been modified in America, and how the modifications have introduced serious theological incoherences into theological education. What is important to stress here is simply that those modifications could not have generated such deep-seated problems had American theological education not so thoroughly conformed itself to the "Berlin" type of excellent education.

"Athens" and "Berlin"

In the examination that follows of five voices in the recent discussions of what is theological about theological education I shall use "Athens" and "Berlin" as types, as ahistorical and artificial constructs around which to organize the analysis. Each has implications different from the other regarding a number of features of education. It will be useful to draw them out here before using the two types to analyze current proposals about theological education.

According to the "Athens" model, theological education is a movement from source to personal appropriation of the source, from revealed wisdom to the appropriation of revealed wisdom in a way that is identity forming and personally transforming. This is true whether theological education is understood broadly as education in "the faith" or more narrowly as education for church leadership. In either case, it is understood that appropriation does not come about through direct instruction. Rather, it comes about indirectly by inquiry into other matters whose study is believed to capacitate persons to appropriate this wisdom for themselves. This means that theological education of the "Athens" type tends to focus on the student, on helping the student undergo a deep kind of formation. To be sure, study focuses on various subject matters. However, this study is ordered to something more basic, the students’ own personal appropriation of wisdom about God and about themselves in relation to God.

This has implications for the relationship between teacher and learner. It must be an indirect relationship. Teachers themselves are also seeking personally to appropriate wisdom about God and about themselves in relation to God. At most, the teacher "teaches" only indirectly by providing a context in which the learner may come to that combined self-knowledge and God-knowledge that is a "personal appropriation" of revealed wisdom. Central to this context are those texts and practices, such as Scripture and the practice of the Christian life, whose study is believed to lead to understanding God.

This, in turn, has implications regarding who is qualified to teach in theological education on the "Athens" model. There are two very different sorts of capacities required to do such teaching. One is extraordinary learning in regard to the relevant texts and practices. The other is a set of personal gifts for the indirect "teaching" that, as midwife, helps another come to personal appropriation of revealed wisdom. The two sets of qualifications are in tension with each other, and the tension creates the possibility of serious deformity in this type of education. If "learnedness" is overstressed, education tends to slip into direct communication of information, subverting the basic character of this type of education. On the other hand, if the personal gifts for this sort of teaching are overstressed, education tends to slip into manipulation or therapy, technique tends to become dominant, and the substance by which the student was indirectly to be "formed" gets lost.

All of this has implications regarding the communal context of education. Theological education of the "Athens" type is inherently communal. The learning is in one way "individualistic," in that each must do it for herself or himself. Yet, by definition it cannot be solitary. Teachers and learners together constitute a community sharing the common goal of personally appropriating revealed wisdom. It is, then, a community ordered to the same end, a community under orders. Some members of the community, presumably the teachers, have been engaged in this common quest longer than others, presumably the learners; but it is a shared quest.

Theological education on the "Athens" model is, finally, a public undertaking -- though it is "public" in a qualified sense. We saw that paideia, both in its most ancient form and in its Platonic revision, was ordered to public life in the sense of political activity in the public realm, while in its Hellenistic form it had become ordered to the private realm of individual inward religiosity. Christian theological education on the "Athens" model can be ordered to either sort of end. It depends on differing theological judgments about the nature of Christianity. Those judgments are themselves the substance of theological reflection in the course of theological education, and they are not dictated by the "Athens" model itself. So in one sense of the term public, theological education of the "Athens" type may not be a public undertaking but rather would be intensely inward and private. In another sense of the term, however, even that privatistic version would also necessarily be public. It would be public in the sense that it cannot be arcane. Because it is education that must proceed indirectly by way of the examination of texts and practices whose study is believed to lead to understanding God and all else in relation to God, and because those texts and practices employ ordinary languages belonging to widely shared cultures and do themselves have cultural locations, such education is inescapably a public undertaking, understandable to anyone who understands the relevant languages and cultures. Theological education of the "Athens" type is unavoidably done in public and is unavoidably engaged in self-conscious cultural transactions with its host culture.

According to the "Berlin" model, theological education is a movement from data to theory to application of theory to practice. This movement correlates with its bipolar structure: Wissenschaft for critical rigor in theorizing; "professional" education for rigorous study of the application of theory in practice.

This type is open to important variations, and therefore to important confusions, at three points. First, "professional" can be understood in a variety of ways in theological education. Second, there can be a variety of judgments about what forms of Wissenschaft are relevant for theological education. For instance, it is not logically necessary to this type that one of the required kinds of critical inquiry be a philosophical quest for the "essence" of Christianity (or of anything else); the type is fully compatible, for example, with a philosophical judgment that the project of hunting for "essences" is itself misguided. Most important of all, there can be very different judgments about how the relevant Wissenschaft pole is related to the "professional" pole. In Chapter 3 we will review a series of modifications that twentieth-century North American theological education has made in the "Berlin" type, and we will note confusions and incoherences that some of those changes have promoted.

Nonetheless, in all its variations, theological education of the "Berlin" type rests on direct communication. The Wissenschaft pole requires that study focus on the research project. Critical inquiry focuses simultaneously on questions about the subject being researched and on questions about the methods of research that are required both by the questions the researchers are asking of the subject matter and by the character of the subject matter itself. Different methods are required if one is asking sociologist’s rather than chemist’s questions about an ancient artifact; and still other methods are required if the artifact in question is a text written on bone rather than on bronze. Both what research involves and what it discovers must be communicated directly by teachers to students. So too, the professional pole, as Schleiermacher envisioned it, requires direct communication. The largely implicit rules that normatively govern specifically "Christian" practice, and in particular ministerial practice, can be identified, tested for their conformity with the essence of Christianity (which philosophical theology discovers in the Wissenschaft pole), and communicated to students, all quite directly.

This has implications for the relation between teacher and learner. The teacher does not exist for the student, as is the case in paideia. Instead, the teacher is basically a researcher who needs the student to help achieve the goal of research in a cooperative enterprise. Humboldt said that this cooperation proceeds by "combining a practiced mind, which is on that very account apt to be more one-sided and less active [the teacher’s] with one which, though weaker and still neutral, bravely attempts every possibility [the student’s]."21

Given the bipolar structure of the "Berlin" type, this has a further implication for theological education that is of momentous importance. When theological education conforms to the "Berlin" type of education, what makes it theological is its professional pole, not its Wissenschaft pole. The Wissenschaft pole is governed by research agendas, by sets of topics to be researched. For Schleiermacher it was to be a historian’s research agenda, followed by a philosopher’s agenda. Biblical texts, church institutions, practices of worship, moral standards, and the like are all equally to be studied to discover their origins, how and why they changed through time, what their influences have been, etc. Then, of that entire, utterly heterogeneous array of phenomena, the question of their underlying Christian "essence" was to be asked. Inquiry is governed, not, as in the "Athens" type, by an interest thereby indirectly to come to know God, but by an interest to discover as directly as possible the truth about the origin, effects, and essential nature of "Christian" phenomena.

There is nothing "theological" about all of that. Nor need there be. Neither intuitive experience of God nor capacities for such experience are cultivated, not even indirectly, by engaging in Wissenschaft. Such experience is cultivated only in religious communities of whose inward experience all these Christian phenomena are but outward expressions. What makes theological education of the "Berlin" type theological is that it aims at preparing leaders for just those communities, leaders capacitated to help those communities nurture consciousness of God.

Note, then, that what makes theological education of this type theological is that it is ordered, not theocentrically, but ecclesiocentrically -- to understanding church, or more exactly, to understanding church leadership, not to understanding God. There may be excellent theological reasons for adopting just this view; at this point it is important simply to note what the view is. Note secondly a deep irony in the "Berlin" type of excellence in theological education: Although what makes it properly "theological" is its goal (as "professional" education) of nurturing the health of the church by preparing for it excellent leadership, what entitles it to a home in the wissenschaftlich education it needs is the rather different goal of nurturing the health of society as a whole (for which professional church leadership is a "necessary practice").

Clearly, this has important implications regarding faculty. The major criteria governing selection of persons for faculty positions in accord with this type of theological education is not simply great learning in already established knowledge, but demonstrated capacity to engage in scholarly research; and it is not so much personal capacities to be midwife of others’ coming to an understanding of God and of themselves in relation to God as it is the ability to cultivate capacities for scholarly research in others. The normal way of demonstrating capacity for research, of course, is by publication of results of critical inquiry that make original contributions to the fund of knowledge.

Theological education on the "Berlin" model is, finally, a public undertaking in two ways that are in some tension with each other. It is public in a sense in which education on the "Athens" model is also: it is publicly accessible to any interested person who has the necessary competencies. Indeed, as the result of disciplined and orderly critical inquiry, it is supposed to be accessible independent of any prejudices or special interests of either the researcher or the competent observer. On the other hand, as "professional" education for a socially necessary practice, it is public in the sense of contributing to public welfare, the general good. As the latter, it cannot help but be engaged in major policies confronting society as a whole. If either of these two senses of "public" is stressed to the disadvantage of the other, theological education on this model is in danger of becoming either under- or over-engaged in social and cultural controversies of the day.

Perhaps the deepest difference between the two types comes, ironically, at the point at which they seem most alike. At the founding of the University of Berlin, Humboldt was explicit in saying that, in making the faculty of arts and sciences central, the research university had the same overarching goal as that of ancient Athens’ paideia: it "transforms the character." However, he did not note a major difference between the underlying picture of human being assumed by paideia and that assumed by the Enlightenment research university.

The difference comes out in two ways. It comes out, first, when one asks on what basis education would have this character-transforming effect. Friedrich Paulsen observed that it would have this effect "not on the basis of medieval church unity," nor, we must add, on the basis of Hellenistic culture’s view of what makes the good life, "but rather on the basis of the unity of human civilization and scientific work, the unity based on the modern ideal of humanity."22

Second, the difference between the views of human being underlying our two types is brought out when we ask about this "modern ideal of humanity." This "ideal" is the Enlightenment view of humanity, at the heart of which is a particular view of human rationality that is quite different from that assumed by the "Athens" model of education. At the core of the view of Human being underlying paideia and the "Athens" model is the view that the characteristic defining human being is the capacity of reason in intuitive, cognitive judgment to apprehend the ultimate principle of being and of value -- that is, God. This intuitive act is the very heart of rationality; it is the act of knowing that provides the foundation for all other knowing. By contrast, at the core of the view of human being underlying Wissenschaft in its relation to ministerial practice in the "Berlin" model is the view that the characteristic defining human being is reason’s capacity to test and if necessary correct any and all "intuitions" -- that is, its capacity to engage in disciplined and orderly critical inquiry. If there is a human capacity for intuitive experience of God, the intuition is not necessarily irrational, but it is a-rational. It is not genuinely "cognitive"; it does not yield "knowledge," strictly speaking. Only after critical testing do we have true "knowledge." "Intellectual intuition" and "reason" are strictly separated, and only human capacities for critical, disciplined, orderly problem solving in the framework of research agendas, or other situations approximating such research agendas, count as "rationality."

The central project in this book is to examine critically a body of literature that grew up in the 1980s concerning theological education and what is theological about it. I shall organize the discussion around an axis whose poles are our two normative types of theological education. These two types are of varying ages -- the "Berlin" type of excellent Christian theological education only emerged in the early nineteenth century, while the "Athens" type had emerged by the end of the first Christian century. But both types had undergone important modifications by the mid-twentieth century. Consequently it will be important to locate the recent discussion by noting major ways in which the versions of each type that the current discussion received had been materially modified. In the next chapter I shall present a case study of a mid-nineteenth-century version of the "Athens" type that was highly honored, at least verbally, in some mid-twentieth-century discussions of higher education generally, in order to draw attention to ways in which the material modifications it introduced have proved to be problematic. Then in Chapter 3 I shall review a series of proposals about specifically theological education in the first half of the twentieth century in the United States that accord with the "Berlin" type but make important and equally problematic modifications in it.



1. H. Richard Niebuhr, The Purpose of the Church and Its Ministry (New York: Harper & Row, 1956); H. Richard Niebuhr, Daniel Day Williams, and James M. Gustafson, The Advancement of Theological Education (NewYork: Harper & Row, 1957).

2. Farley, Theologia: The Fragmentation and Unity of Theological Education (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983); The Fragility of Knowledge: Theological Education in the Church and the University (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988).

3. God’s Fierce Whimsy (NewYork: Pilgrim Press, 1985).

4. Hough and Cobb, Christian Identity and Theological Education (Chico: Scholars Press, 1985).

5. Stackhouse, Apologia: Contextualization, Globalization, and Mission in Theological Education (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1988).

6. Wood, Vision and Discernment (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1985).

7. I have developed this typology in greater detail in To Understand God Truly: What’s Theological about a Theological School (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1992), chaps. 2 and 3.

8. Jaeger, Early Christianity and Greek Paideia (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1961), p. 100.

9. Farley, Theologia, p. xi.

10. Cf. Werner Jaeger, Paideia, 3 vols., trans. Gilbert Highet (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1939-63), 2:5.

11. See Jaeger, Paideia, vol. 2, chaps. 4 and 5.

12. Jaeger, Paideia, 2: 228.

13. Jaeger, Paideia. 2:72.

14. Jaeger, Early Christianity and Greek Paideia, p. 25.

15. Cf. Daniel Fallon, The German University (Boulder: Colorado Assoc. University Press, 1980); and Freidrich Paulsen, The German Universities and University Study, trans. F. Thilly and W. W. Elang (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1906).

16. Humboldt, quoted in Fallon, p. 17.

17. See Farley, The Fragility of Knowledge, chaps. 1 and 5.

18. Farley, Theologia, p. 86.

19. Edward Farley has come up with the best characterization of Schleiermacher’s picture of "practical theology": the "normative field which critically apprehends the rules for carrying out the tasks of ministry" ( Theologia, p. 91).

20. Fallon, p. 52.

21. Humboldt, quoted in Paulsen, p. 53.

22. Paulsen, p. 54.

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