Chapter 4: Excellence as <I>Wissenschaft</I> and Professionalism

To Understand God Truly
by David Kelsey

Chapter 4: Excellence as <I>Wissenschaft</I> and Professionalism

There have been two models of excellence to which theological schooling in North America has held itself accountable. The more ancient is paideia. We have examined it in the last chapter and noted its consequences for theological schooling. The second is only about a hundred and eighty years old. It is rooted in the modern research university, for which rigorous "scientific" research or Wissenschaft is the defining goal. It was at the founding of the University of Berlin that a decisive argument was won to include a theological school within the research university. Therefore we shall make Berlin the emblem of this model. The burden of that successful argument rested on the notion of a "profession" and a "professional school." Hence, when a theological school adopts the research university as the model of excellent schooling, it takes on not only a standard of appropriate schooling (Wissenschaft) but also a particular end for theological schooling (the production of "professionals"). We shall explore the origins of this model. Then we shall go on to review revisions of this model in modern thinking about theological education. We can then track the tensions that arise within theological schools as their paideia-shaped roads from Geneva, Trent, and others intersect with the Berlin Turnpike.


The research university developed out of a century of university reform in Germany. This reform reflected a cultural spirit and value commitments that are usually associated with the Enlightenment, understood as a very broad cultural movement. From the Reformation on, universities in each German state had been dominated by the church established in that state. Within the universities the faculties of theology were dominant. During the eighteenth century there was a steady movement of reform to encourage free inquiry within the universities. These reforms involved greater independence from the established churches, a shift from Latin to German as the language of instruction, and greater prestige accorded to faculties of law and philosophy than to theology. The spirit permeating the entire movement focused on two intellectual values: critical historical methods of inquiry applied to every appropriate topic, sacred as well as secular; and reason as the final arbiter of all questions about truth. "Reason" and "rationality" were understood in a distinctively modern way that was shaped by the new learning symbolized by empirically tested Newtonian physics, the invention of calculus, and critical historical research. Usually the University of Halle is named as the first reformed university in Germany institutionalizing this modem spirit, soon followed by Göttingen and Erlangen. [1]

The University of Berlin, founded against the background of this century of reform, was the occasion for a historically decisive debate about whether theological schooling rightly belongs within a modern university. The university was created as part of a reorganization of the Prussian educational system in the wake of Prussia's devastating defeat by Napoleon. The reorganization was part of the larger movement in Europe to reform education in ways shaped by Enlightenment principles; Napoleon, for example, was reforming the French educational system at the same time. The founder of the University of Berlin is usually said to be the scholar Wilhelm von Humboldt, who proposed the founding of the university as part of a general restructuring of the educational system that he designed and initiated during a short sixteen-month tenure in government service as head of the section on cultural and educational affairs. In June 1810, to help him draft the provisional statutes for the new university, he appointed a three-person committee, including the theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher. Schleiermacher actually wrote the founding document. The university opened in October of 1810. [2] As Daniel Fallon points out, von Humboldt and Schleiermacher designed a university based on three principles.[3] The first principle was the unity of research and teaching. In his reorganization of the entire educational system von Humboldt envisioned both a major contrast and a symbiotic relationship between secondary schools and the university. The secondary school, or Gymnasium, deals only with well-established and derived principles, conveying them to the student. Universities, by contrast, "always treat knowledge as an as yet unsolved problem, and thus always stay at research." [4] Conducting original research, therefore, is central to what distinguishes a university from secondary schools. The only degree to be given was the doctorate, the research degree. Only persons who had published significant research beyond the doctorate could even be considered for faculty positions. Only full professors were to be considered members of the faculties of the university. This was a radical educational innovation. However, von Humboldt and Schleiermacher were educational conservatives in insisting that the older picture of universities as teaching institutions be retained. Rather than adopting the more radical view that research should always be confined to non-teaching research institutes they insisted that research needed to be accompanied by teaching.

This changed the teacher-student relationship. Teacher and student now have the same function: to cooperate in the promotion of knowledge. The teacher does not exist for the student, as was the case in paideia. Rather the teacher needs the student to achieve the goal of research by, as von Humboldt put it, "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]. "[5]A second principle on which the university was based was the central importance of the arts and sciences. This was viewed at the time as a recovery of what was central to paideia. Study of the liberal arts had come to be considered preliminary to more specialized study of one of the professions, theology, law, or medicine. Accordingly, the faculty of arts and sciences was considered the "lower" faculty and the faculties in the professions considered the "higher" faculties. Moreover, the faculties in the professions had often come to be ranked by law in a hierarchical order, with dominance given to the faculty of theology. The University of Berlin marked the emancipation of the faculty of arts and sciences from institutional domination by the higher faculties, especially theology.

Von Humboldt was explicit that, as had been the case in ancient paideia, such liberal arts schooling "transforms the character." However, he did not note the significance of one major difference. In his classic history of German universities Friedrich Paulsen points out that recovery of the centrality of the liberal arts at Berlin would have this character-transforming result "not on the basis of medieval church unity," nor, we might add, on the basis of the coherence of a Hellenistic view of what constitutes the good life, "but rather upon the basis of the unity of human civilization and scientific work, the unity based on the modern ideal of humanity." [6]

The "modern ideal of humanity" is the Enlightenment view. At its heart is a particular view of rationality, one defined by the idea of scholarly research that yields net increases in knowledge. To have one's character "transformed" is to have one's rational capacities brought out and honed through learning how to be an expert researcher.

The third principle exemplified by the University of Berlin was the protection of academic freedom. Its two mottoes were Lernfreiheit: the freedom to learn; and Lehrfeiheit: the freedom to teach. The former gave students the right to follow any curriculum; the latter gave scholars the right of free inquiry and was institutionalized in a provision for faculty tenure. Academic freedom was the direct application to higher education of the central value of the Enlightenment:reason's independence from all authority and its innate responsibility critically to scrutinize any claim to authority.

It is very important to notice the context of assumptions in which academic freedom was institutionalized. It was simply assumed that the university exists for the well-being of the state. In a way this is a return to the public context in which paideia was understood in classical Athens up through Plato: the context and goal of excellent schooling is the well-being of the public realm understood as a political realm..

Because the university existed for the state's well-being, the state, not the university, selected and appointed faculty members. The state funded each faculty member and the member's research through bilateral negotiations with each scholar separately. It may be that at the time there was no clear distinction made between concepts of state and society. In any case, von Humboldt and Schleiermacher offered no challenge to the understanding of the state they had inherited. They simply assumed that if the state provided the university with space for independent inquiry, the students educated that way would provide the state with enlightened servants through whom the state itself would become progressively enlightened.

This created, of course, an extremely ambiguous legacy. From the perspective of Enlightenment ideals it seemed exemplary. Writing before both world wars, Paulsen saw the University of Berlin as far more successful at institutionalizing Enlightenment values than were its French counterparts. Whereas the French model relied on centralization and standardization so that universities were transformed into "professional state-schools with hard and fast instruction and without scientific spirit" centralized in Paris at the expense of the provinces, the University of Berlin was the model for "an abundance of flourishing universities distributed throughout the country whose competition created greater efficiency." Moreover, their "free, non-political universities became important" even for "the political life of the German people." [7]

From a post-World War II perspective, the confidence that state self-interest would guarantee academic freedom and, conversely, that duly enlightened graduates functioning as civil servants would progressively enlighten the state strikes Fallon as "romantic heroism." [8] Direct state control of faculty appointments and finances made possible politically inspired direct state influence, especially in regard to opinion and policy. Inevitably, "by the end of the nineteenth century the German university had become a very conservative institution -- in fact, as the historian David Schoenbaum remarked, 'conservative enough to survive Bismarck, William II, and Hitler, attenuated but largely intact."' [9] It is not self-evident, although it is arguable, that Enlightenment ideals themselves bear part of the responsibility for the ambiguity of the legacy of the University of Berlin. What is clear is that the way in which the university institutionalized the public ends and roles of schooling did directly contribute to that ambiguity.

The research university, exemplified by the University of Berlin, became the normative model of excellence in higher education in the United States during the last third of the nineteenth century, though there had been movement in that direction for the better part of the century. For example, the University of Michigan, which had been chartered in 1817 with a rationale inspired by Napoleonic ideals, was shaped for a generation after 1835 by leadership explicitly emulating Prussian higher education. The model became decisive for American higher education, however, in 1876, when Johns Hopkins University opened as the first graduate school in the United States. Virtually all of its faculty by 1884 had studied in Germany and thirteen had been awarded German doctorates. Indeed, the Ph.D. degree was itself assumed directly from the German Dr. phil., the highest degree awarded by the German faculty of arts and sciences. 'Throughout this period of birth and development of the American university the dominant influence, the overriding ideal, was the model of Humboldt's enlightenment university. " [10]

What are the consequences of Berlin's influences. The Enlightenment involved major changes in what counted as "inquiring," "knowing," and "understanding," and research universities institutionalized those changes. When the research university became the normative model of the excellent "school" a new and quite different set of methods and aims came to dominate schooling, including theological schooling.

The overarching aim of a research university is inquiry leading to the mastery of the truth about whatever is studied. The German word for such inquiry is Wissenschaft. It is usually translated into English as "science." That is misleading, because in ordinary English "science," unless qualified as "life" or "psychological" or "social" science, usually designates the physical sciences, the "hard sciences." Better simply to characterize such inquiry as "critical research that is orderly and disciplined." [11] This becomes a powerfully influential model for inquiry in theological schools.

Such inquiry is characteristically "critical" inquiry in that it rationally tests all alleged bases of truth. Schooling on the paideia model in pagan or Chnstian academy, monastery, cathedral school, or medieval university had always been critical in the sense of testing arguments for clarity, logical validity, and coherence. But it acknowledged certain sources of information as authorities in secular as well as sacred studies. In particular, the sheer antiquity of a source was characteristically taken to establish it as an authority. For the research university, however, critical inquiry requires that no alleged authoritative source of truth, either sacred or secular, be exempt from rigorous testing of its veracity. It follows that inquiry turns quite literally into "re-search." One does not inquire into the truth by searching to discover what previous authorities said, the more ancient the better. Rather one conducts re-search, a second and independent search for the truth about the subject under consideration -- a search, furthermore, that can in principle be repeated and so reconfirmed by any other qualified inquirer.

Critical research is "orderly" when it attempts to locate its subject in the largest possible context of relations to other things. Inquiry in the research university shows an extraordinarily intense passion for building theories that are all-encompassing. The ideal goal is to develop and validate one unified theory that can outline the interconnections among all things. This is not simply a matter of exhibiting relationships among concepts: Ancient and medieval schooling engaged in inquiry that was orderly in that sense. Rather, two other kinds of relations are crucial here: natural or physical relations and historical relations. Consequently, "understanding" a subject consists in mastering how it is related to other matters, that is, how it may be located in the web of physical and historical relationships that make it what it is.

Note that "theory" means something quite different in the research university than it did in the context of paideia. In paideia, as we have seen, theoria is the understanding one may have of such reality as is unchanging and eternal. It is obtained by contemplation. It has no bearing on managing the changing worlds of physical nature or human politics. For coping with changing political situations one needs instead practical wisdom. For coping with the changeable physical world one needs the artisan's or craftsperson's skilled know-how. By contrast, in the research university "theory" is about nothing other than endlessly changeable physical and social worlds, and it is significant only to the extent that it is applicable to them. The very idea of "theory" now entails the movement from "pure science" to "applied science," from research to engineering, from theory to application.

Orderly inquiry, finally, is "disciplined" when it devises methods for exploring the relations among things, methods for critically testing all alleged authorities. They must be methods that rely on types of evidence appropriate to the subject, minimize the biases of the inquirer, and can be followed by another researcher to establish the same conclusions over and over again.

Only the results of critical, orderly, disciplined research can count as yielding "knowledge." Knowledge in this sense is by definition "public," that is, in principle accessible to anyone capable of understanding it and open to being re-searched by anyone who is skeptical of it.

In actual practice, inquiry in the research university has divided all possible subjects of inquiry into two broad classes, natural and cultural, the "sciences" and the "humanities," according to the types of discipline each requires. The disciplines and types of theorizing that constitute the "sciences" have created subject matters that simply did not exist within schooling on the model of paideia. However, the type of subject matter into which the humanities inquire simply was the subject matter with which paideia dealt.

That makes possible a continuing tension between the two models of schooling in the humanities. In a third-century A.D. pagan or Christian academy one might study ancient texts so as to become more deeply shaped by the virtues. On the model of paideia that is what excellent schooling aims at. By contrast, the disciplines that make inquiry in the humanities in a research university genuinely critical research yielding truly public knowledge are the disciplines of the historian. In a research university one studies ancient texts to re-search the truth about them, their origins, their meanings in their original settings, the history of their uses, the history of teachings about them or readings of them, perhaps the social or psychological dynamics that explain why such texts come to be written. Because theological schooling focuses so heavily on ancient texts, it clearly is going to experience deep tensions if it accepts the research university as its model of excellent schooling without giving up values central to paideia as the model of excellence.


That is precisely what began to happen with the founding of the University of Berlin. Prussia was a Protestant state. A Protestant faculty of theology was included in the university. It was by no means obvious that it should be. Given an Enlightenment view of what it was to "inquire" and to "know," no "inquiry" belonged within the university if it ended up appealing to some authority that could not itself be subjected to critical inquiry. For a decade there had been a public debate about whether theology failed this test. Schleiermacher argued that it did not or, at least, need not. Since he prevailed and a theology faculty was included in the paradigmatic research university, the structure of his argument continues to affect us for whom the research university remains the culturally dominant model of excellence in schooling.

Schleiermacher was solving a problem. Protestant theological faculties of Schleiermacher's generation had inherited a fourfold theological curriculum. In his historical sketch of its development, Edward Farley [12] argues that it was an uneasy and unself-conscious compromise between a pre-critical and a post-critical view of scripture. On the pre-critical side two subtle but decisive changes had taken place in Protestant theological schooling.

First, "theology" had been made objective. In theological schooling on the model of paideia, "theology" named one's understanding of God and, by derivation, the act of meditative reflection on scripture that was believed to lead to that understanding. However, during sixteenth-and seventeenth-century polemical controversies (Catholics vs. Protestants; Lutherans vs. Calvinists; everybody vs. "anabaptists"), "theology" came to name church teachings, truths that could be stated propositionally. Scripture was treated as the divinely inspired repository of these truths. The theological curriculum was a set of things one did with the truths scripture provided: exegesis drew the truths out of scripture; dogmatics arranged them in coherent systematic structures and defended them polemically; church history traced changes in practices and teachings that either exhibit faithfulness to those truths or decline; practical theology reflected on how the truths apply to daily life. Theological schooling involved a movement from source of truth (scripture) to application. To get there involved four areas of study, a fourfold curriculum.

The second subtle pre-critical change was introduced by the pietist movement. It arose as a reaction to this objectification of theology and the intellectualization of faith. Faith was more a matter of a heart warmed by love for God. Theology was reflection on scripture that yielded the truths that guide one into doing God's will. Theology was still objectified.. Only now its truths were seen as a body of theory to be applied to practical cases. Furthermore, as Farley points out, for the pietists the "practice" that was the goal of theological education was not the individual person's practice of the Christian life. Rather, it was ministerial practice. Theological schooling was shaped by the distinctive roles played by clergy. It still involved four areas: exegesis uncovered the content of scripture; but now dogmatics was not so much a matter of systematic arrangement of that content as it was a matter of deriving a body of theory about the practice of the Christian life; church history was a narrative describing different forms that the church had taken at different times, so as better to understand the present time; practical theology was now the training of clergy in the skills they would need to help others practice the Christian life. Theological schooling involved a movement, not so much from source to application as from theory to practice.

On the critical side, this fourfold structure of theological schooling underwent a third, less subtle change. The rise of critical methods of historical investigation began to be applied, first to scripture and then to the institutional and intellectual history of the church. "Exegesis" and "church history" became, in the Enlightenment sense, "sciences. "They were areas of orderly, critical inquiry. Thus the curriculum of theological schooling began to be fragmented. It divided into two major parts, one "practical" and the other "scientific"; and the three traditional parts of the "scientific" (exegesis, church history, dogmatics) tended to be divided among various disciplines in the faculty of arts and sciences.

This created a serious problem. The result was an ad hoc and uneasy compromise: The fourfold nature of the curriculum presupposed some sort of grounding in scripture as authority, whether as source of truths to be applied or as more indirect basis of theory to be applied; whereas the critical methods, as they gained hegemony, simply ignored the privileged position traditionally claimed for scripture. The rationale and structure of the theological school curriculum suffered a deep self-contradiction.

Schleiermacher developed an argument that at once offered a rationale for the inclusion of a theological faculty in the research university and offered a way to unify the fragmented curriculum for that faculty. His argument for the inclusion of theology rests on an implicit theory of human society: As the research university itself exists for the well-being of the state, so the theological faculty is necessary, in Farley's words, to "give cognitive and theoretical foundations to an indispensable practice." [13] More particularly, the theological faculty's presence in the university is justified by its goal or purpose: to train leadership for this practice. The same is true of law and medicine. Every human society has had sets of practices tied up with basic human needs like bodily health or social order or salvation. Those practices require "professional" leadership educated in "professional" schools.

To be sure, this means that theology is not a pure science; it cannot be part of the faculty of arts and sciences (i.e., the "philosophical faculty"). Rather, it is a "positive" science. That is, it is rooted in something specifically historical and cultural (the Christian church) in contrast to something universal. But theology need not assign any privileged status to anything historical and cultural (say, the Bible) on the grounds that it is revelatory and so beyond the scope of critical inquiry. What justifies the inclusion of a school of theology in the university simultaneously unifies the theological curriculum. The theological faculty's curriculum is unified by virtue of its goal to train professional church leadership for their indispensable social roles.

This has had major implications for the structure of the theological curriculum. It must be at once "scientific" and "professional." There is a single, proper, normative structure to a theological school curriculum, argued Schleiermacher, because it is rooted in the inherent structure of the focal subject matter of the curriculum, the faith of the Christian church as something "positive" or concretely given in history and culture. Note: The essence hunt functions as prominently in this model of excellent schooling as it did in many versions of paideia. The purpose of a theological school and the structure of its curriculum are rooted in the historical and cross-cultural universal essence of the Christian faith

In effect Schleiermacher proposed collapsing the traditional four areas into three. One area would be the study of the positively given historical community of faith itself. This includes study of scripture, dogmatics, and the history of church institutions and practices. Schleiermacher calls it "historical theology." It is one field because all its subject matters are studied by one discipline, critical history. On the one hand this helps legitimate the theological curriculum in a research university since critical history is a recognized type of Wissenschaft. On the other hand, it establishes the hegemony of critical, orderly, disciplined historical research in theological schools as the model of rationality and excellence in schooling.

But how does historical research decide which historical phenomena are indeed "Christian"? This calls for a second area. What is needed from this area is some grasp of Christianity as such, and here is where the search for an "essence" comes in. What is needed is a formulation of the "essence of Christianity." Essence here does not mean simply a commonality among all the details, a lowest common denominator abstracted from all periods and modalities of Christianity. Rather, for Schleiermacher the search for the essence of something is to address the question of its truth and value. In relation to Christianity, Schleiermacher calls this second discipline "philosophical theology." Its task is to show that there is a correlation between Christianity as a particular type of piety or religiousness, on the one side, and the structure and dynamics of human consciousness, on the other. This also helps legitimate the theological curriculum in a research university since critical, orderly, disciplined philosophical reflection and analysis is a recognized type of Wissenschaft.

The third area in Schleiermacher's proposed curriculum is aptly characterized by Farley as a "normative field which critically apprehends the rules for carrying out the tasks of ministry."[14] This honors the "professional" character of the school. It is defined by the goal of the curriculum to educate professional religious leaders. Schleiermacher calls it "practical theology," but it is not a cluster of skills courses. It is a normative discipline, a body of theory related to the practice of the clergy. It derives its information about what is normative from historical theology. The historical-critical study of Christian community as a concrete cultural and historical reality provides the foundation for practical theology.

The movement of this theological schooling is still from theory to practice as it was in pre-Schleiermacher pietist theological schooling. But because the theory is based, not on historically and culturally conditioned biblical writings held to be beyond critical inquiry, but on the realities of Christian piety as manifested precisely in their historical and cultural facticity and relativity, it is an inquiry admissible in a research university. Moreover, because it is theory aimed at preparing leadership for a socially indispensable practice, it is of public importance and hence a research university ought to include it.

Theological schooling on the model of the research university brings with it, as we saw, a new understanding of "rationality" in inquiry. It is clearly compatible with three of the senses of"understanding God" we sorted out above. It certainly could be a way to discursive understanding of God. It definitely could be a way to affective understanding of God; that seems to be the genre in which Schleiermacher himself construed "understanding God." Given a revision in the way Schleiermacher understood the relation between theory and practice, it could also be compatible with understanding God in and through action. The model is not, however, compatible with contemplative understanding of God, since on the research university model scripture can be taken as a subject of study only if it is a subject of critical inquiry.

Furthermore, theological schooling on this model is compatible with some, but probably not all, of the various construals of the subject matter of theological schooling that we distinguished earlier. It surely is compatible with the picture that the Christian thing is Christian experience (that was Schleiermacher's own claim) and with the picture that it is "Christian tradition." It is very much more difficult to see how it would be compatible with the construal of the subject matter of theological schooling as "Word of God" (i.e., something historically given that is unconditionally and unqualifiedly revelatory).

In summary, theological schooling on the model of a research university is marked by four characteristics. First, it is ruled by "professional" interests. Because its justification as "excellent" schooling lies in its social function to train leadership for an indispensable practice in society, its central preoccupations focus on the characteristics of "excellence" in leadership in a particular institutional structure, namely the church, as that bears on society in general. Farley terms this focus on training church leadership the "clerical paradigm" for theological schooling. However, it is not the focus on clergy education as such that is decisive. Rather, it is the construal of church leadership as a role necessary to the well-being of the society (not to mention the "state") as such. That rightly introduces sociological criteria of what counts as "excellence." And the appropriate language to employ in discussing leadership with regard to its importance for society at large is the rhetoric of "professionalism."

Second, that which is focused upon with these professional interests in view is a set of topics to be researched. Neither biblical texts nor any others are attended to in the belief that doing so may lead to an understanding of God. Rather, they are researched to learn what they can contribute to a better understanding of the essence of the Christian community and, more particularly, a better understanding of what makes for effective leadership of that community. No conversion is needed as a condition.

This has important implications regarding faculty. The principal criteria for selecting faculty have to do with their demonstrated capacity to engage in such research, to continue to contribute to knowledge through continuing research, and their ability to cultivate the same disciplined skills in critical inquiry in others.

This, thirdly, has implications for students and student-teacher relationships. The individual student is only incidentally a focus of attention in this type of schooling. The subject matter being researched is the center of attention and students and teachers together engage in the research as a team. To be sure, they are unequal partners. The teacher has a greater flind of knowledge and more highly developed research skills. The student acquires both indirectly through the process of apprenticeship in research. And the aim of the apprenticeship is the acquisition of those research competencies; but the subject currently being researched is the immediate focus of attention. From the founding of the University of Berlin onward, the disciplines and methods of the historian have had hegemony in theological schooling. This student-teacher team of unequals requires a distinctive context. It most maximizes the freedom of their inquiries, protecting them from constraint by political, religious or academic authorities.

Finally, theological schooling on the model of the research university is a public enterprise in two senses of the word which are in some practical tension with one another. On the one side, it is "public" in the sense that it is accessible to any interested person who is competent in the requisite ways. Indeed, as schooling in critical research, it is accessible independendy of the social and political opmions and location of either the researcher or the reader. On the other side, it is "public" in the sense of contributing to res publica, to the general well-being. Indeed, as schooling of leadership for a practice indispensable to the well-being of society in general, it cannot help but be importantly engaged in social and political issues confronting the society as a whole. The unresolved tension between these two ways of being "public" accounts for much of the conflict about theological schools' under- or over-engagement in the controversies of the day.


Neither Schleiermacher's threefold theological curriculum nor his argument that it grows out of the essence of the Christian faith had much impact on theological schooling; but his rationale for including theology as a professional school in the research university has deeply shaped theological schooling in twentieth-century North America, especially in the United States. This has been true not only of the relatively few schools that are organic parts of research universities but also of the vast majority of Protestant freestanding theological schools. Schleiermacher's picture of the nature and purpose of theological schooling in a research university has provided a model of excellence for theological schools seen as a distinctive combination of "professional" schools and centers for critical inquiry. That is, it has generated a rhetoric in which theological schools describe themselves as precisely "professional" schools and not simply "theological academies" or "theological colleges" or "Bible schools"; and it has generated expectations that theological schools will be "graduate schools" whose faculties include persons skilled in a variety of ways of critical, orderly and disciplined inquiry, who possess earned research doctorates, are backed to some degree by library resources, are productive of scholarly research that is published and discussed by peer researchers, and use pedagogical methods associated with the research university such as the research seminar, the research paper, and field-based research.

By the second quarter of the twentieth century, however, central elements of Schleiermacher's picture of a theological school had begun to undergo significant modification, so that it is a substantially revised version of Schleiermacher's vision that now serves as a model of excellence for theological schools. These modifications were first called for by W. R. Harper's 1899 manifesto, "Shall the Theological Curriculum Be Modified and How?" [15] When the University of Chicago was founded, a Divinity School was located at its geographical center. Harper proposed a revision of research university-related professional theological education that would take further advantage of psychological and sociological scientific research regarding how persons change and how institutions grow. Very influential major, comprehensive studies of theological education by Robert Kelly in 1924 [16] and by William Adams Brown and Mark A. May in 1934 [17] monitored the development of these changes in theological education in North America, worried when they did not develop sufficiently, and celebrated them when they did. They urged increased cooperation among theological schools to raise commonly accepted levels of standards of excellence in theological schooling. One measure of the influence of these studies is that an organization for such cooperation was founded and served to legitimate revisions in the Berlin model of excellence. As the organization developed into theological schooling's instrument for self-evaluation and academic accreditation, now called the Association of Theological Schools, those revisions tended to become institutionalized in standards for theological schools' academic accreditation. In 1957 H. Richard Niebuhr, Daniel Day Williams, and James M. Gustafson published a third comprehensive study of theological education [18] under the auspices of the American Association of Theological Schools (as it was then called), which in some ways urged restraint in these modifications. However, widely acclaimed as this third study was, it does not seem to have resulted in widespread abandoning of the modifications of the Berlin model that have become commonplace. The modifications have come at three points. what"professional" means has changed; the sorts of critical inquiry or Wissenschaft deemed relevant have changed; and the ways in which the two are related have all changed.

"Professional" has increasingly come to be understood in a largely functionalist and individualistic way. A "professional" is someone who has the specialized skills needed to fill the function of meeting specific needs of his or her clients one by one. Everyone from the neurosurgeon to the hairdresser is a "professional."

Schleiermacher had proposed that a theological school educate persons able to lead church communities in their distinctive practices which, as it happens, are important for the health of society as a whole. He proposed that the school give future clergy the ability to do this by teaching them relevant information about the church and its faith, by cultivating their capacities for discriminating judgment about what is authentically Christian, and by helping them grasp the rules for carrying out the tasks of ministry. As the idea of "professional" changed, however, a theological school that sought to approximate the model of excellence provided by the Berlin model instead focused on equipping future clergy with skills they needed to fill certain functions in the lives of persons who were viewed more as "clients" ministered to mainly one by one than as fellow members of a congregation whose common life was built up out of cooperative practices that needed to be led as whole systems.

Correlatively, the sorts of critical inquiry deemed relevant to professional ministry have changed. In one way the change is a matter of a broadened range. If professional education must focus on equipping potential clergy with a variety of skills, then the sorts of critical inquiry that provide the theoretical background appropriate to different sorts of skills are what is needed Accordingly a variety of human sciences, both social and psychological, have been added to historical and philosophical inquiry to provide bodies of theory to guide both the way one talks about the Christian faith and the way clergy are to fill their roles.

At the same time, the way these various sorts of Wissenschaft are related to professional clergy practice has changed from the relation Schleiermacher envisioned. This is the most decisive change. The changes regarding relevant sorts of inquiry involve more than a broadening of the range of what is relevant. Governed by the clerical paradigm, the aim of a theological school is to educate professional ministers.

At issue is what should inform the practice of ministry. We saw in chapter 3 that theological schooling on the model of paideia involves a movement from source, usually taken to be scripture, to appropriation, in which one is "formed" in specifiable ways -- the source forms me, and I, thus in-formed, engage in ministry.

.We saw earlier in this chapter that in post-Reformation theological controversies theology was increasingly objectified in "truths" that could be "applied" to "problems" in thought or action. Accordingly, theological schooling became a movement from source (scripture alone or scripture-and-tradition, depending on whether one was Protestant or Roman Catholic) to application. Indeed, we saw that among seventeenth-century pietists theological schooling became a movement from source to application in quite specifically clergy tasks. Thus, made knowledgeable about the contents of the source, I apply them in my practice of ministry.

Schleiermacher had proposed that a moment of theorizing be placed between the source and the application in practice. The "source" is simply a collection of historical facts and has no normative force to it that could "form" practice. It is philosophical theology, critical reflection on the nature, meaning, and truth of the Christian faith, that ought to inform practice. To be sure, "theology" had intervened between scripture and practice for Christians all along. But "theology" had been a process of organizing, clarifying, and generalizing what was already normatively present in the source. For Schleiermacher "theology,' is not just a matter of generalizing what is already normative; it is a matter of theorizing from the given historical facts to uncover what their normative essence must be. Theology generates the normative, it does not simply generalize and systematize it. So theological schooling ought, he proposed, to be something like a movement from theory (not "source") to application (not "appropriation"). That would mean that theological schooling would cultivate persons' capacities to do this theorizing, to do "philosophical theology"for themselves. Furthermore, "practical theology" would cultivate their capacities to do theology in relation to the actual practice of ministry to identify the rules or norms governing that practice when it is authentically Christian ministry. Thereby they would also be capacitated to be discriminating about things done in the name of Christian ministry that ought to be reformed or abandoned.

In the twentieth century, however, theological schooling seeking to match this model of excellence relies less and less on theology as the body of theory that is to inform the practice of clergy tasks. Instead it is a variety of bodies of theory in the human sciences that are relied on to inform practice. There are, however, far too many of them for students to be schooled in how to do them for themselves as exercises in critical inquiry.

This is where the decisive change comes in this model of excellence in theological schooling. Schleiermacher had argued that, precisely in order to be the sort of "professional" school that society needs for its own well-being, a theological school must school future clergy in certain sorts of Wissenschaft, namely historical and philosophical, so that they can do the relevant theorizing, "do theology," for themselves. The movement of the schooling was to be from theory to application in ministry. But now students are informed about the prevailing theories in the field and then informed about the ways others have applied those theories to particular ministerial tasks. That information then serves as background to their training in the skills that the application suggests would be useful when undertaking those tasks.

To be sure, biblical, historical, and theological studies continue to take up a great deal of a theological school's time and space. However, they have tended more and more either to give background information that provides a "context" within which clergy need to be aware they are fulfilling their roles, or to give intellectually challenging and interesting alternative "options" or "perspectives" from which to view what they are already doing anyway in filling their roles. The irony is that much the same fate awaits the bodies of theory that have increasingly come to inform the practice of ministry. Students are not inducted into the relevant Wisscnschaft, as Schleiermacher had proposed they should be. They are not schooled in critical inquiry or pure research that generates theory. Nor are they really schooled in doing the applied research that generates the array of skills they are taught. The movement of theological schooling has tended to become this:from information about pure theory, "academic systematic theology," to information about applied theory, "academic practical theology" (chiefly counseling theory and church growth theory), to skills training; from science to technology to practitioner.


The world of theological schools is highly pluralistic. I argued in chapter 2 that individual concrete theological schools differ from one another partly because they are theological. They have different understandings of the Christian thing, different construals of the central subject matter of theological schooling and different views of what it is to understand God. The burden of the last two chapters is that particular schools also differ from one another because they are schools. They seek to be adequate to some model of excellent schooling. However, in point of fact, they are faced with trying to be accountable to two quite different models of excellent schooling, for one of which ancient Athens is emblematic and for the other of which modem Berlin is emblematic. For historical reasons they cannot evade either model. Yet the models are in tension with each other and cannot be synthesized. They bring with them different ways of understanding the overarching purpose of theological schooling, different pictures of what makes for excellent teachers and students, different pictures of how students and teachers are to be related to one another in schooling, different pictures of the sense in which a school can be a community. Between Athens and Berlin, theological schools are caught between a rock and a hard place. The most that any school can do is negotiate some sort of truce, strike some sort of balance between them. There are many different ways in which to do that. The sheer variety of ways of negotiating between paideia, on the one side, and Wissenschaft-and-professionalism on the other is another major factor pluralizing theological schools.

Clearly, this suggests further questions to ask of any one theological school you are trying to understand in its concrete particularity. Does it tend to make one model central and honor the other only in subordinate ways? Look, for example, at the way the school's ethos patterns relations between students and faculty, the way it organizes the curriculum, and the apparently dominant purposes of individual courses; do these all suggest that the Berlin model is dominant, with its stress on Wissenschaft, while attention to paideia-like "formation" is subordinated or marginalized to the status of voluntary activities? Or is it perhaps like this: Expectations of faculty make the Berlin model central for them, but the structure of the school's common life tends to organize student life around the demands of paideia and its expectations. That is, does the school divide its common life between the two models, so that one dominates the school's intellectual style and the other its extracurricular common life, or so that faculty are held accountable to one model and students to the other? Are there structural features of the curriculum, of the ways in which individual courses are usually designed, of prevalent teaching styles that suggest an effort by the school to integrate the two models? Is one model in fact dominant and the other chiefly honored in the rhetoric of the school's self-description?

The first four chapters have suggested questions it would be useful to ask of some particular theological school you are trying to understand more deeply. In Part Two I shall sketch my own utopian proposal about how best to understand the nature and purpose of a theological school. I hope it will persuade you by its cogency. Even if it does not, however, I hope it will help make more concrete just what the force of those questions has been, just how they can be illuminating. Perhaps it may even prompt you to formulate an even better proposal of your own.


[1] Cf Friedrich Paulsen, The Gennan Uniersities and University Study, trans. E. T. F. Thilly and W. W. Elang (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1906), pp. ~~0; Daniel Fallon, The German University, (Boulder, Colo.:Colorado Associated University Press, 1980), ch. 2.

[2] For this paragraph, cf Paulsen, pp-. 50-55; Fallon, pp. 1~20, 32-35.

[3] See Fallon, pp. 2~30.

[4] Quoted in Fallon, p.17.

[5] Quoted in Paulsen, p. 53.

[6] Paulsen, p. S4.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Fallon,p.36.

[9] Ibid.,p.53.

[10] Fallon, p. S2. For the entire paragraph, see Fallon, pp.S 1-52.

[11] See Edward Farley, The Fragility of Knowledge (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988), ch. 5.

[12] See Fancy, Theologia, chs. 4 and 5.

[13] Ibid.,p.86.

[14] Ibid.,p.91.

[15] W. R. Harper, "Shall the Theological Curriculurn Be Modified and How?"AmericanJouma1 of Theotogy, vol.3, no.1 (January 1899), pp. 45~6.

[16] Robert Kelly, Theological Education in America (New York: George H. Doran Co., 1924).

[17] William Adams Brown and Mark A. May, et al., The Education of American Ministers, 4 vols. (New York: Institute of Social and Religious Research, 1934).

[18] H. Richard Niebuhr et al., The Advancement of Theological Education (New York: Harper & Row, 1957).