by Merrill C. Tenney
Within the last fifty years astounding changes have taken place in education. Whereas then only a fraction of the population over sixteen remained in high school, high school graduation is the general norm now for most young people.
Within the last fifty years astounding changes have taken place in education. Whereas then only a fraction of the population over sixteen remained in high school, high school graduation is the general norm now for most young people. In spite of rising tuition costs, a larger number than ever before now attend college, although to many this is a somewhat perfunctory duty essential to proper social and economic status. Whatever the motive may be, the result is that those who go to college are elevated to a new level of culture, whether by voluntary application to their studies, or by a sort of academic osmosis.
Today’s high school student must learn vastly more than his predecessors of two generations past. He must compress into twelve years of study almost as much as his grandfather did into sixteen, if he expects to discuss and to evaluate constructively current social, economic, and political events.
Advance into college work calls for an even more rapid intellectual development and a broadening field of study. Specialization may begin in this stage, although most undergraduate colleges demand at least two years of general education before the student becomes thoroughly involved in his major. So broad are the disciplines, and so numerous, that no one person can master them all. He must content himself with a general knowledge of elementary facts and processes, leaving the detailed study to his graduate years.
In the light of this trend the missionary, or missionary candidate, confronts two difficulties. First, he is compelled to spend at least the first fourteen years of his training a general education that will fithim to cope with the cultured world around him rather than allowing him to prepare directly for his ultimate calling. Second, he must venture to undertake the most varied and difficult task in the world with a minimum of specialization.
Irrespective of whether the missionary candidate has a liberal arts degree or a Bible college training, one important element is unavoidably lacking in his education. If he has a thorough course in the liberal arts, he will have insufficient biblical knowledge to serve as a foundation for his missionary service. If, on the other hand, he has a heavy biblical and theological specialization in his undergraduate course, he will be deficient in some areas of general knowledge, and will find that subsequent theological study will only duplicate what he has already acquired. From the academic viewpoint, either of these situations can hinder the correlation of theological graduate education with undergraduate schooling.
Still another problem confronts the prospective missionary volunteer. Suppose that a student possessing an accredited baccalaureate degree either in some liberal arts major or in a Bible major wishes to take graduate training for missionary work. What shall his major be? As a missionary he must at times be a theologian, a teacher, an anthropologist, a linguist, a historian, a sociologist, a business man, a personnel manager, and a preacher rolled into one. In a pioneer field he may need also to be an agriculturalist, an engineer, and a mechanic. How could it be possible to select a major that would prepare him adequately for so many different tasks? Obviously there is no one course of reasonable length that could satisfy all these demands,.
If it is suggested that specialization is the answer, one may say that in the isolation of many mission stations, especially in pioneer fields, there are not enough persons on the staff to permit such division of labor, nor will an emergency wait for the arrival of the expert. The man present must immediately answer the call which the situation presents.
HOW TO CORRELATE STUDY
The answer to this dilemma may never be supplied completely, but there are certain factors which can enter into the correlation of undergraduate and graduate work that can be suggested.
First, the student who contemplatesthe dedication of his life to service on the mission field should acquire a general education in social sciences, language, literature, English composition, speech, and basic science. Not only are these subjects rerequisite to further academic progress, but they are the marks of an educated man, and are necessary when one enters the culture of peoples other than his own, even if they are primitive. The candidate who ventures abroad may find that the African who inspects his passport possesses a degree from Oxford, or that the Indian doctor whom he meets on his first railway trip may be an expert in European history. The missionary need not become proficient in every branch of learning, but he ought not to impress cultured nationals as an ignoramus. The non-American professional man expects the missionary to have had a solid college and theological education, equal to his own,
Second, a thorough missionary preparation in general education will provide a broad basis for further specialization. The language, history, and habits of the people among whom he ministers will be more understandable in the light of the past, and will enable him to comprehend more quickly the concentrated field of learning that he takes later.
Third, one distinct advantage comes from Bible college training. A student who possesses a mastery of the content of the English Bible plus some acquaintance with theology and with elementary Greek and/or Hebrew is better prepared for graduate studies in the biblical field than one who has only the traditional liberal arts approach. His missionary specialization can proceed faster and carry him farther in a brief period of time.
Fourth, the student who has a specialized undergraduate education, such as a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering, may be well prepared in his own field, but will find that he is handicapped outside of that field. He will have to compensate for his deficiencies before he can complete, or even undertake, his graduate training.
On the side of the graduate training, the principle problem is finding the precise area of study in which a missionary should specialize. Anthropology, biology, history, sociology, linguistics are useful and necessary in meeting the problems of the mission field, but only a genius can master them all simultaneously. The ordinary man must make his choice and specialize in the particular aspect of missions to which he feels called. The emphasis may or may not follow the pattern established in undergraduate training. In some cases the student desires to become an expert in one field that has intrigued him during his undergraduate years; in other cases he may be called to do something utterly different. Sometimes graduate study simply accentuates and sharpens what has already been begun; sometimes it leads into new paths.
For this reason it has been impossible for many schools to define a missions major satisfactorily. For the average student whose knowledge of missions is meager, there are too many aspects to be crowded into one course. How could any school offer a degree of Master of Arts in missions that would give to a chemistry major an a equate Knowledge of theology, biblical content, hermeneutics, apologetics, church history, linguistics, anthropology, and the history and principles of missions in one year I s work? The scope of the subject is too broad to allow such procedure; specialization in some one aspect of missions would be necessary. The best compromise that could be offered would be a standard course in theology, built on a basic survey of biblical content, a course of Bible study emphasizing the techniques of procedure, sufficient courses in missions to orient the student in the subject which will become his life work, and as much practical work in Bible study groups and evangelism as his academic program will allow. The narrower aspects of his field, whether anthropology, linguistics, missionaryliterature, preaching, or teaching could be developed by proper electives and by individual study.
Since most missionaries are now involved in working with an established national church that is developing leaders of its own, they will need to broaden their graduate training so that they can either assist in the preparation of the national leadership, or else keep pace with it in those lands where the educational standards are rising. For this reason the Bachelor of Divinity (now called the Master of Divinity in many schools) serves their purpose better. Certain basic courses like languages, theology, biblical interpretation, and pastoral procedures are required, but the wider opportunity of electives in a three-year course should allow a prospective missionary to chose courses specifically adapted, to his peculiar needs, and to spend more time on them.
The traditional seminary program of three years leading toward the B.D. (or the M. DIV.) degree is now almost too short for complete preparation. Prevailing biblical illiteracy in the average church means that the college graduate who takes studies in a divinity school has less general knowledge of the Bible than his father had when he entered seminary studies. Some time must be given to compensating for this deficiency. New fields of interest, such as counseling and archaeology have been developed, and demand the student’s attention. A year of internship, whether during the seminary course, or afterward, is highly advisable. For the prospective missionary such extramural training may take the form of missionary internship. Since linguistic science has shortened by its techniques the time necessary for learning a new language, a missionary candidate can often afford to extend his period of academic training in order to acquire a fuller equipment for his work.
In the case of those who achieved a larger degree of biblical and theological knowledge in their undergraduate years, allowance can be made by adjusting the graduate program. A student who has taken a representative course in systematic theology on the undergraduate level should not necessarily be required to repeat it, but could well afford to specialize in some field of theology that would be pertinent to the situation in which he expects to be involved. For example, a candidate for Latin America should have some understanding of Roman Catholic theology, while one expecting to work in Northern Europe should be aware of the recent developments in existentialism. For all circumstances the biblical foundation is imperative, since the student approaches other systems with the assumption that he is not making an academic comparison of the Christian faith with their theologies, but that it constitutes the authoritative criterion for judging them. If it is the veritable revelation of God, it is superior to all other beliefs in the reality of its content and in the finality of its truth. Obviously one should not assume an attitude of intellectual superiority, but should exhibit both humility and competence.
The essence of graduate study is its breadth of viewpoint and its creativeness. Though the two may seem to differ radically, they are really two sides of the same coin. The graduate student seeks a perspective of knowledge that will enable him to comprehend all facets of the particular subject in which he desires to specialize, and at the same time he endeavors to deal intensively with some one of these facets in such a constructive and creative manner that he can make a positive contribution to the situation in which he is involved.
For instance, a missionary who has spent one or two terms on a pioneer field discovers that a national church is in process of formation. How shall he guide its development so that it can best serve the cause of Christ ‘ and the needs of the people? On the one hand, he wishes to perpetuate the principles of the New Testament church; on the other hand, the new body must not be an alien organization which imposes on the national believers a culture that is totally foreign to them.
For the background of this undertaking the missionary needs a sound biblical ecclesiology, the knowledge of the historic development of the Christian Church, and the understanding of the social life of the people among whom he works. Theology, church history, anthropology and sociology could all contribute to his conclusions. The creative work of assembling the evidence, of evaluating its relevance to his immediate needs, and of drawing the conclusions that can provide guidance for decisions would be incorporated in a thesis which could become the basis of a church manual.
From the educational standpoint this procedure demands a broad enough foundation to provide the skills for research, and the specialization that affords the equipment to attack the problem intelligently. The coordination of undergraduate and graduate training will make the missionary a more knowledgeable and competent workman. From the practical standpoint, the proper coordination of undergraduate and graduate work can contribute directly to the growth and welfare of the church of Christ, because the intelligent establishment of foundations can avert mistakes that otherwise might handicap its future development.
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