Dluxe's World

Saturday, May 6

Wrap-up: Religious Life of Theological Students (Warfield)

This wonderful, short book (only 15 pages!) recounts an address B.B. Warfield delivered to a group of Princeton Seminary students in 1911. I thought this would be worth a read as I embark on this little 'personal study adventure'.

Boy, am I glad I did!

Warfield speaks eloquently and passionately regarding the lofty goals and significant challenges that face any theology student. Warfield first tackles the issue of 'vocation' to remind the seminary student that the call on their life is different than, but not 'superior' to, others. Warfield says:
'Vocation' - it is the call of God, addressed to every man, whoever he may be, to lay upon him a particular work, no matter what. And the calls, and therefore also the called, stand on a complete equality with one another... Certainly, every man who aspires to be a religious man must begin by doing his duty. (p. 4)

Even so, the difference here is plain. The student of theology must recognize the role of worship in the pursuit of knowledge and study because he "is brought by his daily tasking into the presence of God, and is kept there." (p. 5) The ongoing challenge for students is the tendency towards routine. The study of God easily becomes commonplace in the mind of the student. It's too easy for the passion to melt away in the midst of the stream of work. Worse yet, the pursuit of knowledge can become an idol - with the student building a library of facts that are effectively detached from the God who is their focus.

The passionate pursuit of God must be the focus of theological study. This is especially true when the task of a preacher is considered. Warfield exhort the students:
In a time like this, it is perhaps not strange that careful observers of the life of our Theological Seminaries tell us that the most noticeable thing about it is a certain falling off from the intense seriousness of outlook by which students ... were formerly characterized... Think of the greatness of the minister's calling; the greatness of the issues which hang on your worthiness or your unworthiness for its high functions; and determine once and for all that with God's help you will be worthy. (p. 13)

Warfield certainly is not implying that activity is the goal. Instead, he specifically reminds the reader that no amount of good work will make up for a lack of genuine devotion to and affection for Christ. The work, all of it, must be motivated by the desire to respond to God's call on your life and glorify Him alone.

This is a fantastic little read. It balances well the clear, sobering reminder of the important call to biblical eldership with the fatherly exhortation to make the gospel come alive to others through its living in you. I thought Warfield's closing thoughts were especially poignant... Recalling a Cotton Mather book, he writes:
The angels preparing to sound the trumpets. That is what Cotton Mather calls you, students for the ministry: the angels, preparing to sound the trumpets! Take the name to yourselves, and live up to it. Give your days and nights to living up to it! And then, perhaps, when you come to sound the trumpets the note will be pure and clear and strong, and perchance may even pierce even to the grave and wake the dead. (p. 15)

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