Throughout this year I am reading This Day in Christian History (William D. Blake) a paperback I picked up in Lynchburg, Virginia in December and The One Year Christian History (E. Michael & Sharon Rusten – authors) to help me review some of the trends, challenges, struggles, blessings, individuals and groups who have had a part in the broad history of what we call “Christianity” during the past 2,000 years.
Today’s reading in TDiCH noted “Dr. Charles A. Briggs delivers an address at Union Theological Seminary in New York City titled “The Authority of the Scriptures,” resulting in a heresy trial. Briggs was eventually found guilty and was defrocked by his denomination’s general assembly.” (January 20, 1891)
Here’s a quote from an 1876 address given at the inauguration of Dr. Briggs at the same Union Theological Seminary. In it he makes a useful distinction between various branches of theology. My question to reflect on is this – “Is only EXEGETICAL THEOLOGY (Biblical Theology) the only branch concerned with dealing directly with the Holy Writings?”
“Exegetical Theology has to do especially with the Sacred Scriptures, their origin, history, character, exposition, doctrine and rules of life. It is true that the other branches of theology have likewise to do with the sacred writings, in that their chief material is derived therefrom, but they differ from Exegetical Theology, not only in their methods of using this material, but likewise in the fact, that they do not themselves search out and gather this material, directly from the holy writings, but depend upon Exegetical Theology therefore, whilst their energies are directed
– in Historical Theology in tracing the development of that material as the determining element in the history of the people of God, (these are courses such as the Theology of Augustine, Theology of Luther, etc.)
– in Systematic Theology in arranging that material in the form most appropriate for systematic study, for attack and defense, in accordance with the needs of the age; (these are courses such as Christian Foundations and other Doctrinal courses)
– in Practical Theology, in directing that material to the conversion of souls, and training them in the holy life. (these are courses dealing with Pastoral ministry, Preaching – Homiletics, etc.)
Thus the whole of theology depends upon the exegesis of the Scriptures, and unless this department be thoroughly wrought and established, the whole structure of theological truth will be weak and frail, for it will be found, in the critical hour, resting on the shifting sands of human opinion and practice, rather than on the rock of infallible divine truth.
[Rev. Charles A. Briggs, D.D., on occasion of his inauguration as Davenport professor of Hebrew and the Cognate Languages in the Union Theological Seminary, New York City, New York 1876]
I thank God for professors I have had and those now teaching O.T. & N.T. Biblical Theology, namely Dr. Peter Gentry and Dr. Pierre Constant, as they labour to equip students to rest their faith on the rock of infallible divine truth rather than the shifting sands of human opinion and practice. Please pray for them and Toronto Baptist Seminary in the strategic work of training men and women for the harvest fields. K. Edwards – Jan 20, 2012