Thursday, 2 June 2011
About one hundred years ago, Bible Institutes began to crop up in the United States of America. The impetus for starting them was to provide pastors with a biblical foundation for ministry, now that the mainline universities had more or less all switched to teaching modernism in their seminaries. There was no thought of accrediting the institutes, their founders having seen all to well what happened when religion became respectable.
Fifty or more years passed, and the federal government began getting involved in education. As more and more federal money flowed into the coffers of Bible Institutes, they came under more and more pressure to obtain certification as bona fide institutions of higher learning. Bigger schools had already long since started on the route of Bible Institute -> Denominational Bible College -> Nondenominational Liberal Arts College -> University. The smaller schools had all folded or been forced to forgo federal funding by 1995.
So here were are, with ministry students once again being forced to choose between a formerly Christian University that teaches evolution and social Darwinism, or a small struggling unaccredited institute run out of a local church. So short has been the turnaround, that most students at the Universities are unaware that their own school may have fit the latter description during the very lifetime of some of their professors.
But there is a lesson to be learned in all of this, and we need look no further than Sweden, where the government has been involved in education as long as there has been a State Church. The Örebro Theological Seminary never aspired to be a University, but did seek accreditation as soon as it became available. So respectable was their curriculum that the public schools sought for teachers of religion from among their graduates.
But all that started to change in 2009.
According to Christianity Today, “The Swedish National Agency for Higher Education reported in June that state-supported schools must favor religious studies over theological education.” The government agency is in charge of inspecting and promoting higher education in the Scandinavian country, evaluates universities and colleges, conducts quality assessments, and takes initiatives in updating teaching methods.
Higher education in Sweden is free of charge as the school system is largely financed by taxes. A result of the policy change is that “students could ultimately lose government allowances, a necessity in the Swedish system of higher education,” according to Christianity Today.
So, the power of the purse always comes in to play. The National Board of Higher Education in Sweden decided that the course of education at the Seminary was--of all things--too religious. No matter how we cut it, true religion just doesn't get respect. In order to keep the kroner coming, the Seminary had to bring in more classes on religious criticism and de-certify practical courses like Homiletics. So we are back full circle: the aspiring preacher must now take an unaccredited class in order to learn his trade. He may as well go to school in a Log Cabin. But he'd better hope it doesn't become the next Princeton University and Theological Seminary.