by the Founder, Dr. T. T. Shields (1873-1955)
Those responsible for the founding of this Seminary cherish an educational ideal which is found in the New Testament. “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3:8). The Apostle Paul was a gifted man by nature. He was a man of keen, vigorous, massive intellect. Moreover, his natural powers had developed to the full, through the highest culture which the schools of his day could provide.
Even an enemy recognized that he was a man of “much learning.” But when this great scholar was converted, he joyfully laid all his great abilities at the feet of Christ. He explicitly declared that even his every thought was brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ; and in the verse we have quoted he discloses the great motive and aim of his life. He esteemed the knowledge of Christ to be the most excellent of all sciences, and tells us that it had become the rule of his life to subordinate every consideration to this one supreme end, to count everything “but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.”
We believe, therefore, that this represents the Christian ideal of education: Christ must be put first, the end of all education must be to know Him better. If we study languages, mathematics, literature, history, or any of the sciences, it must be with a view to obtaining a better knowledge of Christ.
The pursuit of such an ideal can be maintained only in a healthy spiritual atmosphere. A man is not likely to develop an aesthetic taste in a coal mine; it is not probable that one would grow as a musician amid the din of a boiler-making establishment. So to keep always in view this worthiest of all ideals, one must not only be possessed of vigorous spiritual health himself, but his soul must breathe the atmosphere of the heavenly places in Christ.
Hence we believe that such an ideal is most likely to be realized in association with a New Testament church, founded upon New Testament principles, surcharged with the power of the Holy Spirit.
There is always a reason for what God does. He established the New Testament church because He knew it to be a necessity to the fullest culture of the believer’s life. The pastors, evangelists, and missionaries of New Testament times were not trained in institutions separate from the church. We have sometimes had occasion to criticize educational institutions; but as we have carefully thought these matters through, we have reached the conclusion that such institutions are the inevitable product of an inadequate educational ideal, combined with a defective principle of church relationship. Any company of men who shut themselves up to the realms of theory, are likely to atrophy their spiritual faculties by disuse; for to divorce theory from practice invariably tends to the formulation of theories which are impracticable.
Besides all this, the faculty of a college or university will, in their educational ministry, find their spiritual powers taxed to a degree which is likely to result in exhaustion, unless those powers are replenished and reinforced by the prayers and inspiration of a spiritual people whose intercessions generate spiritual powers “enough” for themselves, “and to spare” for others. Thus from long observation of the exaction of an educational ministry, we have become more charitable in our thought of heretical personalities, while still compelled to combat the erroneous principles to which their merely philosophical dreams give birth.
Every member of the Board of Trustees is required annually, publicly to announce his subscription of the Articles of Faith at a meeting held in connection with the opening of the autumn term of the Seminary, and no Trustee is qualified to vote in matters pertaining to the Seminary after such meeting unless, or until, such subscription to the Articles of Faith has been made. The same rule applies to every member of the Faculty. Every precaution has been taken, so far as it is possible to make anything humanly sure, that both the Faculty and the Trustees shall be loyal both to the essentials of evangelical faith and to those special principles which Baptists historically have distinctively held.