The People’s Republic of China has enthusiastically embraced Western science and technology, and modernity’s materialistic worldview. Pictured above is the imposing business faculty of China’s Renmin (the People’s) University. Here this leading Communist university trains a new generation of Chinese business leaders, offering MBA degrees in global economics along capitalist lines. What you won’t find at the university, however, is a faculty of Christian theology. China is still disdainful of religion, and a robust program in theology would only encourage it. But how different it is in the West, right? Well actually, not so much. Christian theology is in serious decline in the West, even in evangelical seminaries and other institutions of higher learning. Pretty soon it may be on life support here as well.
He says that Western schools have been heavily impacted by pragmatism. As in China now, people in the West are interested in education that will produce an income. He says:
at one time the term “divinity school” conveyed in an intentional way an institution’s commitment to specializing in the study and transmission of the legacy of special revelation. The closely cognate term “seminary” has a more professional and vocational focus—an institution for the training and formation of clergy. St. Mary’s College, where I studied at St. Andrews, has been known since 1411 as the divinity school within the larger university, and I am pretty sure it would be loathe to change its name to seminary, for the reason mentioned above. I suspect that at the seminary where I teach (and where we dropped the adjective “theological” a while ago) we now have a predominantly professional vision of our institutional mission, and in light of that it is debatable whether divinity is still as strong a collective focus. The name we have adopted and the way we operate would suggest that we really are what we call ourselves, a seminary—a professional school in which it is no longer justifiable to regard the study of divinity (the specially revealed things of God) as our primary focus.
He says that North American administrators are driven by the market and they have to provide what their constitutency want. He writes:
With new, ever shorter and more pragmatic curricula being considered, for marketing and recruitment reasons, by accredited seminaries throughout North America, it remains to be seen what the future of theology or divinity will be. The growing consensus among number-crunching administrators is that an introductory (and quasi-catechetical) survey of doctrine will remain important to the preparation of ministers, but beyond such a minimalist baseline anything deeper is strictly optional. Already theological libraries lie largely idle as seminary students are rarely expected to probe deeper than the contents of their survey course textbooks.
I find his analysis interesting. One phenomena that I watched develop in the 80's was the introduction of a new professional degree called a "Doctor of Ministry." The D.Min. degree could usually be completed in summer modules and the classes were mainly related to church management and administration. Little or no theology required. When I was teaching at International Baptist College in the 1980's, we began a D.Min. program. I was somewhat leery of the degree mainly because I perceived it as a "watering down" of what historically has been required for doctoral degrees. However, there was a big demand for the new degree and there were a number of potential students desiring to get a Dr. in front of their name and administrators willing to do what it takes to get more revenue. I am not saying that there is anything wrong with additional professional education for a minister, certainly education is always good. But it seems to me that ministers and especially fundamentalist evangelical ministers are very eager to call themselves "Dr." Many of them have honorary degrees; many of them have degrees from diploma mills; and the D.Min. would become a means to get a "real" doctorate without the academic rigor historically required for such a degree. I have often thought that this desire to be called "Dr." was due to an inferiority complex (i.e., intellectual inferiority).