“When young fellows say that they have not made up their minds upon theology, they ought to go back to the Sunday-school until they have.” (Spurgeon)
A contemporary trend amongst students of theological establishments is the state of theological “openness” whilst undertaking their studies. In other words, they begin their studies, supposedly, with a blank canvas, a canvas that is yet to be painted with theological commitments. The three or four years at theological college is akin to theological window shopping, a passing by the competing shop windows of theological truth claims. The student is a consumer who is free to stop, perouse, walk on by or enter and purchase as he or she chooses.
There is a lot that could be said about this. It is of course a symptom of the times. We live in an age of relativism, therefore truth claims are considered too restrictive. We live in an age of consumerism, consequently we approach church life and theological convictions in much the same way as shoppers visit multi-stores. Of course, those who approach theological education in these terms, would object to being compared with spiritual consumers or victims of post-modernism, however, their objections do not reduce the reality of the problem.
What are the problems? There are several of them. The consumerist approach places the consumer at the centre of theological training instead of Christ and His word at the centre of the process. There is a problem of individualism. Instead of the creeds of the church being at the helm, the individual sits on the throne of theological truth. The modern explorer claims liberty from the creeeds of men, but they substitute ecclesiatical authority for individualistic anarchy. Hence we have an evangelicalism that breeds churches which are a law unto themselves, led by leaders who are a law unto themselves, who in turn preach to people who are a law unto themselves.
This is not a completely new phenomenom, Spurgeon encountered a similar issue in his day:
We have occasionally had applications at which, perhaps, you would be amazed, from men who are evidently fluent enough, and who answer all our questions very well, except those upon their doctrinal views, to which repeatedly we have had this answer: “Mr. So-and-so is prepared to receive the doctrines of the College whatever they may be!” In all such cases we never deliberate a moment, the instantaneous negative is given. I mention it, because it illustrates our conviction that men are not called to the ministry who have no knowledge and no definite belief. When young fellows say that they have not made up their minds upon theology, they ought to go back to the Sunday-school until they have. For a man to come shuffling into a College, pretending that he holds his mind open to any form of truth, and that he is eminently receptive, but has not settled in his mind such things as whether God has an election of grace, or whether he loves his people to the end, seems to me to be a perfect monstrosity. “Not a novice,” says the apostle; yet a man who has not made up his mind on such points as these, is confessedly and egregiously a novice, and ought to be relegated to the catechism-class till he has learned the first truths of the gospel. (Spurgeon)