Theological Training in Australia and New Zealand

The young, weak Reformed churches in Australia and New Zealand are in dire need of ministers. The churches arc most grateful for the ministers they now have, men from Holland, America, Australia, and New Zealand. There is a need for more men; those already laboring cannot do all that requires doing; besides the future has its increasing demands.

It has been realized from the very beginning that calling men fro m Europe and America is at best a temporary and complementary action. The Reformed churches need Australian and New Zealand ministers -men who have lived and worked in these environs and are intimately acquainted with the mentality as well as “mores” (traditions–K) of the nations. Needed are men who have been molded by a variety of molds peculiar to this land. In the situation here there is a specific need for bilingual men (men who can handle both the Dutch and English proficiently). There is need for men who arc well aware of what desert distances, wasteland ways, and rugged roads are and how these things separate the churches and also various members of one congregation.

Above all, Australia and New Zealand are in dire need of Reformed men. “Christians” of every hue and brand are to be found here; yet church life, spiritual life, moral life is sagging fast. The evangelistic endeavors of the crusading Fundamentalists make but temporary impacts. The sects are fanning out over the land in true apostolic fashion, but with a message of delusion and corruption, yet gaining converts by the thousands. But the nation remains tragically unaware of the holy God and his saving love in Christ Jesus. There are pockets of consecrated Christians in various fellowships—but they are rendered quite ineffective in the performance of their evangelical duties due to the influence of the larger groups.

In this situation, the young Reformed churches faced their problems relative to ministerial supplies early, concretely, and realistically. Various alternatives were before them. (1) Continue to cry to Holland and America and hope for some more men to borne out of various local Australian church bodies. But this is by no means the satisfactory solution for the present, let alone for the future. (2) Have young men trained in the schools of the land; for example, Moore college in Sydney has a few fine Christian teachers who are Calvinistic in their theology. (3) Unite with some of these groups in a cooperative venture. But this was not considered the way of producing the type of men that arc so urgently needed in the Reformed churches and in sin-ridden Australia. (4) Begin our own theological training program on a soundly Scriptural, Calvinistic basis. The latter alternative is really the only satisfactory course.

This solution of the problem, “training our own young men”, was felt to be the only way because of the very nature of theological education. Just what docs one expect from a young man who has received a theological education? Much! Let us mention a few “musts”. Life must be able to exegete and interpret God’s Word. He must be able to preach simply and teach with clarity the soul-saving and life-transforming truths of Scripture. He must know and understand the Church Order for wise application. Other examples along the same line could be added.

The young man who has had a theological education must meet three indispensable requirements for effective work as a minister. He must have a Biblically oriented, consistent, properly inter-related philosophy. In short, he must have a view of God, man, and the world which consistent!y places the Triune God at the center of all his thinking. He must have a theology that is Scriptural, confessional, living and systematic. This is absolutely necessary for consistent preaching and teaching and effective pastoral labors. The third great requisite is conviction. He must have been so taught, so led, so trained by contagious, Spirit-filled men that with his whole heart, soul, strength, and mind he can preach and teach the gospel of sovereign love and grace revealed to us by God through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Theological training is not first of all a searching for truth -it is an inculcating of truth and a reception of it as revealed to us by God in his inscripturated Word. Pro per theological training is not given to those who sit at the feet of men with divergent views, but to those who sit at the footstool of Him who was made unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. To be theologically trained in the proper way is to be so filled with the truth of God’s entire Word and the Spirit of God and so molded and formed that young though sinful men become living epistles of God’s love, holy, zealous, spiritually contagious ministers of the gospel of sovereign grace.

Too many theologically trained men here in Australia are confused and fuzzy in their thinking. They are divided in their loyalty, which, I fear, is due largely to the fact that they have studied at schools whose faculties are mixed, often representing conflicting views and interpretations. They are lukewarm instead of zealous. They require guidance instead of being safe guides. Indeed, when one considers what the requirements are for ministering the Word of God to all men in every walk of life, we had no choice but to organize and develop a Theological Training Center for Reformed ministers.

In the next letter I hope to tell you of that which has been done, what is being done, and what the hopes are for the future.

Do not forget to pray for our bold venture though it is small and seemingly insignificant at present.