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Theological Education and Global Tertiary Education: Risks and Opportunities

Theme: Theological Education and Global Christianity: Theological Education and Global Tertiary Education: Risks and Opportunities
Purpose: International Consultation for Theological Educators
Dates:  August 19, 2003
Location: High Wycombe, UK

Alister McGrath
Principal, Wycliffe Hall, Oxford Professor of Historical Theology, Oxford University

It is a great pleasure to be able to speak to you on the theme of this conference. I speak to you as one who believes passionately that theological education is of critical importance to the future of evangelicalism, and that our seminaries and other institutions of education play a decisive role in safeguarding our heritage and nourishing our vision for the future transformation of society. In this lecture, I want to address some of the themes you are addressing in this conference while supplementing them with some additional concerns which I believe need to be part of your overall reflection.

Evangelicalism has always been suspicious of the academic world. Quite rightly so! In the first place, there is the anxiety about the secularism, relativism, and pluralism which seems to be endemic in much of today’s higher education in North America and Europe. Evangelicals – and, increasingly, many others as well – have noted with growing concern the indications that the modern American academy seems to have more to do with élitism, ideological warfare, and what I fear I must describe as faintly disguised hostility towards Christianity than with learning. Some academic theologians have often seemed to be little more than acolytes to these trends, affirming what often turn out to be profoundly illiberal theologies and firing both their opponents and less than totally enthusiastic colleagues, rather than engaging in the dialogue for which the academy was once noted, honoured and valued. Many state universities give the impression that they have become little more than Institutes of Political Correction. It is very difficult to read works such as Paul C. McGlasson’s Another Gospel: A Confrontation with Liberation Theology (1994) without being concerned about the capitulation to secular trends that seems to be rampant in some liberal North American seminaries.

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