One of the things that evangelicals have long recognized but struggled to address is the division of theological disciplines that often exists in the contemporary university. We have generally approached this division by asking students to take classes in all of the relevant disciplines—Old Testament, New Testament, theology, spiritual formation, etc. Each of these courses contributes to the whole picture of a student’s education, and each student will need to integrate these disciplines in her personal and ministry contexts. At Talbot, we recognize that our disciplines are interdependent. In my theology courses, I regularly draw links between theology, biblical studies, spiritual formation and ministry in order to show students how these all hang together. I just wish I had more time for this integrative work. There is, perhaps, another way of trying to overcome this division. Classical Christian theology, written in biblical commentaries, sermons and doctrinal treatises, from the earliest times through the Reformation, integrated biblical, theological, spiritual and doxological elements in works meant to serve the church and to shape servants of Jesus Christ holistically.
In this way, classical Christian theology imitates the method of Scripture itself. The Bible integrates these beautifully. For example, in Ephesians Paul draws upon Old Testament texts to set a trajectory for reflection on the implications of the gospel for doctrine and life, interweaving worship and prayer throughout his teaching. The same could be said of the whole New Testament. When we pick up Anselm’s Proslogion, he also frames his book in prayer and worship as he seeks to know the God of the gospel through careful reflection. While Anselm offers a different methodological approach than what Paul gives us in Ephesians, Anselm’s is clearly shaped by biblical precedent.
Evangelicals have increasingly seen the profit of returning to the riches of the Christian tradition to fund contemporary biblical interpretation, theological reflection, and spiritual formation. The practice of reading Scripture with the Christian tradition bears doctrinal, spiritual and ministerial fruit. At Talbot, we are taking this effort seriously. In partnership with the Torrey Honors Institute, we are starting a new master’s degree, the Master of Arts, Classical Theology. The degree features courses in biblical books, doctrines and important theologians. In order to keep the importance of overcoming artificial disciplinary divides in view, we have given these courses names that keep our purpose in front of us. Students take courses in the Sacred Page (biblical books), Common Places (doctrines—the loci of faithful theology) and Master Practitioners (important theologians who show us how to theologize well).