AETAL

A dialogue on theological education

We understand as the purpose of theological education the empowerment of the people of God for the service of the kingdom. Such empowerment should result in persons fit for the pastoral and educational tasks involved in the formation of God’s people for the fulfillment of their mission in the world. The tasks involve developing interpersonal relationships, evangelism, counseling, mentoring, and exhortation to establish mature communities that glorify God in the world.

In light of these objectives, evangelical pedagogy should mirror that of the Bible, which did not consecrate academicism, but dealt with the definition and resolution of pastoral problems in their doctrinal and practical aspects, in order to produce conduct worthy of Christ. This presupposes familiarity with the Word of God, submission to it, and ability to expose it in a contextual and relevant way through the use of available resources.

We recognize that the vital resources for the task of theological education are the Word of God, the Spirit of God and God’s own people empowered by the Spirit. This task must be understood as intellectual, in the sense of understanding and transmitting the written Word, without, however, giving rise to the intellectualism or conceptualism alienated from life.

It needs to be understood as spiritual, in the sense of dependence on the power of the Spirit, which is expressed in the modification of character in the light of the Word. It must also be understood as a community for demanding the communion of the people of God and for serving the people by teaching and exhortation without giving in to the uncompromising individualism that often characterizes our pietistic heritage.

Difficulties, Needs, Limitations and Challenges

The increasing informalization of society, provoked by the demographic explosion, technological acceleration and ideological confusion, has caused the increase of improvisation, marginality and desperate struggle for survival.

The death of utopias has resulted in an existential vacuum and a social disorientation. Theological discourse runs the risk of becoming empty and the theological education of losing its references.

An ethical relativism has dangerously affected all sectors of evangelicalism and tolerated a “Christian” dehonism fueled by an uncritical acceptance of secular marketing. The competition between the various creeds and creeds disputing the “market” has produced a loosening of the requirements of Christian discipleship.

Reason has been abandoned in favor of feeling, with expression in music, in literature and also in religiosity. As a consequence, theological reflection has been considered as a mere waste of time. There has been more “market” for action and excitement.

The religious phenomenon has persisted, despite all the prognoses of liberalism and Marxism, albeit in an irrational way, being used as an escape valve by a society increasingly dehumanized and resorted to by its own technological progress. Our time has been characterized by religious pilgrimage, be it traditional Catholic shrines, spiritual centers or massive evangelical-charismatic events.

Popular Protestantism has grown, bringing together several of the aforementioned trends, but also offering pastoral responses to the spiritual yearnings of a significant part of the Latin American population. Historical denominations have grown less than Pentecostalism and much less than neo-Pentecostalism, and for them they have lost many of their members, despite all their theological educational apparatus.

Schools have, at times, distanced themselves from churches and everyday life. In some cases, we have gotten to the extreme of educational forms that do not allow the student to express and realize himself. Such forms tend toward uniformity and a lack of integration of the sensory, the intuitive, the relational, and the ethical. In addition, they have promoted competitiveness and elitism.

The vast majority of the changes and innovations made in these schools do not seem to touch the essentials. Knowledge, which usually comes from the books or the teacher’s speech, and seldom from the student’s own research and experience, is received, memorized, and repeated. It is rarely discovered, tested, and recreated by those who are there to learn.

Schools, originally initiated by the churches, have distanced themselves from them, losing much of their social and ministerial relevance.
Proposals

The proposals below do not intend to end the dialogue, which we believe should be permanent.

Theological education, which we recognize as a responsibility of the churches, is instrumental in the schools, must:
(1) aiming at the personal fulfillment of the student, which certainly includes the development of an individual devotion to God expressed in regular fellowship with Him, reading the Word, prayer and worship, and demonstrating humility and service in a context of community, on

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