The Character of the Teacher (Reflections on B. B. Warfield’s The Religious Life of Theological Students #2)

Classical Christian education is, and ought to be, a rigorous endeavor. And not just for the student. Teachers, too, have a high calling to be learned. I remember when we first started our school nearly seven years ago—I was halfway through my PhD in Old Testament, and one of my first realizations was how much I didn’t know. The more that I learn, the more I find that I don’t know. There is a difference, however, between an ever-increasing ignorance resulting from an ever-increasing learning and simple ignorance from laziness. In this sense, Warfield’s words regarding pastoral ministry are directly applicable to teaching in classical Christian education. Warfield writes, “The ministry is a ‘learned profession,’ and the man without learning, no matter with what other gifts he may be endowed, is unfit for its duties.”[1] Like the minister, the classical Christian educator participates in a learned profession and therefore must work hard to be learned. I think Warfield would agree that any classical educator who is not prepared to work hard towards further learning is unfit for his or her duties.

Despite this high call for learning, Warfield does not place learning as the most central aspect of the minister’s task. He writes, “But learning, though indispensable, is not the most indispensable thing for a minister.”[2] Warfield argues that although learning is necessary to do this job well, “before and above being learned, a minister must be godly.”[3] Like the minister, the classical Christian educator, though needing to be learned, must first of all be godly. If I am correct that Warfield’s statements about the minister relate to the classical educator as well, then we have a high calling. We are called to be godly, demonstrating a life of virtue and goodness for our students. But we are likewise called to be learned, demonstrating a hunger for truth. Only when we discipline our lives towards godliness and discipline our minds towards discovering truth will we come nearer our goal of being great classical Christian educators.


You can order this essay for a great price at Amazon, Christian Book, and P&R Publishing or find it online from The Master’s Seminary.


[1]B. B. Warfield, The Religious Life of Theological Students (Philadelphia: P & R Publishing, 1983), 1.


[3]Ibid., 2.

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