Monday, January 6, 2014

Propædeutic (proʊ pɪˈdyu tɪk), adj., n.

Don't know what propædeutic means? Many incoming seminarians don't either.

That's why Greenville Seminary has an introductory year of study dedicated to it.

Propædeutic (often plural in its noun usage: propædeutics, from Greek, propaideuein, to teach in advance) refers to preparatory instruction basic to further study of an art or science.

A seminary education at many institutions is a three-year affair. At GPTS, our complete program is normally a four-year undertaking. The reason is our Propædeutic or Foundations year. We take basics seriously.

As explained on our web site: "Recognizing that fewer men who graduate from college or university are prepared for a classical seminary education, we have introduced our Propædeutic, or Foundations, year. During this year, in addition to the Bible Survey courses, Introduction to Reformed Theology, and the beginning Greek and Hebrew courses, we teach Logic, Rhetoric, and the History of Philosophy. These courses enable men to profit more fully from the remainder of our curriculum. They also train our students to be more careful thinkers and articulate speakers."

There once was a time when an undergraduate education routinely included the classic liberal arts courses, Academic Dean Dr. Benjamin Shaw has noted. Many college or university programs no longer do so. Because of our strong emphasis on learning to use the original languages of Scripture, on church and theological history, and on the art of preaching, GPTS believes a foundation of classical knowledge and skills in philosophy, logic, rhetoric (the art of persuasion through effective and grammatically correct writing and oratory) is essential to the proper training of effective ministers. Experience has shown, even here at GPTS, that many incoming graduate students exhibit substantial deficiencies in clear, coherent and cogent communications. Without these skills, students may struggle later in their homiletic studies and practicum, for example.

As our web site and catalog further explain our distinctive emphasis on languages: "It is important for the Church to have ministers who have sufficient knowledge of the original languages in which the Scripture was written to be able to interpret the Word properly. A sad trend in modern seminary education is the decline of in-depth teaching of the original languages.

"GPTS emphasizes the importance of the languages, and keeps the student in these languages throughout their theological education. We believe this will be a blessing to the Church as men enter the pulpit with the authority that comes from having dealt with the text in the original language."

A further distinctive of traditional education at GPTS is our curricula aimed at preservation of our Christian heritage.

"Today’s society tends to de-emphasize history and considers the present as the only thing that is important. Even in theological education there has been a decline in emphasis on church history and historical theology. The GPTS curriculum emphasizes both the history of the Church, and the theological development of the Church. We do this because Christianity is based upon historical facts and the proper interpretation of those facts."

GPTS recognizes, nevertheless, that some students do come to seminary with a reasonable or substantial background in the classic disciplines. Such students may be given an opportunity, through evidence in their undergraduate transcripts, testing or other demonstration, to waive some or all of our propædeutic courses, thus shortening their time in pursuit of their M.Div. degree.

Questions? Contact Dr. Shaw ( or Registrar Kathleen Curto (