The philosophy behind Auckland Park Theological Seminary’s curriculum is about the question:
- Why does Auckland Park Theological Seminary (ATS) teach the specific curriculum to their students who want to join the ministry?
- How did we decide what should be learned and taught in our theological qualification?
There are mainly two approaches in compiling a curriculum with the aim to equip students for admission to the ministry:
The learning institution decides to develop a qualification that must represent a certain number of credits. To compile the number of credits, they develop different modules to present for learning and teaching.
A module is a smaller study unit that covers a part of a study field. In this way the Bible book of Ephesians can form a module. The choice to make Ephesians a module is often motivated because the institution and/or the lecturer believes that it is an important book in the New Testament. A curriculum can present several New Testament books as modules. The question that arises when evaluating a curriculum that has been compiled in this way is: What does the student know about the rest of the New Testament?
In addition to the consideration of what the lecturer and/or institution considers as important, there is a second consideration that often accompanies the first, namely: “What is the target (student) market looking for and to what extent can the institution comply with what they want?” This approach towards curriculum development is therefore about students’ interests and how to reach the largest target market.
As a result of this philosophy, a larger number of smaller modules are offered within different fields of study, aiming to cover as many as possible different fields of study.
A second approach and the approach that ATS follows:
ATS believes it is about the question: “What is the student’s reason for wanting to study Theology?” We believe that God, who called the student for the ministry, was with the student before ATS and as such for us the true questions are: “For what purpose did God call the student? What should he/she do for God with his life?”
The big question then is: “What does the student need and how can ATS help him/her to achieve this goal – God’s goal?”
When this question is the focus point, certain curriculum requirements automatically fall into place.
- The student must learn about the whole Bible: He/she must understand and apply the Bible – it is therefore about the content, background, context, and the Theology of each book. If you accept this statement, then subjects such as Old Testament and New Testament in a curriculum become a must, and a student cannot only be exposed to a few Bible books offered as different modules. With this argument, we have now highlighted the importance of two subject areas namely, New Testament and Old Testament in our curriculum.
Note: Many people today believe that the Church should organise its life and structures around the New Testament and that the Old Testament does not carry the same authority as the New Testament. They believe that because of the New Covenant, the Old Testament no longer applies to the life and ministry of the Church. This issue can be made more clear by looking at how Jesus and the apostles approached the Old Testament.
The fact is, the Old Testament was the Bible that Jesus and his disciples read and used. When the New Testament authors used the word “Scripture”, they referred to the Old Testament (there is one exception – 2 Pet 3:16).
Jesus recognised the authority of the Old Testament as Scripture. He gives no indication in the New Testament of conflict over the authority or inspiration of the Old Testament. On the contrary, He used the Old Testament as the basis for his teaching.
ATS believes that the Bible is a whole and that both the Old and New Testament is important.
- The student must acquire a systematic overview of the principles and truths of the Bible. Jesus was a teacher (Rabbi) par excellence about the principles and truths of God. Therefore, the student must be a systematic expert on God’s truth, that is, he/she must study Dogmatics and Ethics.
- The student must develop skills to be able to preach, conduct church services, help needy people pastorally, and manage and administrate a church. The objectives, among others, of the subject Practical Theology are directed towards the mastery of these skills.
- God’s church must continue to grow and cross boundaries; therefore, a student must become skilled at reaching outsiders. The subject of Missionary Science and Evangelism is important toward this outcome.
- The church of Jesus has come a long way and God has always been there to take his church by the hand in times of trouble and, also fallacy. Church history is about the journey of God with his people, his church. Church history answers student questions like: What can I learn from other people’s experiences? What is God saying to me today?
If you read carefully, you would see that ATS offers six (6) disciplines or study fields within our Bachelor of Theology and Diploma in Theology qualifications. The curriculum for each discipline spans over three academic years. We do not work with, for example, a curriculum that is deconstructed into 30 modules or with a two or three major subject system. ATS has deliberately decided not to follow this route because we want to fully equip a student. Each of the six (6) study disciplines forms a unit and together they present a whole for the holistic equipment for the ministry. Each study discipline has a development line that is built up from the first to the third year. Over the three years, each study discipline strives to make the student an independent and self-thinker – because how do we know how advanced God’s plan is with each student?
The baptism with the Holy Spirit:
A further aspect regarding ATS’ training philosophy is that ATS originated more than 75 years ago due to the need for Theological training in the Pentecostal community in South Africa. ATS, therefore, has a specific theological background in which the event of the baptism with the Holy Spirit, according to Acts 2, plays a decisive role. This said, ATS wants to make it clear that we do not believe that Pentecostal churches are better than other churches, or that a believer who is filled with the Holy Spirit, like in the Acts 2 events with the evidence of speaking in tongues, is a better Christian than one who does not have a similar experience. God’s Spirit is at work in all believers who are dedicated to Him.
However, ATS wants to make it clear that our lecturers are very serious about the authority of the Bible and have definite hermeneutical principles (the interpretation, understanding, and application of the Bible). Very important to ATS is Jesus’ concrete statement in Acts 1, namely, that his disciples must wait in Jerusalem for the gift of the Holy Spirit, that is, being baptised with the Holy Spirit (verses 4 and 5) before establishing the church. We believe it to be important because according to verse 8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Just as the work of the Holy Spirit was important in Jesus’ ministry, so we find that the Holy Spirit played a dynamic role in the early church. ATS’ lecturers cannot reconcile themselves with the so-called seasonality interpretation of the Bible (“streep teologie”) which states that the Acts 2 events were a once-off event and are not intended for today.
ATS seeks, with the help of the Lord to equip people for the ministry for, among others, the same:
- Task as described in the coming of God’s kingdom in the New Testament.
- Challenges of brokenness due to evil (perhaps even greater challenges than before).
- Equipment that the Holy Spirit, the Creator Spirit bestow.
With humility, we acknowledge that we are always stumbling over the threshold to understand and experience the extent of Jesus’ promise regarding the fulfillment of the Holy Spirit and its impact.
When the above is considered regarding the philosophy behind ATS’ curriculum, it is much more than a philosophy, it is about an institution with a calling from God, that reverently strives to faithfully carry out God’s will.