Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) is a private Presbyterian school of theology in Princeton, New Jersey. Founded in 1812 under the auspices of Archibald Alexander, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, and the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), it is the second-oldest seminary in the United States. It is also the largest of ten seminaries associated with the Presbyterian Church.
Princeton Seminary has long been influential in theological studies, with many leading biblical scholars, theologians, and clergy among its faculty and alumni. In addition, it operates one of the largest theological libraries in the world and maintains a number of special collections, including the Karl Barth Research Collection in the Center for Barth Studies. The seminary also manages an endowment of $986 million, making it the third-wealthiest institution of higher learning in the state of New Jersey—after Princeton University and Rutgers University.
Today, Princeton Seminary enrolls approximately 500 students. While around 40% of them are candidates for ministry specifically in the Presbyterian Church, the majority are completing such candidature in other denominations, pursuing careers in academia across a number of different disciplines, or receiving training for other, non-theological fields altogether.
Seminarians hold academic reciprocity with Princeton University as well as the Westminster Choir College of Rider University, New Brunswick Theological Seminary, Jewish Theological Seminary, and the School of Social Work at Rutgers University. The institution also has an ongoing relationship with the Center of Theological Inquiry.
The plan to establish a theological seminary in Princeton was in the interests of advancing and extending the theological curriculum. The educational intention was to go beyond the liberal arts course by setting up a postgraduate, professional school in theology. The plan met with enthusiastic approval on the part of authorities at the College of New Jersey, later to become Princeton University, for they were coming to see that specialized training in theology required more attention than they could give. The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church established The Theological Seminary at Princeton, New Jersey in 1812, with the support of the directors of the nearby College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), as the second graduate theological school in the United States. The Seminary remains an institution of the Presbyterian Church (USA), being the largest of the ten theological seminaries affiliated with the 1.6-million-member denomination.
In 1812, the seminary boasted three students and Archibald Alexander as its first professor. By 1815 the number of students had gradually increased and work began on a building: Alexander Hall was designed by John McComb Jr., a New York architect, and opened in 1817. The original cupola was added in 1827, but it burned in 1913 and was replaced in 1926. The building was simply called "Seminary" until 1893, when it was officially named Alexander Hall. Since its founding, Princeton Seminary has graduated approximately 14,000 men and women who have served the church in many capacities, from pastoral ministry and pastoral care to missionary work, Christian education and leadership in the academy and business.
The seminary was made famous during the 19th and early 20th centuries for its defense of Calvinistic Presbyterianism, a tradition that became known as Princeton Theology and greatly influenced Evangelicalism during the period. Some of the institution's figures active in this movement included Charles Hodge, B.B. Warfield, J. Gresham Machen, and Geerhardus Vos. In response to the increasing influence of theological liberalism in the 1920s and the Fundamentalist–Modernist Controversy at the institution, several theologians left to form the Westminster Theological Seminary under the leadership of J. Gresham Machen.
The college was later the center of the Fundamentalist–Modernist Controversy of the 1920s and 1930s. In 1929, the seminary was reorganized along modernist lines, and in response, Machen, along with three of his colleagues: Oswald T. Allis, Robert Dick Wilson and Cornelius Van Til, resigned, with Machen, Allis and Wilson founding Westminster Theological Seminary in Glenside, Pennsylvania. In 1958, Princeton became a seminary of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., following a merger between the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and the United Presbyterian Church of North America, and in 1983, it would become a seminary of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) after the merger between the UPCUSA and the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.
Princeton Theological Seminary has been accredited by the Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) since 1938 and by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education since 1968.
The Princeton Seminary Library is a destination for visiting scholars from around the world. The library has over 1,252,503 bound volumes, pamphlets, and microfilms. It currently receives about 2,100 journals, annual reports of church bodies and learned societies, bulletins, transactions, and periodically issued indices, abstracts, and bibliographies. The Libraries are:
Given its status as an autonomous postgraduate institution, Princeton Seminary does not appear in most global or national rankings for universities and colleges. As a graduate school, however, it does see such ranking on occasion. In 2015, for instance, the U.S. News & World Report placed Princeton Seminary among the top 50 graduate programs for the field of history in the United States. The journal First Things, an organ of the Institute on Religion and Public Life in New York, ranked Princeton Seminary fifth among American graduate programs in theology, in 2012.
Built in 1834, Princeton Seminary's chapel was named to honor Samuel Miller, the second professor at the Seminary. It was designed in the Greek Revival style by Charles Steadman, who also designed the nearby Nassau Presbyterian Church. Originally located beside Alexander Hall, it was moved in 1933 toward the center of the campus, its steps now leading down onto the Seminary's main quad. Miller Chapel underwent a complete renovation in 2000, with the addition of the Joe R. Engle Organ.
In 2011, Princeton Theological Seminary's Office of Multicultural Relations and The Kaleidoscope Institute worked together to initiate an effort known as "Navigating the Waters," a program designed to promote cultural proficiency and diversity competency in faculty, staff, and students.
The Center for Barth Studies was established at Princeton Seminary in 1997 and is administered by a board of seminary faculty. The Center sponsors conferences, research opportunities, discussion groups, and publications that seek to advance understanding of the theology of Karl Barth (1886–1968), the Germans Swiss professor and pastor widely regarded as the greatest theologian of the 20th century. The Karl Barth Research Collection, part of Special Collections in the Princeton Theological Seminary Libraries, supports the scholarly activities of the Center for Barth Studies. The Karl Barth Research Collection is acquiring an exhaustive collection of writings by and about Karl Barth. Although many volumes are still needed, the Research Collection has already acquired Barth's most important works in German and English, several first editions, and an original hand-written manuscript by Karl Barth.
The heart of the Abraham Kuyper Center for Public Theology is the Abraham Kuyper Collection of Dutch Reformed Protestantism in the library's Special Collections, which focuses on the theology and history of Dutch Reformed Protestantism since the nineteenth century and features a sizable assemblage of primary and secondary sources by and about Abraham Kuyper. The Center maintains in partnership with the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam an online database of secondary literature about Abraham Kuyper.
The Center has also established an annual event organized to award the Abraham Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Life, during which the recipient delivers an address. The Abraham Kuyper Consultation, a series of further lectures, takes place on the following day.
In 2017 there was a controversy surrounding the plan to award the Kuyper Prize to Tim Keller then Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. A group of students and faculty protested that Keller should not receive the award due to his non-affirming views regarding LGBTQ and women clergy. President Barnes initially defended awarding Keller the prize before changing his position. Keller withdrew himself from consideration for the prize and still delivered his lecture. While drawing support from some quarters, the decision to not award Keller the prize also drew criticism in the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.
In 1978 Princeton Theological Seminary's Board of Trustees established the Center of Theological Inquiry as an independent, ecumenical institution for advanced theological research, "to inquire into the relationship between theological disciplines, [and of these with] ... both human and natural sciences, to inquire into the relationship between diverse religious traditions ..., to inquire into the present state of religious consciousness in the modern world, and to examine such other facets of religion in the modern world as may be appropriate ..." Today, the Center has its own board, funding, mission and staff, yet maintains close relations with Princeton Theological Seminary. Present director is William Storrar and director of research is Robin Lovin.
Theology Today is a peer-reviewed, quarterly journal of Christian theology founded in 1944.
Koinonia Journal is published annually by doctoral students at Princeton Theological Seminary. The publication and its annual forum promote written and face-to-face interdisciplinary discussion about issues in theology and the study of religion. It is distributed to well over 100 libraries worldwide.
Princeton Theological Review is a student-run, annual and online journal that exists to serve students within the Princeton Theological Seminary body as well as the wider theological community. It is distributed to well over 100 libraries worldwide.
Acclaimed writer and theologian Frederick Buechner has long standing ties to Princeton Theological Seminary and the seminary has honored him with the creation of the Buechner Prize for Writing. Princeton sponsored and hosted the Buechner Writing Workshop in June 2015. Also, Princeton Theological Seminary has given copies of Buechner's Telling the Truth to students as part of their graduation.
Prior to the creation of the office of President in 1902, the seminary was governed by the principal.
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