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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Reserve in Teaching.

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This is the suppression, in the instruction of the great mass of Christians, of a portion of those Gospel doctrines which are most earnestly set forth in Scripture, as if they were a sort of esoteric mystery of which ordinary believers are unworthy, and which should be reserved as a reward for a long course of pious submission. The maintainers of this system of teaching affect great mystery about the highest and most sacred doctrines of Christianity (such as the atonement, the divinity of our Lord, etc.); they regard them as too solemn and divine to be vulgarized by being explicitly and prominently put before the Christian world at large. They would therefore "economize" the knowledge of such deep doctrines. reserving them for communication to those worthy of being initiated, meanwhile asserting that the ordinary Christian is put in possession of these truths, and to a certain degree derives virtue out of them, by partaking of thle sacraments, etc. It is on the authority of the fathers.that the advocates of "reserve" chiefly dwell as most fully and expressly supporting the principle; but they adduce also, in justification of the system, the reverence it has a tendencv to beget for sacred things (as if it were reverence, and not superstition, in those who know not what they are reverencing), and allege that doing thus they are acting a merciful part in keeping those in ignorance who would not make a profitable use of knowledge (just as if they had the power of discerning spirits). They contend that they are imitating the most perfect Pattern of wisdom and mercy, who thus economizes light and knowledge (e.g. concealing the Gospel at first under the veil of the Mosaic ritual), as if it were a system of philosophy of their own they undertook to teach, or as if they were imitating the Deity in concealing what he had revealed. The example of our Lord is appealed to, who, they say, taught openly by parables, but privately explained the mysteries of his kingdom to his disciples; a case quite inapplicable, as our Lord used reserve, not to his disciples, but towards wilful unbelievers. The system is also vindicated by studiously confounding it with the gradual initiation of Christians in the knowledge of their religion, and the necessity of gradual teaching; and the care requisite to avoid teaching anything which, though true in itself, would be falsely understood by the hearers is confounded with the system of withholding a portion of Gospel truths from those able and willing to receive it. It is almost needless to add that the entire system is opposed to the Word of God, which commands ministers not to shun to declare to the people "all the counsel of God," and that it is calculated to throw doubt and uncertainty upon the whole Christian religion; for, as in this system of "reserve" there mav be an indefinite number of degrees, none can ever be sure that he has fathomed the system and ascertained what is the real inmost doctrine of its advocates. See the Rev. Dr. West's Sermon on Reserve in Teaching.


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Reserve in Teaching.'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/r/reserve-in-teaching.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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