Theology for the Long Haul

Monday, May 16, 2011

Should Theological Education take place in the Academy or in the Church?

I found the following thought provoking article this morning, and it got me thinking. Read the article below and then (if you're not bored by it) come back to my thoughts below.

Being a seminarian, these thoughts have been on my mind over the last couple of years. I've seen students thrive in a seminary environment, and I've seen others lose their way. I've been encouraged to study God's word for His approval, and I've been tempted to compromise to please teachers and peers. If I've learned anything in seminary, its that all students and teachers operate from a set of assumptions and commitments. As a student in Biblical Studies, I've come to see that one person's "objective" conclusions will almost always fail to intellectually satisfy another. All teachers have commitments that are reflected in their theology and exegesis. Sometimes their commitments are to a particular ecclesial structure, and other times they are to a theological guild or group of peers.

I recognize that this also applies to me.Those who know me well, know that I hold my convictions confidently (and have at times been wrong). For this reason, I am not attempting to judge, but only to add my voice to the conversation.

All of this said, and while I think significant contributions have been made by born-again academics, I have my doubts as to whether the greater academy in its current state is leading people to a more faithful praxis of God's word. There are those scholars who seem to be "working to show themselves approved" to their unbelieving peers more than to God or the church (those people who are looking to them for direction and truth). This, of course, is not always the case. I know and have been discipled by scholars who have faithfulness to God's Word and the strengthening of the local church as their primary concerns. It is my prayer that God will use these, and those whom God is raising up, to bring about a reformation. My heart can't bear to see one more ecclesial tradition trade God's faithful Word for temporary, short-sighted, and misguided applause.

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear."
(2 Timothy 3:16-4:3)

None of this is new to those of you who read this blog regularly; I have said before that the Western academy needs a reformation. I don't think I have all the answers, but I do have concerns. I've opened up the dialogue...what are your thoughts?

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