Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Dangerous Species: The Theologically Educated

It's that time of year - graduation. This means a batch of people will be exiting the hundreds of seminaries in America with new letters behind their names: M-Div; ThM; D- Min etc. etc. I speak as one who also has two degrees (Music and Theology): Beware the dangers of theological education. I just finished reading through the book of Luke this morning, in preparation for teaching a summer series about encounters with Christ.

The alarming thing I noticed is that the people who 'get it', who understand Jesus and determine to follow him, are largely uneducated. It's the educated people who have a hard time with Jesus, and it's the theologically educated who have the hardest time of all. I say this with humility, as one who understands the value of theological education. Having travelled the world, I've encountered the dangers of educational shortage firsthand. The Rwandan genocides are a case in point, though it could easily be argued that the problem there was bad theological education rather than a lack of it.

But as one reads through Luke, one finds that it's the educated who understand the scriptures well enough to know that resurrection is impossible, and that Jesus can't possibly be a prophet because he has healed a man on the Sabbath and allowed an unclean women to touch Him. And then you hear Jesus teaching, explaining to the Jewish religious elite how it will be the Gentiles who end up coming to the party because the religious people had better things to do, and how it was the heretic Samaritan who actually did the will of God by loving his neighbor because the well educated people had too many other agendas on their palm pilot to attend to the needs of a beaten down bystander.

Don't dismiss Jesus' criticism of the upper class too quickly. And don't condemn them too quickly either. I think it's simply important to recognize that education carries with it not a right to privilege, but a yoke of service. If I embrace that yoke, my education will becoming a blessing to me, day after day, and will enable me to become a blessing to others as well.


At 7/6/06 18:36, Anonymous dan tegman said...

wow Richard. Insightful and truthful. Your thinking is why we fill the pews! So much different than "traditional" churches. Ironic in that you are speaking in the most traditional of ways...that Christ.

At 9/6/06 06:54, Blogger Tom said...

Perhaps all MDiv. graduates should be required to hold down a "blue - collar" job for at least a year immediately upon graduation. As a former landscaper, I know that a few years of pushing a wheelbarrow around does wonders for one's theology.

At 12/6/06 12:29, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As one who is in the midst of a theological education, I feel the need to respond ;-) I totally understand the point you're making, Richard, but I would point out that the theologically "uneducated" as just as dangerous, if not moreso - as you point out in the Rwanda example. I think the issue is not *how* you get your education (be it from a seminary, good preacher, personal insight given from the Spirit) but rather what you're being taught.

The reason I'm in seminary is precisely because of the many Christians I've encountered who haven't taken the time to discover for themselves what they actually believe about God/Christ and instead choose to (as you rightly said in the sermon yesterday, Richard) "live their faith vicariously through other people." That is, in my opinion, a much bigger problem than most churches realize or want to admit.


At 22/6/08 06:39, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its interesting I was researching a point in scripture, in order to become more theologically educated, when I ran across this blog.
Let's not forget that the Biblical model we have before us is to become theologically educated; i.e. the twelve apostles living and walking with Christ, and the accound in Acts of people fellowshiping around the teaching of scripture. The problem with the religious leaders of Jesus' day was that their theology was messed up. It was actually their lack of good theological education that had them confused about who God was.
I agree 100% that caution is needed when we aquire knowlege in order to not allow this knowlege to get in the way of God's work in our lives. Also the reliance on our own knowlege is how we end up putting God in a box.
I've been a full time missionary in Mexico for almost eight years. I enrolled in seminary last fall in order to fill in some of the voids I have in my ability to minister.


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