Future Pastors the Church Does Not Need
I would like to share a story with you that I found very disheartening:
This past semester at University I had one seminar style class that was cross listed with the seminary on our campus. The class was focused on the Gospel of Mark. For those that don’t know in a seminar style class each student will take a turn studying a pericope in depth and leading the other students in a study and discussion of the material.
In this class there were University students and the were Seminary students. Now what really shocked me is that during the course of the semester almost every single student in the seminary began their presentation with these words: I’m not a theologian but…
Those words have haunted me since; “I’m not a theologian but…” The persons that were being trained to go and lead churches and the very first thing they say when they have to get up and talk about the Gospel of Mark is, “I’m not a theologian but…”
It is my contention that if you call yourself a Christian then you are a theologian; the only question is whether you have a good theology or not. It’s OK if you disagree with me (you would be wrong of course) but I would assume that at the very least we want our pastors to be theologians. There were generally three groups of persons in this seminary group.
The first group: I’m positive most of these persons were quite confused by what it means to be a theologian. Unaware of first order practice and second order reflection. They confused the first order practice or embedded theology that you have to some degree assumed and live day to day with the second order reflection or deliberative theology that characterizes teaching – academic and Church. There is still hope for these people.
The second group: for these people it was an excuse to not deal with the text; a refusal to think critically; and an excuse to pass off Sunday School embedded theology. These are the pastors that will for the rest of their life just regurgitate sermons they and you have already heard a thousand times. For the most part these people are characterized by an over inflated sense of what they are supposed to do “for God.” They will spend the majority of “their ministry” answering questions that nobody is asking.
The third group: these persons were still characterized by a refusal to think critically or deal with the text but had some sort of hand me down deliberative theology. They had been told what the texts meant; what the rules were; and how to get in to heaven. And they were prepared to aggressively defend their ready made positions.
These persons I have a name for: modern evangelical neo-gnostics
Some context for those that have not heard of the gnostics: Gnosticism was a religion that had some variation but one of the features that characterized much of it was an elevation of knowledge. This is where we get the name for Gnosticism it comes from the Greek word gnosis which means knowledge. For the gnostics special knowledge was very important in salvation and restoration.
I’m sure that many of you may see the parallels with out anything I have to say, but if what you “believe” is on a one to one correlation to “salvation” you might be a modern evangelical neo-gnostic. If your “knowledge” and ordering of the rules of what the Bible “really” means makes you feel superior to other Christians and causes you to wonder about their salvation you might be a modern evangelical neo-gnostic.
I could further explore the parallels of the gnostics platonic worldview and the platonism that can characterize some of modern evangelical neo-gnosticism, e.g. “this is what this text ‘really’ means” or the devaluing of physical things and the new gnosticism hiding in our churches would be even more apparent. Eighteen hundred years later and gnosticism is still thriving in our church. I wonder what Iranaeus would say?
A final warning to all three groups: ready made, assumed, and pat answers are often shattered by the sledgehammer of experience on the anvil of life.
And by the way: I am a theologian