Philosophers and Children

My doctoral studies during the past several years have been quite a challenge, since I have been forced to study (with good comprehension) many ideas and disciplines that were somewhat new to me. The thinking and writing of lots of theologians and philosophers is anything but simple. Take, for example, this explanation of man’s existence by Paul Tillich:

Man experiences himself as having a world to which he belongs. The basic ontological structure is derived from an analysis of this complex dialectical relationship. Self-relatedness is implied in every experience. There is something that ‘has’ and something that is ‘had,’ and the two are one. (Systematic Theology, I, 168)

Students of theology and philosophy often forget that the terminology they deal with is just as complex as the integrals and algorithms of higher math. Philosophical and theological thinking itself is often highly nuanced. Thoughts are long and complicated. If you try to begin reading the work ten pages in, you will often be completely lost.

What a contrast, when I open my Bible and read it—whether in English, German, Greek, or Hebrew. Its truth seems so easy to grasp, unlike that of the philosophers, who expend energy defining terms, deliberate long at placing parameters, and wrestle even with how they are to pursue an idea. It matters little whether you are reading Plato, Locke, or Heidegger—on an ascending scale of difficulty, they all demand the same mental exercises of their readers. How different the words of Jesus are! Consider this statement in Matthew 12:33-37: 

Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. 

That one isn’t hard to comprehend if you can keep your attention span up for five sentences. What we say has serious, even eternal consequences. We speak out of our hearts. So we regulate speech personally by getting at the heart. If our hearts are purified, our talk will be good. 

But this truth is also deep. You can ponder these five verses (four sentences in Greek) a long time, thinking of how they play out in your own life. You can revisit them from time to time, and make an evaluation: How am I doing on my speech? How is my heart doing? All this demonstrates a third virtue of the words of Scripture: they are applicable to life. No wonder Jesus said, “Father, I thank you that you have hidden these things from the wise and the prudent and have revealed them unto babes” (Matt. 11:25). 

Few people, then or now, have been as well schooled in classical thought and literature as Clement of Alexandria (d. AD 215). Clement echoes the sentiment of Matthew 11:25 in his own context when he says, “Wherefore, since the Word Himself has come to us from heaven, we need not, I reckon, go any more in search of human learning to Athens and the rest of Greece, and to Ionia.” (Exhortation to the Heathen, 9). 

One hundred fifty years later, the eloquent John Chrysostom touched on the same truth in a different way, saying, “The Scriptures are so proportioned that even the most ignorant can understand them if they only read them studiously” (Concionis VII de Lazaro, 3). A millennium after Chrysostom, John Wycliffe wrote, “There is no man so rude a scholar but that he may learn the words of the Gospel according to his simplicity.” (Margaret Deanesly, The Lollard Bible, 246). 

No believer needs a university degree in philosophy, theology, natural science, or Greek to be able to understand the Bible. You simply need to be able to read. The writer of Psalm 119 compressed this truth into one pithy, shocking statement, “I have more understanding than all my teachers, For your testimonies are my meditation.” (Psalm 119:99). No, he wasn’t being insolent. He simply noticed he had found the way to God’s eternal truth. His teachers, for all their intellectual advancement, had not gotten there. They had not made it a point to seriously obey God’s precepts as they learned them (if they ever learned them), so they were behind their student in the knowledge that really counts. If Psalm 119:99 was true in the Old Testament culture of Israel, it is even truer in western culture today, where the Bible is not read and “God” has taken on so many new definitions. 

The illustrations of the wisdom of God’s children are legion, but here is one: the case of Dr. John Kramer. Dr. Kramer is one of the biochemists responsible for scientifically demonstrating the safety of rapeseed oil (now known as canola oil) for human consumption. At the time he began his research in 1971, rapeseed oil was considered by many to be toxic for humans. As a believer in Scripture, Dr. Kramer had been pondering 1 Timothy 4:4: “For every creature of God is good” (KJV). Taking a clue from this passage, Dr. Kramer persisted in his research and produced ground-breaking information for the food industry, resulting in positive use of one of nature’s good resources: canola oil (more at Answers in Genesis).

How kind and wise are the ways of God, who makes His truth comprehensible to all who seek to know it! How completely open, how utterly humbling is His offer! Take your place in the ranks of the unschooled, the unrecognized, the children. As Augustine (not yet a believer) was overcome by the wretchedness and captivating power of his sin, he heard the voice of a child nearby calling playfully to an adult, “take up and read, take up and read.” Then picking up the book of Romans, he continued reading where he had left off, at Romans 13:13. This verse immediately answered his question about being redeemed from sin. “All the gloom of doubt,” he says, “vanished away.” That is the way faith begins, and that is the way faith will grow. Here is knowledge that exceeds the thinking of the wisest philosophers, who do not know Christ. And so I urge you, dear Christian reader, “take up and read.”


Jeff Brown was born in 1951 and received Christ as a child during an evening service in the First Baptist Church of Elkhart, IN. During his senior year in college, while studying Biology, God led him to change course and enter the ministry. He later attended seminary, completed his ThM and married. He and his wife, Linda, have four grown children. Jeff and his wife have been church planting in Germany for over 20 years. He has published three books and recently completed his PhD in Systematic Theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary.

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KevinM's picture

Jeff--

Nice work. In the last ten years or so, many of us have been challenged to read more--you seem to be saying "Yes, but start by reading Scripture!"

And I hope that after we "take up and read," we can respond with "take up and write."

It's pretty easy to find someone in our circles with an earned doctorate in theology. But it's still tough to find ones who write clearly for the masses. Several of our old-school theologians had this gift (Ryrie, Lightner, Delnay, Gromacki, Pickering, et al) and a few of our current crop work hard at this skill (Bauder comes to mind).

Thanks for writing with such clarity!

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I appreciate the article as well and I certainly agree that there are piles of stuff in the Bible that is extremely accessible... especially the truths revealed in the narrative sections--and a huge chunk of Scripture is narrative.
I think the point about the wisdom of God's children is valid as well, but I do have to say I don't think Dr. Kramer & the rapeseed oil case is a good illustration. The reason is that the verse Dr. Kramer used doesn't in any way say that all natural substances are good for human consumption (What if he had been studying hemlock or certain breeds of mushroom, for example?).
So the Kramer case actually illustrates how the Bible can sometimes be a problem for the amateur... or for the amateur who doesn't study the work of the experts enough. In this case, lots of very accessible books have been written on how to study the Bible and learning to read passages in context is stressed in many of them.
The "every" and "nothing" in 1 Tim 4.4 likely refers to the known range of foods included in the categories "clean" and "unclean."

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

RPittman's picture

Thank you, Dr. Brown, for reminding us of the profundity in simplicity. Many times, I fear, that we fall into a naive intellectualism in our quest for education, knowledge, and understanding. In our convoluted speculations, we make our models, which may or may not be grounded in reality, complicated beyond our comprehension. As van Til has argued, our thoughts are analogical to God's thoughts anyway--we don't think God's thoughts (Deut. 29:29).

It is very interesting that you chose a quotation from Tillich, who was deliberately ambiguous. His thought, as I understand it, was a little akin to post-modernism in that truth was somewhat relative to the beholder. Thus, he wrote with intentional ambiguity. Of course, his vagueness was to obscure his rank liberalism and unbelief too.

Let the Scriptures speak.

RPittman's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
I appreciate the article as well and I certainly agree that there are piles of stuff in the Bible that is extremely accessible... especially the truths revealed in the narrative sections--and a huge chunk of Scripture is narrative.
I think the point about the wisdom of God's children is valid as well, but I do have to say I don't think Dr. Kramer & the rapeseed oil case is a good illustration. The reason is that the verse Dr. Kramer used doesn't in any way say that all natural substances are good for human consumption (What if he had been studying hemlock or certain breeds of mushroom, for example?).
So the Kramer case actually illustrates how the Bible can sometimes be a problem for the amateur... or for the amateur who doesn't study the work of the experts enough. In this case, lots of very accessible books have been written on how to study the Bible and learning to read passages in context is stressed in many of them.
The "every" and "nothing" in 1 Tim 4.4 likely refers to the known range of foods included in the categories "clean" and "unclean."

Aaron has raised a valid point. I agree that the Scripture was seemingly taken out of context without due consideration to various practical problems. However, we may be missing something in this story. I would suggest that we consider that accuracy with which the story was originally told. Obviously, it was told to make a theological point via an illustration. It undoubtedly contains an element of "evangelical exaggeration." If so, Dr. Kramer exercised his common sense and scientific judgment in deciding to research rapeseed rather than hemlock, etc. There is, of course, nothing wrong with this.

On the other hand, I would argue Aaron's conclusion and estimation of "expert opinion" is not justified. The division here is not between expert and amateur, but it rather between good judgment and poor judgment. A tremendous body of bad scholarship exists. Furthermore, I would not relegate any believer to the class of an amateur. IMHO, the Scriptures are written for the common man, not an elite class of theologians of whom many have written an amazing body of tripe. After all, much heresy has been espoused by professionals.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I can thoroughly enjoy a meal and receive sustenance from it without knowing how the digestive system works, or the specific nutritional value of the food I am eating... but I can make dietary choices more wisely if I understand those concepts, and I can better appreciate what is taking place in my body as a result. Ditto the complexity of creation. I don't have to understand Rayleigh scattering and the wavelength of sunlight and the photochemical reactions that produce a hazy atmosphere in order to enjoy a sunset... but there certainly is some value in understanding how the 'heavens declare the glory of God.'

When it comes to Bible study, I heartily agree that one should spend more time reading the Bible than reading books about the Bible... most of its concepts are simple, and those that aren't can only be understand with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. But a smattering of history, sociology, anthropology, physical science, and languages can give one valuable perspective. I think Christians tend to fall off one side of the fence or other when it comes to this topic.

When the intellectuals of the day took Peter and John as 'unlearned and ignorant men', they did have to acknowledge the impact that spending time with Jesus had on the disciples. It is reasonable to assume that the disciples spent over 10,000 hours with Jesus... and if you've read http://www.amazon.com/Outliers-Story-Success-Malcolm-Gladwell/dp/0316017... ]Outliers you know that is a 'magic number' at which one he (Gladwell) proposes that a man reaches a sort of expertise or mastery... which certainly is an interesting thought, IMO. Have any of us spent anywhere near 10,000 hours with God and His Word? Yikes.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

One of the qualifications of a bishop is that he be "apt to teach." As a qualification, it doesn't make sense unless some are not apt to teach. Similarly Eph. indicates some are gifted to be pastors and teachers (as does Rom 12).
So, the distinction is murky one--there are not exact lines--but there are definitely those highly skilled in the Word and those who are not and never will be (though they can always keep improving).
The fact that there is alot of bad scholarship doesn't really disprove what I'm saying. If it's bad scholarship it is not genuine expertise in the handling of Scripture. So what I'm talking about is real expertise as distinct from merely credentialed or official expertise.

As an analogy, consider the role of pastor. We know what the biblical requirements are. But there are a fair number of "pastors" who are not qualified and also do not do the work. So they are officially pastors but not actually pastoring. So, there are scholars and then there is real scholarship... not always the same thing.
But I'm not mainly talking about scholars, anyway. That's like another level from the "highly skilled" or "expert," because a scholars' work is so focused--and involves a great deal of knowledge and interaction w/the work of those who have gone before. The best of the scholars provide much of what makes the non-scholar "experts" good at what they do (along with giftedness), but they are often not skilled in communicating with "the folks" (vs. communicating with other scholars).

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

RPittman's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
One of the qualifications of a bishop is that he be "apt to teach." As a qualification, it doesn't make sense unless some are not apt to teach. Similarly Eph. indicates some are gifted to be pastors and teachers (as does Rom 12).
Whereas your point is rightly asserted that there is a necessary inference of some who are not "apt to teach," it does not define "apt to teach." Is this an academic matter or is it more of modeling correct attitude and behavior? Also, does it necessarily involve academic or seminary preparation? What is the level of intellectual attainment necessary for this qualification. Furthermore, it appears that the emphasis is more on attitude or outlook than scholarly achievement. It was the readiness and willingness to transmit (i.e. teach) those teachings received of the Apostles. Does this presuppose a certain level of education? If so, what is the level? May I suggest that we are reading more of our modern cultural context into this interpretation than what was intentionally inspired in Scripture. We cannot superimpose our modern religious establishmentarian structure upon the primitive church. Isn't this akin to the fallacy that started this whole discussion?
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So, the distinction is murky one--there are not exact lines--but there are definitely those highly skilled in the Word and those who are not and never will be (though they can always keep improving).
From Ephesians, I understand this to be a gift of the Spirit, not personal achievement through education. How do you know the gift can be improved?
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The fact that there is alot of bad scholarship doesn't really disprove what I'm saying. If it's bad scholarship it is not genuine expertise in the handling of Scripture. So what I'm talking about is real expertise as distinct from merely credentialed or official expertise.
Here we are amalgamating the university and church. Is good scholarship really synonymous with good Biblical teaching? If we are judging by degrees and education, how do we differentiate between the real expertise and the merely credentialed?
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As an analogy, consider the role of pastor. We know what the biblical requirements are. But there are a fair number of "pastors" who are not qualified and also do not do the work. So they are officially pastors but not actually pastoring. So, there are scholars and then there is real scholarship... not always the same thing.

I would differ with your categorization. The difference, I think, is between Athens and Jerusalem.
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But I'm not mainly talking about scholars, anyway. That's like another level from the "highly skilled" or "expert," because a scholars' work is so focused--and involves a great deal of knowledge and interaction w/the work of those who have gone before. The best of the scholars provide much of what makes the non-scholar "experts" good at what they do (along with giftedness), but they are often not skilled in communicating with "the folks" (vs. communicating with other scholars).
Coming from a background of science and mathematics, I have a skeptical attitude toward the awe of scholarship. Although I enjoy and move easily in the humanities, I view much of scholarship as a kind of intellectual bean counting. It is too pedantic, stuffy, and hide-bound. Lacking the standardization and reality-enforcing tests of science and mathematics, scholarship, specifically in the humanities, is relatively soft and unverifiable. Thus, it is controlled by the experts, meaning those in reputation and power. The problem is that the experts have self-serving interests of maintaining their positions. So, they work within the confines of the current paradigm. What it amounts to is human opinion compared to human opinion with a dash of ego. Bah, humbug! Don't impress me with credentials and expert myth but persuade me with the cogent reasoning of sound argument based on data. Quite a cynic--huh?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

"Aptness" is skill. This would be a combination of giftedness and study. Paul told Timothy to get to work honing (1Tim.4.14, 2 Tim.1.6) the gift he had received by the laying on of hands and also told him to be diligent to be an approved workman (2Tim.2.15).
So, no aptness doesn't equal academic credentials or seminary training. However, training from those who possess the skills you want to sharpen is necessary and this is usually found most easily at a good college or seminary... given that this is why they exist and what they are trying to do (among other things).
So I'm not talking about awe of anything--especially not something so broad as "scholarship"--but attaching a high value to the best work of those who have been "apt" before me--this is just sensible. Proverbs repeatedly extols eagerness to learn and associates inattention-to-teachers with folly.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

RPittman's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
"Aptness" is skill. This would be a combination of giftedness and study. Paul told Timothy to get to work honing (1Tim.4.14, 2 Tim.1.6) the gift he had received by the laying on of hands and also told him to be diligent to be an approved workman (2Tim.2.15).
Your point is well taken. However, I would stress that the honing of the skill is found within the teaching, discipline, and discipleship of the church, not the university. Would you say that a spiritual gift is increased by academic study? My own view is that the wisdom of God is found in the collective body of believers rather than academia. Basically, it appears that we are agreed in principle but we may differ as to roles and functions.
Quote:

So, no aptness doesn't equal academic credentials or seminary training. However, training from those who possess the skills you want to sharpen is necessary and this is usually found most easily at a good college or seminary... given that this is why they exist and what they are trying to do (among other things).
And I am not fully persuaded that the "good college or seminary" has found the proper balance between the moral, spiritual and intellectual components. Even the fundamental Christian colleges, by nature, experience the corrupting influence of secular scholarship, which I am not sure can be removed by a disclaimer.

Most modern translations of I Timothy 3:2 and II Timothy 2:24 translate Didaktikos as "able to teach" but this may not carry the full import of the term. It is referencing the whole idea, I think, of both a readiness and skill in teaching, which falls more into the semantic range of aptness.

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So I'm not talking about awe of anything--especially not something so broad as "scholarship"--but attaching a high value to the best work of those who have been "apt" before me--this is just sensible. Proverbs repeatedly extols eagerness to learn and associates inattention-to-teachers with folly.
Let's go back to the original question. My argument is with the premise that a seminary-trained or university man trumps the pastor who received his training solely through the church. Spiritual training and discipleship belongs to the church, not the university. It is true that an academic education is useful and beneficial to the man of God, but his pastoral qualifications are not the product of an academic education, IMHO.

Finally, I would point out that your use of Proverbs to support your argument is interesting because the wisdom teachers, whom you reference, were teachers of practical and moral wisdom, not academic or intellectual knowledge. After all, wisdom in Proverbs is the skill for living and living life well. It is the same Hebrew word used for skill in artistry such as metalworking and other crafts.

The bottom line, I suppose, is Tertullian's question: "What hath Athens to do with Jerusalem?" Methinks we are still trying to answer that one.

Jeff Brown's picture

Kevin,

Just now getting an opportunity to respond. You are welcome! Specialists tend to get caught up in their own technical language and forget that when it comes to communicating God's Word, they need to speak so that everyone can understand. Tim Keller, who obviously has a brilliant mind, relates that it was his years in a blue collar church, just out of seminary, which helped him learn how to communicate. That is an important lesson. I had a similar one in my first pastorate. I agree with you wholeheartedly.

Jeff Brown

Jeff Brown's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

I think the point about the wisdom of God's children is valid as well, but I do have to say I don't think Dr. Kramer & the rapeseed oil case is a good illustration. The reason is that the verse Dr. Kramer used doesn't in any way say that all natural substances are good for human consumption (What if he had been studying hemlock or certain breeds of mushroom, for example?).
So the Kramer case actually illustrates how the Bible can sometimes be a problem for the amateur... or for the amateur who doesn't study the work of the experts enough. In this case, lots of very accessible books have been written on how to study the Bible and learning to read passages in context is stressed in many of them.
The "every" and "nothing" in 1 Tim 4.4 likely refers to the known range of foods included in the categories "clean" and "unclean."

Aaron, this is a thoughtful response. I think, however, that Dr. Kramer's use of 1 Tim 4:4 is valid. Notice the wording: "For every creature of God is good." The thought comes from Genesis 1:31. Thus, though Paul was applying Genesis 1:31 to the question of what kind of flesh one could eat (or whether one may or may not eat flesh - more than one exegete takes this to be the meaning), the truth he cites includes all that God created: including plants and their components. Note also, that God said just previous to this, "See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth." (Genesis 1:29). This would include Rapseed, whose leaves are also edible. This puts Kramer's interpretation of Paul's statement in context, I would say, because he was focusing on Paul's affirmation of Genesis 1:31, not his argument about eating flesh. There are, in fact, many animals which are poisonous for human consumption (e.g., types of Jellyfish). Does this mean that Paul had the thought wrong, because he says every created thing is good and to be accepted (meaning here animals)? Kramer's delimma was whether to follow a darwinistic view of metabolic processes, or to follow a biblical one. Deciding on the latter, he determined to question the research already done, not the "goodness" or "badness" of the food. 1 Tim. 4:4 helped him to continue to pursue that line of thought. The effect of Hemlock is well-known, and rather universal. Rapeseed oil given to rats wasn't making them keel over, but resulted in cardiac disease over a period of time. Both Hemlock and poisonous Jellyfish would have been excluded from Paul's thinking as he wrote to Timothy. Why couldn't it be excluded from Kramer's thinking as, he says, God gave him this passage as a guide?

Jeff Brown

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

RPittman... I understand your reasoning, I think, but I do not accept the disjunction you're assuming between church and university. Scripture doesn't teach other organizations may not assist it in the task of training, and history shows that this relationship can work well (though it also provides examples of it not working well). Comparing a good seminary with "athens" is quite a stretch given the differences in foundational beliefs, goals, methods, and on and on. I'm sorry you haven't have had more exposure to good Christian educational institutions but there have been many over the millennia, and the best of them have made an enormous contribution to the body of Christ.
(Also, about Proverbs... another assumed disjunction I don't buy: moral vs. academic? I studied alot of moral stuff in school! I guess I probably mostly agree with you if I use a definition of "academic" that matches yours, but what you have in mind is not as inclusive as the term is normally used)

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Jeff Brown's picture

Roland, didaskilos (where is the Italic feature?) does not occur very often in Scripture, but evidently is the Koine form that took over the classical, didaskalikos, which means: "the faculty of giving instruction" LSJ, 421. So Aaron is right to use this as an argument that overseers have to have this ability, whereas others do not (note that it is not a requirement for deacons). Every time the work of elders/overseers is explained in the NT, it includes the skillful handling of the Word of God (e.g. 1 Peter 5:1-4). As I see it, all elders/overseers/pastors, are required to be capable of teaching the Word of God.

Aaron, if when you use "amateur," that someone is not interpreting the Bible skillfully, then I am with you. Actually, there is a sense in which any mature Christian should be able to skillfully handle the Word of God (Hebrews 5:11ff). And I don't think that the distinction between the teaching of "teachers" and the teaching of other believers is so murky. But I am running out of time today to comment any further on that.

Spurgeon is, of course, the classic example of a skillful teacher of the Word, who had no seminary training. But he could read and retain with incredible speed. Did he really need a seminary education? None of us writing on this website, I would guess, are ever going to get close to Spurgeon as a communicator of God's Word. In the initial phase of church planting in a foreign country, pastors are usually trained by missioniaries, not by Bible schools or seminaries. They often do exceedingly well in their work.

Roland, you are right, Tertullian's question: "What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?" has a fair amount to do with the point I have tried to make.

Jeff Brown

RPittman's picture

Jeff Brown wrote:
Roland, didaskilos (where is the Italic feature?) does not occur very often in Scripture, but evidently is the Koine form that took over the classical, didaskalikos, which means: "the faculty of giving instruction" LSJ, 421. So Aaron is right to use this as an argument that overseers have to have this ability, whereas others do not (note that it is not a requirement for deacons). Every time the work of elders/overseers is explained in the NT, it includes the skillful handling of the Word of God (e.g. 1 Peter 5:1-4). As I see it, all elders/overseers/pastors, are required to be capable of teaching the Word of God.
Dr. Brown, I do not disagree with what you are saying but I would go beyond and appeal to the context. From the context, didaskilos would be of a different genre from the other qualifications listed if it involved only the possession of a specific skill. This is most evident from a comparison of II Timothy 2:224, I think. It is, as I understand, a God-given gift than involves the willing exercise and use of the gift for the benefit of the church. As you say, the skill or gift, depending on your definition, must be present but there were those who were not exercising their gifts.

[snip ]

Quote:

Spurgeon is, of course, the classic example of a skillful teacher of the Word, who had no seminary training. But he could read and retain with incredible speed. Did he really need a seminary education? None of us writing on this website, I would guess, are ever going to get close to Spurgeon as a communicator of God's Word. In the initial phase of church planting in a foreign country, pastors are usually trained by missioniaries, not by Bible schools or seminaries. They often do exceedingly well in their work.
Very well said!

[snip ]

RPittman's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
RPittman... I understand your reasoning, I think, but I do not accept the disjunction you're assuming between church and university. Scripture doesn't teach other organizations may not assist it in the task of training, and history shows that this relationship can work well (though it also provides examples of it not working well). Comparing a good seminary with "athens" is quite a stretch given the differences in foundational beliefs, goals, methods, and on and on.
My position is that we are so immersed in our culture and modernity that we are unable to judge how much we have assimilated into our own cultural Fundamentalism. No, the Athens-Jerusalem question is as valid today as when Tertullian first asked. If we're serious about reforming Fundamentalism, then we must face and answer unpleasant questions that go beyond our somewhat superficial responses offered thus far. Even our Fundamentalist icons were tainted with modernity. A few Fundamentalists are beginning to see that Fundamentalism fought Modernism with its's own weapons. In other words, both Fundamentalism, especially the more highly educated segment, and Modernism were shaped by modernity. The common man in the pew was less affected. It's time that we shifted paradigms. My own vision of Fundamentalist Christian education for the future is a distance education model offering the best in academic, scholarly instruction under the discipline of the church.
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I'm sorry you haven't have had more exposure to good Christian educational institutions but there have been many over the millennia, and the best of them have made an enormous contribution to the body of Christ.
Ah, this is the rub. You do err in assuming that I've not been exposed to the "good Christian educational institutions." I have spent over thirty-five years in such schools including one that you name as your own alma mater. It is precisely from these institutions that I draw my conclusions. For example, how do you account for a creationist school promoting and teaching Piagetian psychology, which is founded upon the specious phylogenetic recapitulation theory of Ernest Haeckel. When asked about it, the instructors shrugged their shoulders and said that it seemed to work. In fact, it was difficult in interest anyone in discussing it. I don't think that we have integrated our disciplines with distinctly Christian thought. Whereas our instructors are genuinely Christian, they are teaching what they learned in secular grad schools.
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(Also, about Proverbs... another assumed disjunction I don't buy: moral vs. academic? I studied alot of moral stuff in school! I guess I probably mostly agree with you if I use a definition of "academic" that matches yours, but what you have in mind is not as inclusive as the term is normally used)
Having spent the last two years in a study of Proverbs, I respectfully disagree. Our Western mindset, mired in the linear thinking of modernity, is far removed from the Eastern wisdom. Aaron, it is not moral vs. academic, but rather it is academic vs. moral + knowledge. Modernism, not just the religious variety, has stripped us of the moral component of knowledge. This, I think, is the essence of secularism.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I'm not sure we're going to get anywhere discussing this... there are just too many distinctions you seem to believe in that I don't... and vice versa.

As for Piaget, yes I studied that some as well... along w/Freud and everybody else who made a dent in the history of psych. It was a history of psych. class, after all. And his ideas are not falsified by attributing them to a sinister source. The question would be do they contradict Scripture? But the prof. I had didn't claim any of these guys were necessarily right about anything, though he did point out some elements that seemed to square with his own observations. Fair enough. What's wrong with that? It's a theory of cognitive development and speaks mostly about questions the Bible doesn't address at all... might just as well be diesel mechanics.
No, I'm afraid I can't buy the idea that everything touched by Western thought (even Enlightenment thought) is pure poison (I mean, look at what Eastern thought has produced!).

Personally, I greatly appreciate the education I was able to receive and would recommend it anyone. Not that it wasn't without weaknesses, but then the biggest weakness in the whole experience was probably yours truly.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Jeff Brown's picture

Aaron and others,

Just before this article rolls off the front page, I have the time to write what I had mentioned in post #13: namely, that the distinction between teachers teaching in a Christian context and every Christian teaching is not necessarily that murky. Please forgive my delay. Though my spelling of philosophers is original in the article, I don't think anything I am writing here in this post will be.

1. All teaching in the Church is subordinated to Jesus the Messiah: Matthew 23:8 "But you, do not be called 'Rabbi'; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren." According to this truth, all born-again Christians are on an equal plane. They are all taught by the Messiah in unmediated fashion. Thus, they are all capable of communicating His truth with some competence, even if only a minimal amount.

2. Christians understand and can communicate the truth, through the Holy Spirit, who is in them (1 Cor. 2:9-13)

3. Spiritual maturity brings with it the ability to teach: Hebrews 5:12 "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food." At the very least, this passage expresses that mature Christians are capable of teaching beyond the basics of the Gospel. In what venues that takes place is not specified, but they are not hard to imagine: e.g., parents with children, a discipleship Bible study, an older Christian talking with a younger Christian about his progress in the Christian life, etc.

4. All Christians teach one-another in various ways. One example is in the singing of Christian songs: Colossians 3:16 "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord."

5. The role of teaching the Word of God to an entire community of Christians is a restricted one: James 3:1 "My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment."

6. The capacity to teach an entire community of comes through Spiritual gifting (1 Cor. 12:11, 28; Rom 12:6-7; Eph. 4,7-15)

7. The work of teaching an entire community of Christians the Word of God is done primarily by its overseers/elders (Acts 20:28; 1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:9-11)

8. For any group of Christians, there is an urgency that this ministry to the body be regularly fulfilled: 2 Timothy 4:1-2 "I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching."

Jeff Brown

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Jeff,
I don't think I disagree with the essence of any of that. Would emphasize different parts of it a bit more or less, though I think.
You still have individuals who are gifted and trained to handle the word with more skill than "the rest," though--yes, there is a kind of teaching that every believer does to every other believer.

One way to bring the theoretical down to where the rubber meets the road is to consider the case of children. Is a child who just learned to read going to interpret 1 Corinthians correctly (even if we assume he has a basic awareness of all the vocabulary)? No, we intuitively understand that the child needs some instruction on a wide variety of topics before he can be expected to "get it right." The same is true of adults, frankly.
If 1 Cor. isn't tough enough to work as an illustration, maybe Hebrews? There are some substantial chunks of these books that even seasoned students of the Bible find quite difficult.

There is no substitute for acquiring the skills of Bible interpretation from those who have gone before and excelled in them. It's true that spiritual maturity itself results in increased competence but this maturity does not occur in a vacuum (Eph 4). Indeed, if the maturity hasn't developed largely because of the contributions of those who have walked the road before, it's doubtful it can be called maturity at all. We simply weren't meant to handle the book very much without learning.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

RPittman's picture

Jeff,

Thank you for a thoughtful posting. It is a much needed reminder and emphasis as the level of education rises among Fundamentalists. Although academic education may enhance one's teaching, as you surely have experienced in your own doctoral studies, it is the moral-spiritual aspect that qualifies one for teaching in the church.

Again, thank you for articulating what many of us believe but could not have said half as well.

With regards,
RPittman

Jeff Brown's picture

Aaron,

I could not agree more with what you have written! Case in point: I had to read through the book of Hebrews 10X and the whole OT 5X before I began to understand Hebrews. I still struggle to comprehend portions of Isaiah and the Minor Prophets. My volumes in my library have helped me a great deal to understand the Bible. Many of the writers of my books walked with God and carefully studied His Word. Ditto many pastors an Bible teachers who instructed me. It would be foolish of me not to learn from them. But above them all is the one volume itself, that makes me understand God's message.

Worthwhile discussion. Reminds me of some of Plato's dialogues, without the deck being stacked in the writer's favor.

Jeff Brown

Jeff Brown's picture

Roland,

I am glad that I can represent someone else as well.

Jeff Brown

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