In an article today at “Between the Times,” Danny Akin and Bruce Ashford remind us that the calling of SBC seminaries is “to serve the churches of the SBC.” They issue four challenges to that end, but it was number two that caught my eye as an educator in an SBC school:
“A second challenge for the seminaries is to produce ministry-minded graduates instead of seminary eggheads. The brutal fact is that seminaries sometimes produce students who can discourse on theological abstractions but who are detached from real-life ministry.”
Amen to that. The academic study of theology is not an end in itself. We serve the church, or our work is vanity. This line reminded me of a similar exhortation that Wayne Grudem issued to evangelical scholars in his 1999 presidential address to the Evangelical Theological Society. Grudem’s short article would be worth the read for anyone else out there in my line of work. You can download it here:
“Do we act as if we really believe that ‘the Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written’?” â€“ by Wayne Grudem
Grudem offers six suggestions to evangelical scholars:
Suggestion #1: Consider the possibility that God may want evangelical scholars to write more books and articles that tell the Church what the whole Bible teaches us about some current problem.
Suggestion # 2: Consider the possibility that God wants the Church to discover answers and reach consensus on more problems, and wants us to play a significant role in that process.
Suggestion #3: Consider the possibility that God wants evangelical scholars to speak with a unified voice on certain issues before the whole Church and the world.
Suggestion #4: Consider the possibility that God may want many of us to pay less attention to the writings of non-evangelical scholars.
Suggestion #5: Consider the possibility that God may want us to quote his Word explicitly in private discussions and in public debates with non-Christians.
Sugesstion #6: Consider the possibility that the world as we know it may change very quickly.
Read the rest here.
I find it fascinating at Dr. Akin’s writings. I actually find the exact opposite where I am at. I do not see that many of the pastors I interact with have thought through the theological implications of their practical ministry. Hence we have 16 million church members and barely 6 million show up to the primary worship service of the church as one illustration.
Commenting on Grudem’s paper, Heth and Wenham and wrong on divorce and remarriage, and Instone-Brewer is correct. Bereans read both.
You’re right, that’s a danger as well. I’ve seen both, and we need to flee each of them.
After reading the article, I’m not sure where to start. I suppose I agree with the gist of the article, but I’ve experienced two significant problems that the article needs to unpack more.
1.) Most southern baptist pastors are not theologically-minded enough. Yes, they may know some theological facts, or the history of Christian thought on a particular doctrine, but this does not make one theologically minded. Bridging the gap between theological facts and figures with real theological integration is a challenge that I didn’t even see hinted at in the article. In other words, in my view, the problem is not theological eggheads, but theological retards.
2.) Parishioners resist good theological integration, which is, again, not even hinted at in the article. How can theology be “primarily for the church”, if the church resists theology? Should we cater to the lowest common denominator? In the church in which I serve, when we talk about radical concepts like the Kingdom of God, or of the Biblical formulations of things like the Holy Spirit or of forgiveness, I get a lot of pushback. These are important topics for spiritual formation which help change people’s attitudes, thought patterns, and behaviors to be more Christlike. What good is a short-term mission trip without a robust understanding of what it means to participate in the Kingdom of God? Without KOG, I might as well be doing something with the Peace Corps. The article should have addressed discipling parishioners as well as creating more theologically-minded pastors.
I believe this article either misunderstands or mis-articulates the issues. Either way, it does more harm than good in its current form.