Never Let Studying Defeat The Purpose of Studying

No one wants to be used, especially not your church. That precious blood-bought gift of God’s grace is not a platform for you to indulge your fancy for scholarship, nor a venue for you to cloister yourself off from the nitty-gritty of your calling. In fact, if your congregation starts to begrudge your study time (for example, if you hear things like “He spends all his time holed up in his office”), you will need to take a close look at your priorities. It may be that your congregation is serving a vital role in your own sanctification by calling into question the degree to which your study time is really in the service of Christ and his kingdom.

 


Avoiding Controlled Alienation

...Gadamer argues (rightly, in our mind) that it is in fact our very personal relation with the object that actually provides our way to understand the object. For Gadamer, “Prejudices are not necessarily unjustified and erroneous, so that they inevitably distort the truth. In fact, the historicity of our existence entails that prejudices, in the literal sense of the word, constitute the initial directedness of our whole ability to experience. Prejudices are biases of our openness to the world. They are simply conditions whereby we experience something — whereby what we encounter says something to us.”8 In fact, attempts to gain some personal remove from the subject at hand — what Gadamer calls “controlled alienation” — work against our ability to know as we ought. “What kind of understanding does one achieve through ‘controlled alienation’? Is it not likely to be an alienated understanding?”9


8
Hans-Georg Gadamer, Philosophical Hermeneutics, trans. David E. Linge (Berkley: University of California Press, 2008), 9.
9
Gadamer, Philosophical Hermeneutics, 27.
 


Theology in Social Contexts

Because theology is an attempt to appropriate the truth of Scripture in light of life’s questions, each theologian’s theological paradigm cannot help but be heavily influenced and directed by the particular questions that arise from his or her unique social location.

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...it was Luther’s immersion in the functionally semi-Pelagian soteriological paradigm of medieval scholasticism that caused him to rethink the doctrine of justification by faith.

 


Pressing Deeper Beyond Apologetically-focused Theology

An apologetically focused theology, though essential, forms only the outer ring of the theological enterprise. It defends the structure, but it is not itself the whole structure. Certainly, we must continue to advance a robust evangelical presence in the wider academic community; evangelical academic theology must continue. But we must also recognize that being forced to play within the present academic boundaries limits the ecclesial impact of academic theology.

 


The Pastor's Professor is Not The Pastor

Despite assumptions to the contrary, the pastoral office retains the burden of the church’s theological leadership, regardless of the vocational context of professional theologians and scholars. Or to say it again, the burden of maintaining the theological and ethical integrity of the people of God is inevitably linked to an office within the church, not to a group of people with intellectual gifting. Insofar as pastors bear the day-to-day burden of teaching and leading God’s people, they simply are the theological leaders of the church. As goes the pastoral community, so goes the church. Assuming sufficient tenure, show us a pastor with robust theological depth, and we’ll show you a local church with a corresponding theological depth. Likewise, show us a pastor who lacks the capacity to think meaningfully about the gospel, and we’ll show you a church that lacks the same. It doesn’t matter how theologically informed the pastor’s professor is. The theological integrity of a local church will not rise above that of its pastor. What is true for individual churches is true for the church as a whole.