Today a friend and I had lunch with an attorney. During the meal we chatted mostly about his legal services. He wanted to give our church a place to refer families if/when they needed legal assistance. He was a Christian who was more than just knowledgeable about the law but an expert. He has earned three different graduate degrees and is a adjunct professor of law at a local school of law. When we asked him a question, he would give an articulate response with qualifications that each had qualifications. The man was clearly an authority in his field that had come from his education and experience.
Later in the conversation he commented on the importance of a lawyer over a paralegal. It was at this point I made the connection in my mind to education for pastors. He commented that when people are in legal troubles, sometimes to save money, they go to a paralegal. Paralegals are fine when they are under the supervision of an attorney but when they aren’t, as he pointed out, “It’s like going to a nurse for heart surgery.” I nodded my head in agreement, but in my mind I was making a connection that he couldn’t have intended.
First a little background. Alister McGrath wrote a book in 2008 titled “Christianity’s Dangerous Idea”. What is the dangerous idea? That Christians can read the bible for themselves. In the 15th century this was a dangerous idea because as a consequence, when the reader is not trained in matters of the faith and the bigger picture of the Bible, they can drawn some very wrong conclusions. The Reformation of the 1500s faced this challenge as they placed the Bible in the hands of the common person and used it as a tool to teach them to read. Geneva’s education system was set up as a model for other communities to emulate. But the purpose of teaching their members to read was so that they could read the Scriptures for themselves. Then after having the words of Scripture affect their souls, they could come to the services and sit under learned men that God had given as shepherds of their souls.
The minister during the Reformation wasn’t there to remove the Bible from the hands of the people. Rather as Calvin describes somewhere, the Minister is like “a father cutting the meat for his children.” A minister has been trained in the matters of the faith. They have been tested by other ministers of the faith in areas of history of the Church, theology, apologetics, language, preaching, Bible knowledge, and ecclesiology. They have spent time in academic curriculums to be experts in this field of study. What does this have to do with my lunch today?
At one point I asked him where he worshipped. It’s a question I’ve asked theologians, philosophers, doctors and other men of faith who have advanced degrees. I don’t know why it is that men who have given so much thought to these other areas haven’t made the connection with their own faith and the person they would subject their soul to. As the lawyer pointed out today. We wouldn’t trust a nurse to do heart surgery. Why would we entrust our souls to a man without knowing his training in the Scriptures or matters of the faith?
My family had to select a doctor a couple of years ago. In this search we looked up reviews and education backgrounds on some popular websites. We wanted to know who we were going to subject our body to. It’s a move that many would consider a “smart” thing to do. However, in our modern evangelical mindset, this isn’t necessarily the case. The worship music at the church may be wonderful. The people at your church may be really nice when you get there and they invite you to lunch after the service. But if the pulpit is feeding your soul dog food, then that’s what you are making yourself eat every Sunday.