Saturday, December 20, 2008

Trueman on Academicians and the Local Church

Carl Trueman:
What role does the Ph.D. student or the professor play in the local church? Do they consider their role restricted, for example, to teaching the adult Sunday school or leading a Bible study, such that other duties–less 'sacred' callings–like the clean-up team or the tea rota or the nursery are considered off-limits and infra dig? On the contrary, the church is the church, and it is a privilege for anyone to be involved at any level in any of her manifold activities. We Protestants have, in a sense, regressed to the Middle Ages with our view that certain tasks (the ones involving brainpower and intellectual qualifications) are somehow more important than others. Just try teaching Sunday School in a classroom that's filthy and full of litter. A Ph.D. or a place in a graduate program does not exempt you from getting your hands literally dirty for the Lord.

In addition, such involvement in the everyday tasks of the church also helps to ground theology in real life. For example, teaching Sunday school to young children can be both humbling and challenging: humbling, because sometimes young children ask in all innocence some of the most profound and searching theological questions to which the greatest minds might struggle to respond; and challenging because communicating theological truth to young minds can make exacting demands upon both our theological knowledge and our communication skills which cannot be experienced anywhere else; indeed, I have found my poor theology and poor communication skills to have been more ruthlessly exposed in the junior SS class than in the doctoral seminar. And, of course, teaching kids can help to keep us humble: they do not understand academic qualifications, but they do understand boring, irrelevant, and pretentious–and they punish such unmercifully.

Read the whole thing.