Great Expectations

My name is Mark Smith. I'm a guy who loves Jesus, His Word, and His Church. I am filled with Great Expectations for what the future will ultimately bring - Matthew 24:14.

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Location: Sudbury, Ontario, Canada

My favourite verse is Psalm 16:11, my other favourite verse is Acts 20:24, my other favourite verse is Habakkuk 3:17-19, and my other favourite verse is Matthew 24:14.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Some Thoughts

I've been thinking lots lately about the place of high academic study in the life of a Christian. I can't possibly count the number of times that I have heard my Heritage Professors say that every Pastor needs to know the original languages of the Bible. They say that this is non-negotiable. John Piper also says in Brothers, We Are Not Professionals (chapter 12) that Pastors should all know the original languages so that the people doing the scholarly interpretation of difficult passages aren't just scholars who are one step removed from dealing with people. I have to respond at this point saying to my profs (some of whom I like) and to John Piper (who I most certainly like) that I respectfully disagree. The languages are just a picture of the larger issue which is the issue of scholarly higher education. If some of my profs had their way then every Pastor would be a Doctor (I say some because I know that Dr. Howson has said that he disagrees with this.) But I think it is silly for every Pastor to be a Doctor and though it would be nice for every Pastor to know Greek and Hebrew and to be a great Bible scholar who can argue about and write papers about whether or not Isaiah is one big whole or two separate books, I think it is not always necessary.

I just can't stand all the ivory tower talk that goes on in academic circles. It's ridiculous. For example, the amount of time that is spent studying and the amount of books that are written on the End Times is sick. I say it's sick because I can't help but think of Oswald J. Smith's famous (at least famous among missionaries but maybe not among scholars) quote where he says, "We talk of the second coming; half the world has never heard of the first." What are all of the scholars who debate the second coming saying in response to Oswald J. Smith? Or have they, in all their studies, never come across this quote? Unless I'm going to become a prof who trains Pastor's I can't imagine devoting a whole ton of time and effort to issues like this when nearly 2 billion people never have heard about Jesus. Don't get me wrong, I'm so very very glad that God calls some people to be scholars and deal with the tough and debated questions. But I'm just saying that not everyone needs to be anything close to a scholar.

I read D.L. Moody the other day say, "I don't see why you men are talking about two Isaiahs - half the people in the country do not know that there is one Isaiah yet. Let's make them know about one, before we begin to tell them about two." Moody was practically illiterate, and there are tons of other great men and women whom God has used down through the ages that did not know things like Greek and Hebrew.

I'm thankful for the scholars, but we don't all have to be one. I think of Martin Luther King Jr. saying, "Everybody can be great... because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. you only need a heart full of grace. a soul generated by love."

I just want to serve and teach the things that really matter for everyone in their daily life and disciple people. I don't need to be able to personally respond to every single one of Pinnock's crazy claims. I don't need to personally notice Rick Warren's misuse of the Greek because I know the original languages so well. I'm thankful for the scholars, but when God calls Pastors He calls them to serve and love and shepherd the people, not to be tied with every scholar for the greatest scholar in the world. There is such a danger of ivory tower nonsense that comes with the territory of a scholar too. The perspicuity of Scripture enables a child to believe so we should spend more time reaching out to the street children in Bombay and less time studying in our ivory towers - at least most of us should.

And I feel that I can say this because unlike many people who might say similar things, I do work hard and do get good marks and I do like school and I do enjoy studying. I'm not writing this as an excuse to be lazy. The people that are failing their Bible School classes while they want to become Pastors certainly should study more than they do. But I've never come anywhere near failing a class, and I love to study and would even like to know Greek well. But if it were to come down to a choice between using my time to disciple people or pray or earn money to send to Missionaries or just hang out and build godly relationships and build into peoples lives or to study Greek, studying Greek will not make the cut.

I'm glad for the scholars and I thank God for people who have tackled all the hard questions. But they are just one part of the Body of Christ, and not all of us should take the time to study stuff so deeply.

Maybe I'll change my opinion when I get all old and wise and grown up...but until then, this is where I stand.


Blogger Kristin, Katrina & Nate said...

Amen, brothah!

Friday, May 12, 2006 11:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greetings brother,

Thank you for saying what's been on so many minds in Heritage, and probably so many other institutions of higher learning. While I'm not against seeking higher education, there is a great risk of becoming ineffective in ministry when intellectualism takes a from of idolotry. It was fisher men Jesus used to turn the 'world upside down' wasn't it?

Blessing bro.
Hey, how's Sudbury,

in Him,

Friday, May 12, 2006 2:24:00 PM  
Blogger Margaret said...

Mark, I thought this was an interesting blog, especially as someone who is starting university next year, taking the next step into "higher learning" (really I think it should be called "wider learning"--knowledge puffs up, but love builds up ;) ). I have often questioned the usefulness of my impending degree to the kind of ministry I want to do, but nonetheless, I plan to sign up for Greek next year. I too would like to know it well, because among the people who are unaware of the first coming of Christ are those who haven't heard because they can't read the Word in their own languages... so for me, the purpose in learning the original languages is to aid in (the ultimate goal, that seems to be stretching further and further down the road) translation. So thanks for this thought-provoking blog that also reminds us the focus should be serving... and also for the line "The perpiscuity of Scripture enables a child to believe so we should spend more time reaching out to the street children in Bombay and less time studying in our ivory towers..." Amen to that!

Saturday, May 13, 2006 12:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well Mark I believe you hit the nail on the head with this one. There are those that may feel the need to know Greek and Hebrew but to say that all pastors must know it well I feel sorry for them because look at some of the great pastors that have done amazing things for the Lord. God spoke to me a couple days ago and his words fit pretty well with this topic "Just be willing and I will use you" if you are willing that God will use you in the feild that he has called you.

Daniel Wallace

Saturday, May 13, 2006 5:25:00 PM  
Blogger Patrick Sutherland said...

Ah the intellectual question about intellectualism. I hear what you are saying Mark I really do because the 'ivory tower' is about as sturdy as the tower of Babel strategy.

But I feel it is important to note (as I'm sure you know) that study isn't only meant to make us look intelligent but also developes a foundation that allows us to interact with the Bible in such ways that it isn't misinterpretted.

Yes a heart that is seeking God should lead us to a further and true understanding of God's word but so many miss God's message and take the church down roads that devide, confuse and frustrate the general church. Anyways the more information that Pastors and Church workers have builds upon their foundation and allows for further revelation.

I don't disagree that people take it too far. But if we can have the training, while preparing for service and even continuing in service then I think we chose to miss more of what God has for us and for others. Personally my study at university (like you describe in your post) hasn't stagnented my passion for people, or limited my ability to reach people for Christ but has rather strengthened my longing, understanding and need to reach people and has created more oppertunity to reach people who I wouldn't otherwise.

Good Post

Thursday, June 08, 2006 10:17:00 PM  
Blogger Patrick Sutherland said...

*Note My university study is like that described in you blog

And the specifics of what intellect can do (ie stagnant) is not like your blog (I think).

Thursday, June 08, 2006 10:20:00 PM  

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