Sunday, May 17, 2009

Comments on the Church and the Academy

My good friend Mike Whitenton offered a provocative question in light of his ordination. He queried as to the necessity and relationship of the local church and the academy. I felt my response to him was well worth posting here as well, though I suggest you engage his thoughts also.

I thoroughly believe that the two should be integrated. Taking the faith in the pew and engaging it with critical scholarship is not only honest, frightening, and somewhat dangerous…in my view it is the right thing to do. Might some lose their faith? Well, quite frankly, losing my faith has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. It happens about once every year or two. I don’t stop believing in Jesus, I just grapple with who Jesus was and what his message meant (then) and therefore means (now). In some sense, Jesus for me has changed, or rather perhaps the change is merely perspectival. As the relationship and knowledge has increased, I think I have a deeper more robust faith, though the crutches I held on to in earlier days, when I had faith and God and truth all figured out have long since fallen away, but yet and still I follow Jesus. I am an ordained minister and full time pastor, I am also an academic, starting doctoral work in the fall and looking forward to a fruitful career in the academy AND the local church.


John Anderson said...

I agree with much of what you say. The difficulty, however, is what are the limits of what those sitting in the pews can (or will) handle. I think the divide between the church and academy is an unfortunate one. I also think it is in part brought on and perpetuated by each . . . much scholarship is consciously done NOT in service to the church, and the church often, I would argue, has an a priori aversion to scholarly conclusions.

At bottom, central to the issue seems to me to be that each--the church and the academy--are oftentimes not only seeking different answers . . . they are asking quite different questions.

Rod said...


I fullheartedly concur with your sentiments. The church and the academy should be engaged with one another. But what I do not want to see is the academy imposing its will on the laity in a condescending manner; I have seen too much of that.

At the same time, I am sickened to death by the anti-intellectualism in local congregations. It is an anti-intellectualism that benefits pastors who want to hold on to what little precious power they wield over congregants.

Well, those are my thoughts for now.