Thursday, June 28, 2007

Beggars All on the OHM: The Wisdom from Èowyn

I will copy and paste/post this from the dank and dusty Beggars All archives due to its Lord of the Rings spin and the related topic:

"Women of this country learned long ago
that those without swords may still die upon them.
I fear neither death nor pain."
- Èowyn

If you haven't done so already, go on over to Cyberbrethren and read Pastor Paul T. McCain's post on "pastors" who spout lines like these: "I'm not really into theology" or "I'm no theologian, but..."

I don't know if it's disrespectful to call a member of the Holy Ministry a theological stud muffin or a confessional Jedi Master, but either way, Rev. McCain regularly says things that really need to be said, and in this post he is right on target. Go on over there and read the whole thing, but if you don't want to make the trip, I've quoted his entire post below.

Why do I have the picture of Èowyn above? Because I want to paraphrase her words in order to add something to Rev. McCain's thoughts:

"The laity of this country learned long ago
that those without swords may still die upon them."

I sadly have to agree with Pastor McCain's post. There are many pastors who brush aside the meat, potatoes, and veggies of sound doctrinal teaching as well as Law & Gospel preaching because they would rather give their people the jelly donut snacks of theraputic, moralistic pep rally talks. And if this is true among clergy, how much more is this true among the laity.

I think that this pretentious, patronizing, and populist aw shucks, I just wanna love the Lord approach to the Word has deep historic roots in America, and folks like Mark Noll and Os Guinness have eloquently described this serious problem.

But life in American Evangelicalism and, alas, in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod has taught me that if I, as shepherd of my family, am unwilling to learn to use the sword of the Spirit to discern truth and protect my family -- if I am unwilling to take up and learn to use the sword myself -- then we, like the women of Rohan, could very well die upon the sword of the Spirit as it is twisted by the Enemy. I am responsible.

Here are Pastor McCain's thoughts:

"I'm not really into theology."

"I'm no theologian, but..."

These are two phrases that drive me bonkers. Let me explain.

I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have heard a pastor preface his remarks this way. It is a sort of defensive weapon in an argument --
"Well, I'm no theologian, but..." -- and then the pastor proceeds to regale the listener with his theological opinion, or is that a non-theological theological opinion?

Am I supposed to be impressed by an aw shucks I'm basically a simple bumpkin approach to speaking truths about our Lord and His Word? Count me out!

Now don't get me wrong. I am just as turned off as you are by pastors who have this compulsion to use jargon, to throw around Greek, Hebrew, Latin or German terms to wow and amaze their listeners. They love to toss out technical terminology. No, those aren't theologians either; in many cases, they are insecure little boys who have not gained confidence in what they think they believe, so they have to resort to rhetorical game-playing to try to "wow" their audiences.

The best theologian/pastors are men who can preach clearly and simply so that the most unlearned layman in the church can understand what they are talking about.

Am I suggesting pastors are to be ethereal eggheads whose heads are so far buried in weighty tomes they have no concept what life in the real world is like? Of course not!

So let me now say this: If a pastor says to you, "I'm no theologian, but..." -- you should look him politely in the eye, interrupt him gently, and ask, "Oh, pastor, if you are not a theologian, should you be a pastor?"

Or if a pastor ever says to you, "I'm not really into theology..." -- again, politely but immediately interrupt and say, "You aren't? That's really a distressing thing to hear a pastor say. If my doctor ever told me that he is not really into medicine, I would find a new doctor."

I am dead serious. We have got to work at stopping this horrible nonsense! Think for a moment about it:
  • You go to a doctor, ask his opinion, and he says, "Well, I'm no medical expert, but..."
  • Or you go to your bank to ask a financial question, and the person you talk to says, "Well, I'm no financial expert, but..."
  • Or the pharmacist: "Well, I'm not really into chemistry, but..."
  • Or the mechanic: "I'm no mechanical expert, but..."
What would you do? Would you hang around to hear his opinion? Would you pay it any attention, if he offered it? Of course not! You might smile politely and nod, but you would walk away thinking, "I'm not going back to him, that's for sure!”

If a pastor is not a theologian, he should not be a pastor. Similarly, a pastor who is an incompetent teacher should not be a pastor. How many times have we experienced a pastor who cannot teach a Bible class well to save his life? If he cannot, then he should never have been certified to be a pastor. The Scriptures say that a man must be "apt to teach" in order to be a pastor.

Now, mind you, I am not suggesting that all pastors necessarily are experts in all facets of academic scholarship concerning theology. But a theologian is not a professor at a seminary or a researcher at some institute. Ivory tower academics speculating about theology are not necessarily theologians. A Ph.D. is not the qualification to be a theologian.

Perhaps part of our problem is that we have mistakenly equated theologian with academic. But pick up most any academic theological journal and ask yourself, "What in here is really going to serve the teaching of the Gospel?" Sadly, much academic theology today is just playing to the guild of scholars. That is not necessarily theology and the academics doing this are not necessarily theologians.

Pastors must be theologians. Theologians are men who rightly divide God's Word, properly, carefully and faithfully distinguishing Law and Gospel, faithfully preaching and teaching that Word and fulfilling the duties of their office as pastor: caring for the souls entrusted to them with the Word of God.

Accept no substitutes! Oh, yes, know, well, mind you, I'm no theologian!



Tim the Enchanter said...

I eliminated the other comments and tried to fix up the long quote. Thanks so much for writing it!

Let me know, if you're uncomfortable with anything I polished.

Thanks and blessings to you!

Paul T. McCain said...

I'm still trying to get over being referred to as a "stud muffin."

: )

Tim, thanks for wielding your magical powers on the piece.

Tim the Enchanter said...

Heh. :-)