The Problem With Pastors: Too educated?

January 27, 2008 at 6:03 pm 68 comments

Graduate 1In my time, during my pre-Christian, Christian, and post-Christian days, I have heard people make claims that I have found to be incredibly absurd. From both theists and nontheists, liberals and conservatives, friends and foes, people say things around and to me that strike me as just… off. However, last night I think I might have heard one of the best. “The problem with pastors, I think,” said an acquaintance of mine, “is that they are too educated.”

Now, I know that the Christian university I attend is no Wheaton or Calvin College; but, I think my school is fairly representative of evangelical colleges in America. I spent more than two years here as a religion major, studying for pastoral ministry. And I can attest to the fact that the religion majors here are in no way too educated. From my experience with seminarians in typical Christian graduate programs, I feel fairly certain in saying those students are more often than not too educated as well. Perhaps there is some period of academic revival that takes place post-formal education in the lives of some pastors, but it has not been my experience.

I think I understand the heart of what my friend was saying. He feels that pastors are too distant from their flock, that instead of meeting the immediate needs of their followers, they are busy parsing Greek verbs and throwing out obscure quotes by Anselm. Maybe this is (partially) true, in some cases. But, in the several churches that I have attended, if pastors are too distant, it is independent of their education.

But he brought to mind one of my biggest pet peeves. The Christian ministry does not attract the cream of the crop. The best and brightest do not seek to be pastors. Don’t get me wrong, some pastors are high quality. They are intelligent, compassionate and articulate. But they seem to me to be in the minority.

One of my favorite classes in college was my Systematic Theology I course. It was taught by an outstanding professor who knows his stuff. Obviously, I’ve come to disagree with him, but he is still a quality professor. And he makes his students learn. He requires his students to outline all required texts (and there are a lot of them), his exams are noted to be incredibly thorough, detailed and yet comprehensive. But do students take this dedication to learning and decide to commit themselves to learning the material? Often, no. They complain that the Council of Constantinople is not relevant to their ministry today. They deride Marcion as a heresy of the past that has no implications for how they will run their church. They are uninterested in the way in which current astronomy and physics enlightens their faith. Of course there were students who would do well, but the majority of the class groaned, complained, and found ways around doing the reading. And they were proud of it.

As an outsider to the church, I would advise the church to find better leadership. The reason church membership seems to be floundering in many denominations is not that pastors are too aloof because of their education, but because pastors have nothing of depth to offer their flock. It is almost upsetting to me to sit in chapel and feel like I understand a biblical text better than the chaplain preaching.

Maybe my small-town, Midwestern conception of pastors is skewed and not representative of the church as a whole. But from my experience, I would love to see pastors who understood church history, the evolution of church doctrine, Christian beliefs, early church fathers, the evolution of biblical translations, the study of hermeneutics, etc. just a little better. As a non-Christian, I would love to be able to dialogue with educated leadership rather than fire-and-brimstone folk-preachers.

If there is any merit to the truth-claims of Christianity, all Christians, and especially pastors, should be able to engage culture at-large. Pastors should have a working knowledge of the classics, they should be schooled in psychology and sociology. Their ability to preach should be surpassed by their ability to read philosophy and science. Their love of Scripture should be illuminated by their love of humanities and the sciences. But this is not my experience.

Thoughts?

- carriedthecross

Entry filed under: CarriedTheCross. Tags: , , , , , .

The Bible does not contain a guideline of moral absolutes Part of the Problem (the way I see it, anyway)

68 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Fr. Aulus Agerius  |  January 27, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    Hi! I just tag surfed over to this post, and I think you’re right on. Lack of education isn’t what makes our ministry mediocre…it’s as you say, a lack of something of depth to offer.

    A friend of mine who had rejected Christianity (we’re still friends) once put it this way: Christianity has rich and powerful stories and symbols, but they’re presented as something to admire from a distance; people are not helped to step into them with their own lives. I’ve carried that critique with me for a long time, and it informs how I try to preach.

    We need to know and be humble about the fact that we are often preaching to be more educated than we are, and who expect that we are informed and are working ourselves on a way to integrate the larger thought-world of our time into the faith. Again, as you say, this isn’t often what we find.

    Oh, and the Council of Constantinople makes all the difference for ministry, if we want to offer someone a God who isn’t an abstraction nobody can believe in, but who surrenders being God to pour himself into our human nature…and that goes a fortiori for Marcionism!

    Thanks!

  • 2. Jersey  |  January 27, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    And what about those who claim seminary is not necessary? Do you think they are perhaps more uneducated as well, these “pastors” who did not attend college for religion at all? I just wonder, because my preacher guy — my congregation I attend is a Church of Christ, and they think seminary is unnecessary, because most of the early church councils and such are unbiblical and heretical, and none of the apostles had schooling.

  • 3. LeoPardus  |  January 27, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    Once again bragging on the Orthodox….. EOC priests are all educated in the things you mentioned, they all think history is indispensable to understanding faith, the EOC faith is rooted in its history. The average EOC priest knows more about church history, with all it’s councils, developments, changes, etc that any history professor at any non-Orthodox seminary.

    Go to your local EOC parish and talk to the priest if you like to gab about all that stuff.

  • 4. LeoPardus  |  January 27, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    The CofC is an hilarious collection of nutjobs. They talk about being “like the early church” but not one of them knows a thing about it. Arguably one of the most ignorant denominations in existence.

  • 5. artisticmisfit  |  January 27, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    I strongly disagree with your post. All of the pastors I know are excellent. In fact I highly recommend them all, first and foremost my own. Perhaps you want some kind of special recognition? Did you have a pastor? Did he ignore you?

  • 6. TheDeeZone  |  January 27, 2008 at 7:16 pm

    Carriedthecross,

    You bring up some excellant points. The area where I attended seminary had 4 seminary/graduate schools. One of the schools was known for its high acedmic standards and cost. The students there knew Greek and Hebrew very well. However this seminary didn’t feel the need to spend any time on Christian Formation, Ethics or Pastoral ministry classes. Many of their gradutes had never held a “real” job. Their graduates demanded a high salary from churches and justified it by saying they had to pay for their education. They had a reputation for being smart not being able to relate to the people. At that time the school I attended required langauges but also more practical courses. It was inexpenisve (between $900-$1,000 per semster) Most of the students worked real jobs to pay for school and often served in churches. Our reputation was of being not as smart but better able to relate to the common person. Maybe it isn’t that pastors are too educated but that they need to move out of their ivory towers and see how everyone else lives.

  • 7. carriedthecross  |  January 27, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    “I strongly disagree with your post. All of the pastors I know are excellent. In fact I highly recommend them all, first and foremost my own. Perhaps you want some kind of special recognition? Did you have a pastor? Did he ignore you?”

    Artisticmisfit, I am glad to hear that you have highly recommended pastors. Obviously I cannot speak to your pastors abilities, but I will of course affirm the statement that there are excellent pastors out there. Even as a former Christian, there are several Christian pastors with whom I have good relationships and who I respect.

    My point is not to attack all ministers, but to indicate that perhaps the weakness of ministry comes from a “I got saved in an emotional experience and don’t know what to do with my life so obviously God is calling me to ministry” kind of attitude that I have experienced time and again.

    Also, in my time I have had four or five pastors with whom I have been quasi-close. Each of them have been good men, and I have had good relationships with them all. However, with each of them except for one, I have found a lack of depth in their knowledge of theology, church history, and biblical literature.

  • 8. artisticmisfit  |  January 27, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    carriedthecross, I find the “I got saved” mentality offensive myself. We understand that the Church calls the man to ministry, not the other way round. I feel totally excluded from the ministry of the church, even though I am actively involved in one of them, personally, so I am not saying this out of the side of my neck. Now, just because mine, or any other pastor is highly recommended, doesn’t mean anything. I am saying the pastors that are my friends are excellent men. And besides that, what exactly is a pastor.

  • 9. TheDeeZone  |  January 27, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    Carried the Cross & Artisitcmisfit,

    My dad, uncles & Grandad where all ministers. I attended a Christian University & am a seminary graduate. I know many pastors/ministers. Some are well qualifed academically and others are not. My Grandad didn’t finish high school yet he was an excellant pastor. He devoted a lot of time to studing the Bible & in fact had it memorized. He also knew how to relate to people. There is a big differance between a minister and a pastor. A pastor is a shepherd, teacher and leader. A pastor must have a heart for his people. Not all ministers are pastors. My husband went to seminary to became a pastor. He has a background in speech/debate and is a good preacher. However during his time at seminary he discovered his true calling is teaching & is preparing to teach in a Christian college. He knew God was calling him to the minstry and because he is an excellant communicator he thought it was to be a pastor.

    Like CTC, I know people who responded to the call to ministry after a very emontional time and immediately rushed off to seminary and it really wasn’t the right type of ministry for them. In one case the man couldn’t understand why he was failing at every church he pastored. He believed he would be a good pastor because he had grown a nursing home ministry from 2 people to 30 plus in a couple of months.

    God not the church calls people to the ministry. There is a place for every Christian to serve in some form of ministry. Not everyone will be on staff at a church or even paid to be a minsitry but there is some form of ministry for everyone.

  • 10. HeIsSailing  |  January 27, 2008 at 11:23 pm

    I have mixed feelings on this, and it is similar to what TheDeeZone put forth in her comment.

    I have never been a pastor or minister of a church. The most I did was lead home Bible Studies, and participate in a few evangelistic missions. But what is the job of a pastor anyway? Should the pastor of a church be a one-stop councellor, theologian, exhorter, church historian, and Greek/Hebrew translator? I don’t think so. Each position has their place, and not necessarily in front of the pulpit.

    I attend St Pius Catholic Church here in El Paso with my wife. They have terrific ministries that help the desperately poor across the border from me. Feeding, clothing, providing some kind of relief is what they do, and I gladly participate in this ministry when I can. The priests there are pius, but they are also humanitarians. There is also a small ministry to care for and nurture mentally retarded children. My wife helps on that end, and I can do nothing but stand in awe of some of the nuns who have devoted their lives to these kinds of causes.

    Now, do any of the disadvantaged whom they are ministering to give a rip about proper exegesis, church history or subtleties of this creed versus that creed? Of course not. In my opinion, these are church leaders who may or may not have educations in these fields, but even if they did, they would be superfluous to their mission.

    Some people truly have love to give, and sometimes that is all that matters. Of course, I don’t believe in the religious aspect of it all, but don’t let that color the character of these people. You know how Christians are supposed to ‘love the sinner but hate the sin’? I think it is smart to ‘love the Christian, but not agree with their belief’. I just take them for who they are.

    Anyway.. on the other hand…

    One of my favorite Biblical scholars is Raymond Brown, who was a pious Catholic.. He has written several times that Catholic priests are ill-educated on Biblical matters, and really criticizes them for it. Scholars also have their place, and I think many lay Chrisitans have a deep desire to learn more about the Bible and Christian history, if only their pastors would let them! My old Calvary Chapel pastor (Skip Heitzig out of Albuquerque) used to brag about not going to seminary. Apparantly, being as uneducated as possible, and just expositing Scripture by the pure Inspiration of the Spirit was seen as a virtue. This would not bother me so much if he, and people like him, did not simultaneously pass off bogus history, bogus science, and the bogus field of Christian apolgetics at their congregations as Biblical scholarship!

    I remember Pastor Skip once derided the higher criticism of the 19th century (mostly a product of Germany) as ‘pseudo-intellectualism’ and brushing aside a century of scholarship as ‘people who thought they were smarter than God’. I have since decided to read some of this work, of which much is freely available online thanks to Google books.

    Oh. My. God. After reading some of this stuff, I can never go back to regarding uneducated buffoons like Skip Heitzig and Chuck Missler as in any way authoritative in Biblical studies. Just my opinion here folks.

    How many Christians know about something as basic and thoroughly convincing as the documentary hypothesis, which was plainly laid out by Julius Wellhausen over 120 years ago? Not very many since Christians by and large unquestioningly assert that Moses wrote the first 5 books based on nothing more than rabbinic tradition. How many Christian apologists have read The Life of Jesus Critically Examined, by DF Strauss? I dare say none, since they are still arguing against rationalisation of Jesus miracles, something which Struass convincingly rebutted back in 1835! I was told specifically by pastor Skip not to read The Quest for the Historical Jesus, by Albert Schweitzer. I just finished reading it, and now I know why. Schweitzer demonstrates very convincingly that we can no *nothing* about the historicity of Jesus.

    So in that way, I think scholarship is needed, and frankly desired by the laity. Look at the success of something like ‘The Da Vinci Code’, even among Christians! Yeah, it was bogus fiction, but its success demonstrates that people are aware that there is something behind the surface of the Sunday School messages they were taught all their lives. Granted, not many people have the patience that I had to read 800 page books from 1835. Scholarship in Biblical studies, church history, the formation of the canon, early Christian and heretical beliefs, etc, etc… needs to be made accessable to the laity. I hope people like Bart Ehrman sells a zillion copies of his next book.

    Wow – did this ever ramble on. Goodnight all.

  • 11. orDover  |  January 27, 2008 at 11:51 pm

    I’ve wondered what sort of an education an up-and-coming pastor can receive when they tend to disagree with so many of the foundations of the physical and biological sciences. My mom, the daughter of a pastor and college educated, told me that my college textbooks contained blatant lies that should be ignored. If you ignore what you are supposed to be learning, can it be said that you’ve learned anything at all?

  • 12. artisticmisfit  |  January 27, 2008 at 11:52 pm

    TheDeeZone, I am sorry, but in the confession of Christian faith I belong to, the Church calls the person to the priesthood.Now, I could be getting it wrong, but that is the way I understand it. What is the point of arguing about this? It just seems like idle talk. And priest/pastor/minister are the trinity that are contained in the same vocation. I point you to Christ is Calling You by Fr. George Calciu. I am finding this too irritating to continue with.

  • 13. TheDeeZone  |  January 28, 2008 at 12:19 am

    HeIsSailing,

    I am very familar with Welhaussen. Read in Hermanutics and another class I can’t remember which one now. As for Moses writing the Pentatuch: It is impossible for him to have written about his own death. However, it was a common practice for a follower of a teacher to write in the teacher’s name. So rather than being written by Moses it was written by the “School of Moses” for whatever reasons the unnamed authors wanted the work attributed to Moses. Isaiah is also another book that was not written by one author names Isaiah but rather at least one other author. I believe the book of Isaiah covers a span of about 150 years.

    OrDover,

    There does seem to be a hide from the world mentailtiy in Christian education. I like the motto alma mater “An education enlightened by faith” It is a small conservative Christian liberal arts University that is consistantly rated high by US News and World Reports and others.

    Aritsitcmisfit,

    No, the Bible is clear that all Christians are to be ministers not just the professional staff. Ministry is more than just administering the scaraments and delievering messages. HeIsSailing gave a wonderful discription of the ministry.

    DH

    Dh

  • 14. artisticmisfit  |  January 28, 2008 at 12:29 am

    TDZ, I am not talking about ministry. I am talking about pastors. That is the title of this page. Would you like me to point to you a list that supports my position? The church calls the pastor, it is not an internal, mystical calling.

  • 15. Ray  |  January 28, 2008 at 12:34 am

    When I was in the Assemblies of God, book-learning and seminary (aka “cemetery”) were frowned upon because seminaries and theology schools take the faith out of a man and he isn’t effective for the ministry. It was a think of pride to be ill-educated, and they heartily promoted their own ministerial training — denomination approved correspondence courses in combination with “training” under the local pastor (who may or may not have been all that helpful). I left them almost 25 years ago and I have no knowledge or interest in their current position on training. But back then most all the Pentecostal denominations didn’t care for university trained clergy.

  • 16. Quester  |  January 28, 2008 at 1:20 am

    Before I went through seminary, I was warned, “If you can keep your faith through seminary, you can keep your faith through anything.”

    Many of the struggles I’m having in regards to salvation, the bible, the purpose of church, how God reveals Godself, and how God works in the world are in many ways inspired by my reading and learning in seminary.

  • 17. Brad  |  January 28, 2008 at 10:40 am

    Now this is an interesting post. :-) It seems the comments are pretty wide ranging, but let me add my two cents…

    As a seminarian, I have voiced the same complaints in regards to learning information I won’t really use in ministry after I graduate (mostly in regards to learning Greek and Hebrew). I’m one of those types of learners that can’t ever really solidify what I’m learning without using it practically. But I have also since come to realize that even the stuff I really suck at doing and struggle with will be very beneficial in being able to give even greater depth of understanding to those who really thirst for it (as HIS said).

    There ARE seminarians who just obsess over their education, and spout off a bunch of exegetical terms that noone understands just to sound intelligent. And they will alienate their congregation. But there are a many as well who take their learning very serious and use it to teach and instruct with humility.

    I agree also that the church needs to do a better job in attracting the best and the brightest. Leadership is no joke, and we need leaders, not just bookworms. I’m not sure what the solution would be to this, but I agree nonetheless!

    Good post….

  • 18. TheDeeZone  |  January 28, 2008 at 10:50 am

    Artistic,

    I know what the post is about. I was responding to your comment about feeling left out of the minsitry of your church. A good pastor will encourage all members of the church to be involved in the ministry of the church.

    Ray & Questar,

    As a seminary graduate I don’t see seminary as something that will necessarily causes one to loose one’s faith. It may be challenging & cause one to ponder some deep issues.

    Brad,

    I agree with your comments. Our church had a youth minsiter for a while that spent 20 or more hours per week preparing for Wed night lesson, just the lesson not activites. He knew taught a very good lesson. However, he didn’t have time to spend with many of the youth & refused to plan fun activities because they wouldn’t come to Bible Study. He believed had to strive for excellance. That is an extreme example of a minister who obesses about edcuation.

  • 19. TheNorEaster  |  January 28, 2008 at 11:21 am

    I’d say, offhand, that how a pastor comes across ought to reflect the culture and the community in which he serves.

    But is your thinking somehow tainted by your “small town, Midwestern conception” of who and what a pastor should be? What if you took a pastor from a small, Midwestern town and put him in Manhattan? Should the same qualities you discussed apply? Or if you took a pastor from, say, Fort Myers, FL and put him in South Central Los Angles, CA?

  • 20. carriedthecross  |  January 28, 2008 at 11:53 am

    “But is your thinking somehow tainted by your “small town, Midwestern conception” of who and what a pastor should be? What if you took a pastor from a small, Midwestern town and put him in Manhattan? Should the same qualities you discussed apply? Or if you took a pastor from, say, Fort Myers, FL and put him in South Central Los Angles, CA?”

    Well obviously location, circumstance, background, etc. will affect the style of a pastor. What I see happening though (at least in my former denomination(s)) is a “nobody likes the smartest kid in class” complex. I understand, as some have noted above, that some seminarians become so enthralled by their own education that they are unable to socially engage their congregations. What it all boils down to, in my mind, is a philosophy of leadership. I’m not especially concerned about formal education. What I notice;rather, is a Christian version of the brain drain problem. It seems like the best and brightest Christians go into other vocations while leadership is left to those who don’t know what else to do with their lives. (DISCLAIMER: Naturally, this does not apply to all pastors. I can think of several who are intelligent, articulate and able to engage their congregations and the outside. But, I notice a trend, at least in my little corner of the world.)

  • 21. Michelle  |  January 28, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    When we were in Seminary our closest friend walked away from his beliefs due to “didactic criticism” – whatever that is. My husband was the seminarian, I taught school and indepth bible studies. We decided to move denominations because they could not answer our questions scripturally. If we have faith, why don’t we have a high regard for scripture instead of man’s commentary? I get tired of hearing, “Wesley said….Calvin states…Augustine meant…” I want to know what the Bible says. I guess that’s why we attend a Bible church today.

    carriedthecross: your little corner of the world was ours too. We found the demand upon pastors to “be all” more of a denominational demand than scripture requires; thus, the need for deacons (which your former denomination does not heed).

  • 22. societyvs  |  January 28, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    “I’d say, offhand, that how a pastor comes across ought to reflect the culture and the community in which he serves” (NorEaster)

    I tend to agree and disagree on this point. Culture is 1/2 the problem in the Christian faith – the faith is altogether ethnocentric and all equipped for communities like South Central – as mentioned – and this is problematic…it does mean various portions of the Christian faith are either struggling with racism or think race should be ignored. That aspect of cultural awareness needs to be broadened and re-thought.

    I agree that we need to know the culure (community) we reside in and what needs are inherently there – and possible changes. Like going into South Central, LA – what in that cultural context is very useful and what needs to be worked on? I agree we need to read the temprature to know if it is comforting for all.

    As for the post, I agree with HIS’ long diatribe on the subject – he seems to hit on the obvious conundrum – brains vs braun. I think it is very good for a pastor to be well studied but it is also important to run programs from churches that help the community you reside in…you need both aspects to be a great leader (ex: King Jr.).

    I think this is lacking in the church to some degree – the studied are not using their brains for betterment of society but for writing exercises and sermons. Maybe there is a line in the Christian faith that needs to be crossed – this whole idiotic ‘works vs. salvation’ debate (taken to extremes) – that truly retards the good a church can be used for.

    I think study is good but what good is study if it provides no answers to current problems?

  • 23. Michelle  |  January 28, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    If we’re truly studying Jesus’ words then we will be dealing with current issues.

  • 24. TheNorEaster  |  January 28, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    Carried:

    I had the same problem in grad school. Grad school, for me, had less to do with learning something that I actually cared about than it did with convincing the professors that they were convincing me that I was learning something I actually did care about. I couldn’t stand it. The professors were so trapped in their own little world of academia they simply could not realize just how meaningless their work was to the outside world. Which is precisely why academics often create their own little worlds. I suppose the same could be said of fundamentalists, some of whom make a 7-year-old child take an oath not to drink when, in fact, such a child has to live three times as long to purchase alcohol.

    I’d have to agree with you on the “philosophy of leadership” matter. But, sadly, I have noticed that people have come to expect their leaders–politicians, pastors, professors, &c.–to be somehow above them. Which is why their language is so thick.

    Someone said it better than I could: “An intellectual says a simple thing in a difficult way. An artist says a difficult thing in a simple way.”

    Education, I think, ought to be an aspect of a leader. But if a leader does not have a talent for communication and articulation and social skills, &c. then the education, however successful, certainly leaves much to be desired.

    And like e. e. cummings once said, “The most wasted of days is the one without laughter.”

    Only a fanatic would disagree with the importance of humor. (“How To Cure A Fanatic” by Amos Oz.)

  • 25. artisticmisfit  |  January 28, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    TDZ, I am an active part of the ministry of my church. Please stop twisting my words to suit your purposes. Ministry is one function of the pastor, and that is what we are discussing, not my ministry, but pastoral ministry. My ministry is in another area.

  • 26. TheNorEaster  |  January 28, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    Michelle:

    You’re absolutely right. If we are studying the words of Christ, then we will be addressing current issues. Which is my latest post addresses homosexuality, health care, hepatitis, and murder. Hopefully, through the eyes of compassion.

    Hopefully.

  • 27. Bob  |  January 28, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    I’m sure there are many well educated pastors, priests and ministers out there. I grew up in rural America, and at least 75% of the clergy I met were men who had a career crisis and suddenly “got called” to be a clergyman of some sort. Basically, I think they woke up from a factory/construction/farming job and noticed how the clergy gets treated special, wears nice clothes and doesn’t seem to do anything like the hard labor they toil at and suddenly Jesus wants them.

    I attended quite a few churches during my Christian days and most clergyman shut down the critical thinking process. When your career and family depend on a paycheck, it’s just best not to ask questions anymore.

  • 28. LeoPardus  |  January 28, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    Michelle:

    I want to know what the Bible says.

    That’s easy enough. You just need to learn ancient Hebrew, Ancient Aramaic, and Ancient Koine Greek. Then you need to get your hands on all the variant manuscripts and figure out which variation is correct for each discrepancy in both OT and NT. WIth that done, you can get on to the simple task of figuring out what passages are to be taken literally, figuratively, in temporal context, and which ones might have more than one meaning and just what those meanings are and when and where each one applies.

    Alternatively you could just read whichever English version you have and let the Holy Spirit guide you. Then you can easily dismiss anyone else who has a different interpretation from any of yours, since they must have heard the Spirit incorrectly.

    If we’re truly studying Jesus’ words then we will be dealing with current issues.

    Really? Where did Jesus speak about cloning? …. health care? …. public education? ………………………

  • 29. C.L. Mareydt  |  January 28, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    … many wear the badge of christianity including pastors …

    until men’s (women’s) hearts are ‘changed’ … they remain part of the pack …

    … when we really have a meeting with Jesus we are supposed to be changed … until that happens, well you get what you get.

    … and yes Jesus still loves all of us the same!

  • 30. TheDeeZone  |  January 28, 2008 at 7:07 pm

    Leo,

    Actually, the English Standard Verision and New American Verisions are literal translations that are very close to the orignial languages. It is also possible to read several translations, commentaries and other scholary works to see what the Bible really says.

    On current moral issues. The Bible has quite a bit to say. While the Bible may not mention the internet or cloning is is possible to find scriptural priniciples that apply.

    DH

  • 31. Michelle  |  January 28, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    Leo,

    That’s what I mean by in-depth,inductive study. With all the tools available it is possible to get the meaning of the original passages. I happen to like New American Standard the best for the very reason TDZ states.

    Principles of love, compassion, justice…..”do unto others as you would have them do to you……love your neighbor as yourself”…..are more than pious platitudes. When heeded they are standards which bring about moral, ethical lifestyles. The specifics we get to work out, under our federalist form of government. Then “give unto Ceasar what is Ceasar’s and give unto God what is God’s” and never stop praying for our leaders. The principles are in the Word, we just need to know what it says.

  • 32. Michelle  |  January 28, 2008 at 7:35 pm

    I meant to add, since the topic is about pastors, I think that’s where they need to be spending their time to “rightly divide the word of truth.”

  • 33. TheDeeZone  |  January 28, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    Leo,

    I used to prefer the NASB but since I discovered the ESV I have switched that & use it full-time. It is similar to the NASB but isn’t as rough a read.

    DH

  • 34. Michelle  |  January 28, 2008 at 7:59 pm

    When my husband was taking Greek, he said the professor wouldn’t allow anyone to use the Revised Standard because it was too close to the original. That’s the way the guys “cheated” when they were running behind :)

  • 35. TheDeeZone  |  January 28, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    Michelle,

    NASB is even better than RSV for “cheating” on Hebrew. Of course it only gives you the translation & not all of the parsing and stuff. I worked in the computer & we would have people come in to use Grammatic Bible Software. They would just copy it instead of looking up all of the stuff.

  • 36. Michelle  |  January 28, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    Yes! I have an excellent version – good to know!

  • 37. escapedmentalpatient  |  January 29, 2008 at 10:03 am

    I love this blog! i never believed in any religion but i hope i can be here anyway even though i am not a de-converte.

  • 38. lostgirlfound  |  January 29, 2008 at 11:50 am

    Wow! CTC, you hit it right on the head! While my husband is one of the exceptions (he’s an amazing shepherd pastor — loves people, loves what he does …) most of the “educated” pastors I know are much more about themselves than what they preach (exception: Rob Bell, Mars Hill Bible Church). They seem to use their education to somehow “remind” people they are “called” and they have something no one else can have because of their “theological degrees.”

    I consider myself a student in a lot of areas. I read constantly across the spectrum of literature … non-fiction, fiction, journalism, you name it. But in matters of faith, most things either “puffed me up,” or opened my eyes. When I wanted to be better than the poor, “unchristian” types, I let it make me feel superior.

    I know some pastors who chose their route (under the auspices of “calling” I’m sure) who did it because they thought it was an “easy” job. Who did it to know they’d be “taken care of.” To exert their “superior intellect” by working with all the poor working people who could lookt at the pastor’s titles and doctorates, and somehow be in awe. Honest — not making this up!

    Where I am at now, “theological” discussions usually make me nauseous, because you can use anything to “support” your view (and pastors frequently do). But, spiritual things that deal with relationships and my responsibility to take care of the world or those in this world that I can help, or learning that helps me see clearer … those things I enjoy.

    I don’t think it’s the “knowledge” that makes the difference. I think it’s the person consuming the knowledge. Learning doesn’t make you a better or worse person … it makes you more knowledgeable. What you do with that — like what you do with anything you’re given — is up to you. I want to cry when I read what HIS’s community is doing, because my big, debt-burdened structure didn’t have time to meet people’s needs on a regular basis, so some friends took it upon themselves to make it happen at their farm.

    Like so many other things, it’s not what you know, it’s who you are that makes the difference in a pastor.

  • 39. LeoPardus  |  January 29, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    TDZ:
    Actually, the English Standard Verision and New American Verisions are literal translations that are very close to the orignial languages.

    Those are new ones. Haven’t looked at them. Actually I liked the KJV. It was remarkably good. The Living was amazingly good at translating meanings of text as opposed to the literal words.

    But of course this all brings up the problem of the poor pew-sitter who doesn’t know ancient languages, or how to use all those tools, or how to tell if a pastor is honest or not, or how to tell if his translation is accurate or not.

    It is also possible to read several translations, commentaries and other scholary works to see what the Bible really says.

    It is also possible to do that and come up with several different ideas about what the Bible says. It happens all the time. People reading the same versions, different versions, or multiple versions – and many of them using the tools you mentioned – all still come up with irreconcilably opposed interpretations.
    Now who do they go to in order to figure out who is right? Seminaries? More tools? More versions? Archeologists? Cage fights?

    On current moral issues. The Bible has quite a bit to say. While the Bible may not mention the internet or cloning is is possible to find scriptural priniciples that apply.

    Again, you have Christians coming to diametrically opposed ideas about those things. Who will arbitrate? The Holy Spirit whom they all claim inspired their interpretation in the first place?

  • 40. LeoPardus  |  January 29, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    Michelle:

    With all the tools available it is possible to get the meaning of the original passages.

    Really? Then explain how it is possible that you have Christians coming to diametrically opposed ideas about what the Bible says when they use those tools. If what you just said was true, then folks using those tools should all agree on what Paul/Peter/John meant. But they don’t.

    Principles of love, compassion, justice…..”do unto others as you would have them do to you……love your neighbor as yourself”…..are more than pious platitudes. When heeded they are standards which bring about moral, ethical lifestyles.

    Even without invoking God.

    The specifics we get to work out, under our federalist form of government.

    Good to know God is a Constitutionalist.

    The principles are in the Word, we just need to know what it says.

    And of course the problem with that is, as I’ve been pointing out, …… we just don’t.

    I meant to add, since the topic is about pastors, I think that’s where they need to be spending their time to “rightly divide the word of truth.”

    Well they are often good at dividing. But it’s denominations they divide best. Usually via their “right division of the Word”.

  • 41. TheDeeZone  |  January 29, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    Lostgirlfriend,

    I know some pastors who chose their route (under the auspices of “calling” I’m sure) who did it because they thought it was an “easy” job. Who did it to know they’d be “taken care of.”

    Ok, the tought of this just makes me laugh. The ministry an easy job & oh and being taken care of. Who do they think will be taking care of them? The church? Not one’s like one of my dad’s former churches. Many times he wouldn’t get paid. I have heard him be told oh we don’t have money to pay you this week but God will provide for you. That same church member would then turn to a group of other church members he was inviting over for steaks. While we went home to try to find something to eat for lunch. I guess those minsiters were in for a rude awakening when they got a church.

    DH

  • 42. TheDeeZone  |  January 29, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    Leo,

    The Living Bible is a paraphrase not a translation. The new Living Bible is a good modern translation but isn’t literal. It uses Dynamic equivileant.

    When reading the Bible even the orignal lauganges the reader brings his/her own presuppositions & biases into the process.

    Dee

  • 43. karen  |  January 29, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    DZ, I think the idea was that ministry is an “easy” job as compared to something like coal miner or roofer. Jobs that involve heavy physical labor and great possibility of injury or death are a bit different than the ministry.

  • 44. TheDeeZone  |  January 29, 2008 at 9:09 pm

    Karen,

    I understand that but I know some people just think it is easy. Having seen it from the inside I find that humorous.

  • 45. HeIsSailing  |  January 30, 2008 at 6:57 am

    Gadz, I can’t imagine Christian ministry or even pastoring a church as being easy. If anybody thinks it is easy, they must be thinking every church pastor is like Joel Osteen, working only a few hours every Sunday morning and rolling in the bucks. Truth is, most churches have trouble just keeping the lights on.

  • 46. GoDamn  |  January 30, 2008 at 9:41 am

    Has anyone noticed that most people at this site have some theo. training? Could this mean something? It seems as if the clergy is coming to grips with reality but they are afraid of taking the message to their flock for fear of losing their jobs. Curious how few laypersons come to this site and similar sites, who are questioning their faith. It would also be interesting to know if fundy preachers are, on average, more or less educated than non-fundys. Personally, I think it would be the latter. I think education may cause a disconnect because the pastor has his own doubts and cant figure out how to explain concepts and contradictions simply, clearly and without running the risk of getting shot.

  • 47. TheDeeZone  |  January 30, 2008 at 10:54 am

    Go,

    Not everyone who read De-Con who is questioning their faith. Personally, I enjoy reading this blog because it is well written & thought provoking. Check my blog for more about what I actually believe.

    DH

  • 48. GoDamn  |  January 30, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    When I say questioning your faith, I mean simply acknowledging that not everything is right just because the bible says so. Its not the same as doubting your faith. People here are exploring their misgivings about their faith and it just seems that most of them are theologically trained.

  • 49. TheDeeZone  |  January 30, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    Go,
    When I say questioning your faith, I mean simply acknowledging that not everything is right just because the bible says so.

    Elaborate on what your are trying to say.

  • 50. karen  |  January 30, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    Has anyone noticed that most people at this site have some theo. training?

    I think those of us who have either had formal theology training or spent many years in in-depth study of scripture and doctrine are more likely to think deeply about what we believe and question the parts that don’t make sense.

    The superficial Sunday morning consumers don’t take their beliefs terribly seriously, in my experience.

  • 51. Michelle  |  January 30, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    Leo:

    Sorry it took so long to respond – although I’m not really sure you wanted me to -Really?

    “… how it is possible that you have Christians coming to diametrically opposed ideas about what the Bible says when they use those tools. If what you just said was true, then folks using those tools should all agree on what Paul/Peter/John meant. But they don’t…”

    We all come to scripture with our own understandings – whatever teaching we’ve learned as a child, whatever theologian we’re studying at the time, whatever construct through which we view scripture . . . . . – the challenge is in laying these things aside and observing the text as is. Digging deep, using the tools available, and trying to put aside our presuppositions, asking the Spirit to lead us to the Truth. It takes perseverence, fear and trembling. That’s what I mean when I say I want to know scripture.

    On another post someone alluded to me being a heretic, possibly a new form of gnosticism. I’m not sure how anyone could think that without personally knowing me, but when I speak of “knowing” I am thinking of the greek word epignosis vs. gnosis. We are told to add to our faith, knowledge, (2 Peter 1)

  • 52. Michelle  |  January 30, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    sorry – I can’t get my laptop to cooperate – a user problem I’m sure - :)

    I wasn’t finished and somehow I submitted the comment. I want to complete the thought.

    In 2 Peter we are told to add to our faith, moral excellence, and to our moral excellence, knowledge (epignosis)…..vs.5-7

    The word epignosis is full knowledge, a greater participation in the object known. This is the sense in which I am speaking – I want to know fully, as much as I can, and in the knowing I will better undertand God. Any of us can, but of course the first step, scripturally, is to have faith.

    The other bit was how we are to live morally and I spoke of Jesus’ words as being our principles. From your comment I don’t think you understood my point. Our form of government is the one in which we live, the one in which we must work out our principles. If I were living in England I would have said parlimentary form of government. You have a way of putting words in people’s mouths – I believe God is above and beyond any man made systems. Talking principles – we are to be good citizens wherever we may live, and pray for our leaders.

    Not sure if I clarified anything – just thought I’d give it a shot.

  • 53. Michelle  |  January 30, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    OK – one more time :)
    I went back to check the Greek – it’s been about 20 years ago when I first did the word study – sorry for my misinformation – not meaning to preach just trying to clarify – ya’lls scrutiny is intimidating :)

    gnosis is used in verse 5 – meaning to seek knowledge, usually in spiritual matters.

    epignosis is used in verse 8 – meaning full knowledge, a greater participation in the object known, “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

    Please, take me at my word, just trying to clarify. :)

    I

  • 54. LeoPardus  |  January 30, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    Michelle:

    We all come to scripture with our own understandings – whatever teaching we’ve learned as a child, whatever theologian we’re studying at the time, whatever construct through which we view scripture . . . . . – the challenge is in laying these things aside…

    And by and large people don’t lay them aside.

    … and observing the text as is. Digging deep, using the tools available,

    What about those who don’t have all your tools? That accounts for over 80% of the world you know.

    and trying to put aside our presuppositions,

    Which very few ever do. For instance you come with the presuppositions that there is a God, that the Bible is an historical document of incredible accuracy and verity, that what you’re reading was inspired by God (probably word by word), and so on. Would you even think of reading the bible without all those filters or blinders in place?

    Or would you think of trying it with a different set of filters/blinders? Like say Catholic, or Orthodox, or Plymouth Brethren filters/blinders.

    asking the Spirit to lead us to the Truth.

    Which all those others are doing and still coming to diametrically opposed doctrines to ones that you hold. Seems incredibly bizarre to think that the “Spirit of Truth” from the omnipotent God can’t get through any better than that. Unless of course he’s only a figment of imagination. Then all the contradictory doctrines would be just what you’d expect.

    It takes perseverance, fear and trembling. That’s what I mean when I say I want to know scripture.

    I know. Did it for 25 years. Finally realized there was nothing behind it. But if it helps you to really, actually BE a good, caring, involved in the lives of others person, then great.

  • 55. Michelle  |  January 30, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    I don’t know how to come to scripture without faith. It won’t go away. I have questioned, I have compared, I have studied – outside of my own set of beliefs – but I always come back. I can’t define myself any other way – no apologies – I’m sorry it offends – it is who I am, Christian.

  • 56. LeoPardus  |  January 30, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    Michelle:

    Nothing to apologize for. I would have said the same for 25 years.

  • 57. HeIsSailing  |  January 30, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    Michelle:

    the challenge is in laying these things aside and observing the text as is. Digging deep, using the tools available, and trying to put aside our presuppositions, asking the Spirit to lead us to the Truth.

    We all read with assumptions. The key is to decide which assumption makes most sense of the text.

    The one major thing I assumption that I stopped making towards Bible study when questioning my faith was to stop making the assumption that the Bible was a unifyied whole. I stopped assuming that every word that was written spoke with a single voice. I stopped assuming that a passage in Genesis could be harmonized with a passage in Psalms with the help of an obscure verse in 2 Peter.

    Once I stopped using that assumption in my Bible studies, the Bible made a lot more sense. If it makes a lot more sense, I don’t know about you, but that tells me I am on the right track.

    Is it possible to read the Bible with different suppositional lenses on if one is willing to try the experiment?

  • 58. Michelle  |  January 30, 2008 at 8:03 pm

    “Is it possible to read the Bible with different suppositional lenses on if one is willing to try the experiment?”

    I’m not the brightest bulb in the box – could you say this another way? :)

  • 59. Michelle  |  January 30, 2008 at 8:30 pm

    OK – I’m going to attempt a response…

    I believe the scriptures are God-breathed. I want to know the OT because Jesus said it was the scripture He came to fulfill, and it was the “bible” He read. I don’t think I can really understand who He is without understanding what He was all about – culturally, theologically. I see a continuity through the teaching of Covenants – Adamic, Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic (Old Covenant), Davidic, New Covenant (thru Jesus). I see a common “red thread” from beginning to end. It makes sense to me – especially when I look at the prophecies and see what is happening in the world today. God keeps His promises. But I really don’t think we want to go there – it doesn’t fit the forum, does it? :)

    How do I take off lenses I see so clearly through?

  • 60. HeIsSailing  |  January 31, 2008 at 12:24 am

    Heather ponders:
    How do I take off lenses I see so clearly through?

    It is kind of like when somebody asks you to walk a mile in somebody else’s shoes. Just look at things from a different perspective. Everybody has their own biases – that is a given. Being asked to look at things totally without bias, preconception and in a purely objective manner is not realistic. That is ideal, but not realistic. I think the best we can do is look at the data we are given from a number of different perspectives, different biases, different suppositions as best as we are able, and see which one makes the most sense. Which answers the most questions and makes the most sense of the data?

    Let me give you an example from my own experience. When you say something like,
    …I see a common “red thread” from beginning to end…,
    you are referring to Jesus. You see Jesus in every Old Testament Bible story, every Psalm, every Old Testament apocalyptic utterance, etc.

    So did I. As a Christain, it astounded me how Jesus could be found in every detail of what I read. For example, the first passover story as told in Exodus 12. Death would overcome the firstborn son of all life in Egypt, except for those whose crossbeam were stained with the blood of the Passover lamb. The blood of a perfect, unblemished lamb covered the house, while the inhabitants ate a meal of unleavened bread and bitter herbs, since yeast represented the puffiness of pride, corruption and sin. I looked back at stories like this, and see Jesus in every detail – I totally understand that, because I had been taught to look for Jesus in these details. I could find Jesus in the archetecture of the tabernacle. I could find Jesus in the seven annual Jewish feasts. I could see Jesus represented in the Ark of Noah, in the sacrifice of Isaac, in the life of Joseph, in the mathematical puzzles of Daniel. I could see Jesus in the most subtle prophetic utterance. Jesus was unavoidable, because Jesus said that he was the fulfillment of the Scriptures.

    I get it. I completely understand it.

    I once played a thought experiment. Jesus, once lamented the fate of Jerusalem, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate…” (Luke 13:34-35) Jesus, was holding Jerusalem responsible for not accepting him as Messiah. Now, how would anybody in Jerusalem know Jesus was the Messiah? I assume that it is because of the signs left for the Jews, in the form of prophetic utterance. Based on reading their own Scriptures (the Old Testament), what would the Jews expect or what were they looking for in their Messiah? What could we, as modern readers, reasonably assume was an accurate depiction of the Messiah?

    Forget Jesus for the moment. Pretend you know nothing of the New Testament. Assume you are reading the Old Testament, looking for signs of the Messiah. If Jesus held the people of Jerusalem responsible, I would expect that the signs left for them should be pretty clear – and point directly to Jesus.

    Well, I played that thought experiment, as I read the Old Testament (I plan on reading the Old Testament again later this summer, to try again). What was clear signs were given to the Jews to work with? Instead of starting with Jesus in the New Testament and working back to find him in the Old, could I construct Jesus just reading the Old, and for the time being ignoring everything in the New? Were the Jews truly guilty of ignoring any clear signs left for them in Scripture?

    That was the thought experiment I did. I will not put the results of my study here since this comment is already way too long, but I will tell you that that is the sort of thing I mean when I describe reading the Bible with other assumptions, and other perspectives.

  • 61. HeIsSailing  |  January 31, 2008 at 12:25 am

    Sorry again about the bad formatting. What is it with me tonight??

  • 62. HeIsSailing  |  January 31, 2008 at 12:27 am

    Michelle, I answered your question, but I accidently called you Heather – I am so sorry!! No offense. I just get a bit confused sometimes.

  • 63. Michelle  |  January 31, 2008 at 1:25 am

    No offense taken :)

    Is it really honest to be able to look into the past accurately from this point in time? I can try and wonder, but I can’t really know how it would be to not see things from this perspective. To come to any conclusion about how it would have been is just speculative. I have to go by the accounts I’ve been given, and they seem to tell me that the Jews were looking for a Messiah, in fact, they followed many false messiahs, and even wondered if John the Baptist was not the One spoken of in prophecy.

    Yes, things were not completely revealed at the time of Christ, He was meant to die, but He taught them about Himself after His resurrection. Why does God work His plan as He does? Only He can tell. “His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts.” I do believe it has to do with “the time of the Gentiles.” We have always been a part of His plan.

    A Jewish lady spoke with my brother one day at “Up In Smoke,” she went in to buy her husband a new pipe for Hannukah. She was a frequent customer so my brother felt he could ask some questions about her faith, being very interested in Jewish custom. She asked about his, and the conversation led to Messiah. She was quite prepared to talk about all the prophecies for she knew them very well. She stated, “Yes, Jesus fulfilled all the prophesies concerning Messiah, that is not the issue. The issue is that He was a man but claimed to be the Lord.”

    Exactly. The Jews have always been looking for their Messiah, and the observant ones still do.

    Of course, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. Our point of conflict is concerning if God truly exists. To take it back to the original premise, if pastors need to reach their congregations, and be relevant to society, I believe they have the Truth within their hands. All of the didactic criticism and Systematic Theology will help (some say hurt) their study, but truly they need to know the word – inside and out. Most Christians (and many pastors) are illiterate when it comes to knowing what God’s word teaches. I don’t believe we can ever plunge it’s depths.

    have we reached a point of agreeing to disagree. We do seem to understand eachother clearly, wouldn’t you say? :)
    I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the exchange, thank you for being so patient with me. Blessings, Michelle.

  • 64. OneSmallStep  |  January 31, 2008 at 6:36 am

    Michelle,

    Did she say how he had fufilled all the prophecies? Because every Jewish person I’ve talked to says that Jesus didn’t. And most of the websites I’ve seen about Messianic matters (from a Jewish perspective) also say that he wasn’t the Messiah either, based on the prophecies Jesus was supposed to fufill.

  • 65. HeIsSailing  |  January 31, 2008 at 8:16 am

    Michelle asks:
    “Is it really honest to be able to look into the past accurately from this point in time? ”

    Yes. It is honest, but it may not be accurate. You are doing that no matter how you read the Bible.

  • 66. Michelle  |  January 31, 2008 at 11:32 am

    OneSmallStep:

    That was all he related of the conversation – although he did say it was quite long and very interesting.

  • 67. exevangel  |  February 10, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    The best pastor I’ve ever had was a PhD; he was the only one honest enough to admit when he didn’t know something, to question things, to study modern theology and philosophy. So I’d say the problem with most pastors is that they are too indoctrinated and insufficiently educated. Actual education is different than just the things you learn in college. To get a PhD you have to actually think original thoughts, which requires a different sort of education than that which takes place at midwestern American “Christian” colleges.

  • 68. TheDeeZone  |  February 10, 2008 at 9:04 pm

    HIS,

    I enjoy reading your responses.

    Exevangel,

    Your answer reminded me of something one of my professors said once. That seminary classes provide much knowledge about the Bible, Theology, history, etc but not to avoid or blow off the practical classes or interneships. Those were the classes that taught you how to actually minster. He told a story of his 1st church a small country church. The church didn’t have a baptistry but instead went used the nearby river for Baptism. The men in the church recommended he wear “wadders” and jeans. However, he insisted on wearing an oversized baptismal robe because that is what he was taught in seminary. He hadn’t been in the water long until he saw something swimming for his legs. Of course, with the robes on he couldn’t move very well started to panic when a deacon pulled him out of the way. The deacon smiled and asked if he was ready to get rid of that silly thing. The point was what works in a class or on paper doesn’t always work in real life.

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

de-conversion wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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