“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Friday, December 30, 2005

Reformation 21 Article

I was reading the new Reformation 21, (it came out this week), and was struck by Carl Trueman's article on the web and blogging.

His observations are very good, and he uses some uniquely British (I assume) words in his article. (For example -- "numptiness".)

One of the things noted by Carl is this -- "...Then there was the case of a young guy who wanted to engage in email banter about something I'’d written. What fascinated me was the way this person referred to himself at one point in our exchange as a scholar. Yet he had no higher degree, no track record of publications which had passed muster with peers in the field. Indeed, he's still a student, not yet even beginning a doctoral program. Indeed, he's a long way from possessing that most basic of academic union cards: a PhD. Now, I guess I'm old fashioned but the category of scholar is one which should be reserved for those who have established themselves in their chosen field by actual scholarly achievement, not by simply talking a good game. This credibility is achieved by consistent, careful and scholarly contributions to a field in terms of refereed publications which then enjoy currency among qualified peers outside the person's immediate circle of epigonous friends. Above all, `scholar' is a title that one never, ever applies to oneself. Yet here was this junior denizen of the web calling himself a `scholar',’ a title at which even most of the distinguished academics with whom I am familiar would blush if it were to be applied to them. What on earth was going on? I can only assume that this chap had been tricked by the fact that he hangs round on blog pages with mutually-affirming virtual friends all day into imagining that he was a real player in the serious scholarly world beyond the blogosphere, so to speak..."

Now, while I may have some differing opinions as to what defines a scholar (I don't believe that you can ALWAYS reduce scholarship to checkboxes, but that is a different argument), I completely agree with the observation.

The blog has created some highly questionable, and widely read 'experts' and 'scholars', and I fear, we are not always discerning when it comes to REAL knowledge as opposed to the nonsense that parades as knowledge. How many times I have heard this -- "Well, I read on the web...." as someone argues with me about some basic aspect of Biblical Christianity. Hard to argue when the 'expert' has been 'published' on his own blog...!

Pastors today are faced with something that Charles Spurgeon was not faced with -- That is, today's congregation has, at its fingertips, a plethora of information, and if someone disagrees with the pastor, no matter how Biblical and orthodox his teaching, they can find someone who will support their theory on-line. They will then cite this so-called expert to refute the teachings of the Bible.

I have heard everything from Jesus is an alien, to Holy Name arguments, all with accompanying pages printed from the website of, for example, Dr. Xenu Wildebeest or some other 'scholar' who spent YEARS researching the relationship between the number forty and Moses weight/height.

Even Pastors have succumbed to this -- I have heard pastors on the radio give illustrations, and imply they are first-person, after I read that very illustration on the web a few weeks before! Pastors are getting more and more of their information from the web; and there truly is some very good stuff out there, but I fear that we will look for something that fits our agenda, and use that for sermon material without being discerning enough to do a little research and ensure that the site is reputable (which is no mean task).

I also worry that pastors, (not excluding yours truly), will heed the siren call of the web and do less and less time in the prayer closet and in the Word, and more and more time in the websphere, culling ideas from anyone who says what they want to hear. The Word MUST shape the pastor, the pastor should NOT shape the Word!

With all that being said -- time for disclosure: I am not an expert, nor a scholar (not even using my criteria, as opposed to Carl Trueman's). I called this blog 'Observations and Opinions' because that is what it is. I pastor a small church in Texas, have some seminary under my belt, am still learning MANY things, and have gained some friends through this blog and others.

My entries here constitute my thoughts/opinions/attitudes, and I am not published ANYWHERE! I do believe that sometimes I have some keen observations, however most of the time I am simply a rambling writer with little form, and even less to say. I believe that my blog should not be used as a scholarly voice (heaven forbid, as Paul would say!), but I do hope that occasionally I will write something that helps someone's understanding of God's grace.

This little piece of blogsphere will stay little, of that I am sure, and I am fine with that. My goal is to encourage and challenge (especially pastors in small churches, or new pastors), whomever may stop by.

Thanks to Carl Trueman for his honesty and thought-provoking article. I will see y'all (that is Texan) after the New Year.

7 comments:

BugBlaster said...

Thank you for your thoughts. I think I will read you some more.

Ray said...

Stop by anytime...

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

I would not presume to call myself a scholar.

God Bless

Matthew

Ray said...

Same here!

DJP said...

The proof is in the pudding. There are plenty of degreed fools, and others whose finances and life-situations just didn't allow the luxury of a doctoral program -- but whoa, what they do with what they have!

I wonder what the author would say about F. F. Bruce? I believe Bruce never earned an academic degree higher than M.A.; but I seriously doubt anyone would question his scholarship. Biblical orthodoxy, yes; but not scholarship.

HAVING SAID ALL THAT, other things being equal, the discipline required to earn advanced academic degrees is not to be sniffed at, and at least means something.

What that "something" is, again, goes back to the pudding itself.

Ray said...

I also believe that Spurgeon was not all that schooled, I could be wrong. I know he had some schooling but was not a PhD.

I could, quite possibly, be wrong, but I seem to recollect something like that...

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

I was not aware that Spurgeon had any higher education above school level. I could be wrong.

FF Bruce not a PhD?! His books are useful, but he was not always that sound doctrinally.

God Bless

Matthew