As you peruse Scripture, you won't find a God-ordained office of "professor." You won't see a single mention of "scholar." In Ephesians 4, God didn't give His church "educators." Did God know what He was doing? Could He have somehow performed a glitch in His plan? Could He not have foreseen an age of advanced electronics and mammoth libraries? By faith, I still choose a church and a pastor above man-made positions, employees of colleges, universities, and graduate schools.
Two or three weeks ago, preacher friends and I were relaxing at a restaurant after finishing preaching at a 50th anniversary church celebration conference in North Carolina and I asked our waiter where he was from. He said, "Jerusalem, Israel." I asked him if he was a student at University of North Carolina there in Chapel Hill and he answered, "Yes." Then I inquired about his study. "International Studies, minoring in Arabic." Before we left, he had pulled up a chair and we talked a long while, reasoning with him from the Old and New Testaments. He had just finished a class on the Old Testament with Bart Ehrman. I groaned inside. He was learning about the Bible from the secular humanist perspective, presented by an aggressive agnostic. This is the new forum for Scripture, playing with truth in a test tube.
I believe what makes this even more insidious is the respect that is given this new society by Christians, especially young men who train for actual church offices. They elevate the opinions of these operatives above any others. Parachurch campuses speckle the world, populated by men and women of advanced degrees, who contribute an expertise to God's family not prescribed anywhere in God's Word. They aren't in the Bible, but they have become worthy of the highest respect among church leaders. They don't have to fulfill the qualifications of church office, but they do fit into a secular idea of education that is more in line with John Dewey or Horace Mann.
I contend today that these "scholars" are not untouchable. They are not beyond criticism. They should be taken through the gauntlet and questioned in a greater way than those in legitimate church offices. The church is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15). We should trust God on that. Rather than entreat an elder as a father, the professor is entreated and often the overseer, the presbuteros, the president of the assembly, is ridiculed. I see it regularly firsthand. This should be a matter of trusting how God works first, trusting that the Father does know best.
The graduate professor carries tremendous weight today. Would-be scholars hasten to curry favor with these men and form a brood of fawning admirers, waiting for a mere mention from their lofty lips. They reference them in hushed tones. They crowd themselves like unmarried females anticipating the bouquet of flowers to be tossed by the new bride, scrounging for compliments. If you quote one of these men, you have spoken ex cathedra, requiring that all witnesses humbly genuflect.
If we could pause a moment in the midst of this ostentatious respect, we should recognize that this attitude doesn't tend towards knowing the truth. The things they write should hold up to criticism. If they don't, they shouldn't be accepted just because of the letters next to the authors name. If they write something helpful, great, but that doesn't mean that they are beyond the helpful grilling of ordained bishops of God's church. They should be able to be questioned about their material.
Case in point is Daniel Wallace, professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, a man who presently dedicates himself with great vigor to the restoration of Scripture to something he hopes is closer to its original condition. He assumes we've lost some of God's Words. Earlier he was known as a Greek professor who authored a grammar and syntax used for Greek classes across the United States. Now he's worked himself up to a textual critic. A part of his process is a denial of a New Testament doctrine of preservation. He opposes an approach to copies of Scripture that starts with any presupposition of Divine preservation or perfection. We must live in his opinion with a certain number of mistakes. It takes on the fervor of something that is more a mandate than an opinion.
When you question Dr. Wallace on this, as I did a year or so ago, he sends you with a sigh to something he wrote, convinced it is still the standard on the topic of Divine preservation. After you read it, you are to assume that you will bow to his great expertise and fall into a relative fetal position next to his heights of academic prowess. It's all done. Daniel Wallace has spoken. Move on. Rev up the bus, the party's over.
I questioned him about this over at one of his online locations, Parchment and Pen. I saved the link to the particular post upon which I commented. I critiqued what he wrote, pointing out several incredible errors, and I have since noticed that the entire post disappeared as if it never existed (it was here, but no more). The embarrassing stuff doesn't get to stay. He hasn't submitted to the correction. None of his covey of supporters would even admit he made a mistake. What he said to me was that I was playing unfair, because I was just "cherry-picking" his mistakes. He was and is beyond that kind of criticism. Isn't the truth what we most want? Isn't that the point of all these studies? In the next week or so, I'm going to show you what is wrong with his article. Perhaps the entire thing will just disappear as well. It should; it's wrong.
By the way, you'll still have men supporting him. They might be told by the great PhD that they have become one of his acquaintances, that he gave them a passing thought on some given day. Others, of course, will attack me and say that I don't like Dan Wallace. I'm ambivalent toward that. I love Dan Wallace. I truly hope the best for him. I think he's wrong. Big boys in the so-called rough and tumble academic world should be able to handle it, but perhaps they're protected in their camelots of tranquility. I often hear "peer-reviewed journal" from them. They have been exposed to the review of peers---"two enthusiastic thumbs up, Dan Wallace." If someone reads the party line, he often gets the good review. If he says the politically incorrect thing, then comes the bruising. The scholars learn to cow-tow to the acceptable position.
Stay with me in the next few posts as I criticize Dr. Wallace. Pastor Brandenburg goes to Dallas. Hopefully I won't get all enamored by the stained glass and the ivy covered walls.