Tuesday, May 02, 2006
The Unlearned and Ignorant Men
Did I ever tell you that my dad's life verse was Matthew 17:15? OK, it says, "Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water." I'm joking, so stop smirking. And because I'm joking that means that I am not a lunatick, no matter what you've heard from someone else. If I were one, I wouldn't be proud of it.
Sometimes, however, I think that many independent Baptists have taken Acts 4:13 as their life verse: "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus." I like the boldness and I like that they had been with Jesus. I'm sure that almost none of you think that pivotal to this evaluation is that they "perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men." Is this the proof text for anti-intellectualism? I agree that we should not "lean on our own understanding" (Prov. 3:5). I also agree that we should avoid "profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called" (1 Timothy 6:20). I also know that "knowledge puffeth up" (1 Corinthians 8:1). I guess all of these combined would tell us never to attend a cemetery, ooops, I mean a seminary; you know, where they teach you Hebrew and Greek so that you can correct the King James. If English was good enough for Paul, then it is good enough for me!
But what about when Paul said this? "The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments" (2 Timothy 4:13). The parchments were Scripture, but what were the books? Was Paul reading more than just the Bible? Was he studying something, even in the day before the printing press, something other than his Bible? Or what about this? "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15). If we are sanctified by the truth, we must know the truth. We are not sanctified by truth that we do not know. We are not sanctified by man's opinions, by human techniques, or by the writings or seminars of a "successful" church growth guru. We aren't even sanctified by the pastor. In order to know the truth, we must study it. We must know more than just the words, but their meaning. To know their meaning, we must understand how the people would have understood them in that day. We should know how those words are used in other places in the Bible, comparing Scripture with Scripture, comprehending how words are used in other locations in the Old or New Testaments.
A lot of men in independent Baptist churches like to quote Spurgeon and even would say that they emulate him, but do they study like Spurgeon did? Do they have a devotion to the Word of God like the men in and before his era to the Word of God? About sixteen years ago, I remember attending the ordination questioning of a young man whose church was recognizing God's ordaining of him to the office of the pastor. Someone asked him, "Do you have a Strong's concordance?" He paused, looked upward, connected with the creative side of his brain, strained, and with a very doubtful disposition he answered: "I don't know." The Strong's concordance is a great tool for a beginning Bible student, but for someone ordained to pastoring, not even knowing what one was showed an unacceptable lack of seriousness about the study of the Word of God. That didn't matter to the questioners that day. They were not about to cross the pastor of that church, so they just let it go.
I recommend graduate school training for any pastoral candidate with few exceptions. I think the seminary ought to be under the authority of a local church and should expect the students to preach the gospel every week and make disciples of the converted. I encourage Biblical languages, thorough study in history and theology, apologetics, logic, hermeneutics, and homoletics. So, are you or will you continue to be an unlearned and ignorant man?