I'm no fan of anti-intellectualism. But come on now, how in the world we did ever get to the point where we have divorced academics from just living out our Christianity? It's time to marginalize academics. Not my words. The words of one of the world's greatest Christian theologians, Alister McGrath (Enigma of the Cross, p. 174):
Mission and theology are so clearly interrelated that they cannot be permitted to become divorced in the manner which academic theologians have become accustomed.... Theology must come down to earth, to serve the church and its mission in the world -- and if it will not come down to earth, it must be brought down to earth by so marginalizing academic theology within the life of the church that it ceases to have relevance to that church, in order that a theological orientation towards the pastoral and missionary needs of the church may develop in its wake.
When students ask me where our missions building is located on campus, instead of referring them to the missions center next door I will say with a twinkle in my eye, "Oh, it's right here, where the New Testament and Old Testament professors have their offices." No, missions is not in that building on our seminary campuses; it's everywhere on that campus, or should be.
The lesson? It's at least threefold:
- Remember that words are cheap but deeds are costly.
- Remember that the thousands (or millions) of words we have uttered in sermons or published in books are useless -- in fact, less than useless, a positive impediment -- if they are not backed up by simple deeds of courtesy.
- Remember that the purpose of the inspired Scripture is always a supremely practical one -- that the servant of God may be fully equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
This is not a new program to promote. (My, how we love our programs!) It's just a lifestyle -- cleaning out shut-ins' gutters, raking their leaves, sawing their fallen limbs after an ice storm, gently but firmly defending the faith in our homes and in the public square, loving our unsaved friends and neighbors enough to gently confront them with their lostness, etc. We must do everything possible, through love and good works, to show them the love and goodness of God and help them see that proper human relationships are possible only through a proper relationship with Christ.
It is, then, no longer possible (if it ever was) to assume that theology and biblical studies (or church history, or Greek and Hebrew, etc.) can operate apart from service to the world. The more we understand the Scriptures, the more we will understand our responsibility to submit our lives and fortunes to its radical teachings. Instead of doing theology for theology's sake, we will choose to bear witness to the gospel in both word and deed, by both life and lip. We will, perhaps, even do less pontificating from our ivory towers high up in cyberspace and descend to the balcony and maybe even to the ground floor.
Good riddance, academic theology!