Monday, 6 June 2016

There's scholarship, and there's scholarship!

Just because a recognized scholar has impressive academic qualifications that does not mean that they have wisdom, and they may not have any spiritual discernment.  Some theologians can be all at sea and really lost. When they boldly claim that there is " nothing wrong with my scholarship " then they invite scrutiny.  Yes, such a claim was made by a theologian, academic Bible scholar and recent television presenter on a Sunday morning programme about religion. She has the audacity of youth and a very engaging television screen presence and personality.

There are scholars and academics who glory in their elevated status but have no humility when they are making pronouncements outside their field of learning. Some scholars have been discredited and shown to be inaccurate and  certainly erroneous in the cold light of truth and subsequent empirical evidence.

History has been re-written, and science textbooks have been radically revised, redacted and robustly
reformed over the years of university development and higher learning. Some would argue that all truth, especially theological truth, is provisional. This can lead to a very interesting scholarly debate, but I wish to keep to the matter of truth, discernment and wisdom.

I would maintain that a person could be academically well qualified and exhibit outstanding work of literary merit, yet be completely lacking in wisdom, emotional intelligence and basic common sense.
To put it bluntly, some academics are ivory tower wallies; one could use cruder and more disdainful names for them. And, of course, there are many of them outside academia. I have met them in churches, pubs, National Trust properties and historic buildings.

I have been intrigued by premillennial theologians and so called prophetic preachers, who once predicted a twentieth century rapture of believers. We should have no time for church leaders who claim to have received special gifts and revelations, which turn out to be bogus. And it is important to root out those who are harming children and the vulnerable in churches and congregations. They abuse the trust of others and fleece the flock. There are hireling shepherds operating with the spirit of Gehazi. Yet some of them are well qualified academically speaking. And so were Dr Goebbels, Dr Mengele and a whole host of despicable individuals who abused their power and influence. Oh dear, I am riding a hobby horse, so let us get back to the main issue.

Some scholarship may meet the academic criteria for a standard of excellence, but I wish to pose the question, will the scholarship stand the test of time, truth and eternity? Will it benefit society, civilization and the common people? What is its true value? Will it be cast aside as irrelevant and useless? I remember a deacon, who told me many years ago, that reading some theology, particularly modern theology, was like eating husks, not healthy food. He found it lacked spiritual nutrition and protein; it was not at all edifying or helpful. He had not, sadly, read widely enough to find wholesome spiritual material.

Martin Luther maintained that true theology must be practical, otherwise it is not true theology. If it is about God and reveals divine truths then it should have a practical, spiritual dimension. When it is divorced from spiritual realities it is, to some extent, practically theology but not true theology that brings divine and spiritually valuable insight, truth and revelation. True theology, truly Christian theology, will edify and enlighten.

Not all theologians are Christians, but all Christians are theologians; they talk about God and they talk to God and then God talks to them by the Holy Spirit on an intimate level.  Of course God has already His word and supremely through the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ.

I will return to this subject. I wish to consider some scholarship written by theologians linked with these issues.

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