Why Christian Pastors Can't Tell the Truth

Apr 19, 2018
Why Christian Pastors Can't Tell the Truth
  • The simple truth is that reputable seminaries churn out thousands of graduates who then go into Christian churches to lead flocks who will go on to learn almost nothing of what their pastors learned there. The more fundagelical the church, the less the flocks will hear about real Biblical history, textual criticism, and theology. Any pastor who tries to share anything contradictory to the flock's beliefs will learn very quickly that he's not actually their master. He's only their clubhouse social director and book-club discussion leader, and they are very fickle.

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    Bible Colleges are considerably less rigorous; they are simply indoctrination stations, and it's doubtful their customers will ever learn anything real about Christianity there.

    The gap between seminary-trained pastors' knowledge base and their flocks' childish understanding of Christianity seems to be growing wider every year.

    Lambchop Commentary:

    How did the ministers who have college degrees, some of them even PhD's miss basic biology, anthropology, and archaeology?!


    There is, then, a large gap between what biblical scholars do and what the majority of the public think they do (or should do). And this gap is curious because many Christian (and Jewish) leaders receive academic training and acquire formal qualifications involving academic study of the Bible whether in university theology departments or denominational seminaries (which are usually affiliated to, or even part of, a university). Many Christian churches thus seem to believe that a scholarly education in the Bible is a good preparation for the ministry or priesthood. In theory, that attitude should ensure a widespread awareness of what biblical scholarship is about, at least among worshippers.

    What should these leaders learn about the Bible? What they will read in most modern textbooks written by biblical scholars is that the stories of Abraham and Moses are largely or entirely legend, not history; that the books of the prophets contain a great deal not written by those prophets; that David did not write all of the Psalms (if any); that ancient Israelites probably once worshipped a goddess alongside their god; that Jesus was probably born in Nazareth, not Bethlehem; and that the stories of his birth and resurrection appearances display awkward contradictions and may well not be based on eyewitness accounts. These views are largely undisputed among biblical scholars and have the weight of a great deal of research behind them.

    But most of these views and arguments get no farther than the edge of the campus; they are found in books written for scholars or students. John Robinson's Honest to God (London: SCM Press, 1963) was a famous exception and was regarded as a cause célèbre when it appeared. When, a few decades later, a former Bishop of Durham, David Jenkins, referred to the resurrection issue as "juggling with bones" and dismissed the idea of a literal understanding of the stories of Jesus' post-mortem appearances, he immediately came under attack not only from churchgoers and from the media but also from his fellow-clergy, many of whom had presumably been taught as students precisely what Jenkins was saying! It is hard to know how many might have privately agreed with him, but it seems that they felt his public remarks could cause them acute embarrassment if they were themselves challenged by one of their own congregation.

    I cannot imagine a scientist or engineer, a professor of English, or a medical researcher facing the same predicament as the two bishops. My university colleagues in other disciplines are listened to as experts: what they say is taken to be a reliable opinion on the subject (whether that perception is true or not). I cannot think of any other university subject whose graduates disguise from the public what they have learned! Little wonder that the churchgoing public has no real idea of what biblical scholars do. Most nonbelievers are of course happy to delegate serious interest in the Bible to churchgoers (most of whom actually read very little of it).
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