Pastors and theologians are, for the most part, highly trained in their discipline.
That doesn’t mean they have all the answers of course, or that they comprise some sort of priesthood of the elite, but they are often well educated in their field of study.
And that’s a good thing, we need experts – in the professional sense of that term. We need people who can study the original languages, who know the history, and who can bring a theologically informed viewpoint to the life of the church.
However, if your experience has been anything like mine, you may have noticed that many who study the Bible begin to believe themselves to be experts in far more than the field they were trained in.
These pastors and theologians begin to use their platform to weigh in on, say, scientific debates, or the finer points of economic theories.
This seems problematic.
For one thing, in doing so they leave their area of study, and presume to know as much as (or more than) the experts in another field. This smacks of arrogance, not least to people in the audience who actually happen to be professionals in the topic at hand.
Also, I actually think its a bit of an abuse of power. There is still an innate authority attached to the pastoral role, and many find the words of their spiritual leaders to be weightier than anything said by those who study these issues for a living.
But as people trained in theology, pastors and theologians should if anything be more willing to defer to those who have attained proficiency in other fields.
They know first hand what it takes to devote yourself to a discipline, to spend hours in the library learning the intricacies of a new debate, to pour through primary materials so as to better understand an important thinker from times past.
And yet, too often, people imagine that a theological foundation is all that is needed to be qualified to make grand pronouncements on issues they’ve never studied.
As if somehow knowing the Bible means they can skip right past all of that hard work, and as if people should take them seriously when they do.
– What do you think? Have you seen this yourself?
– Why might pastors and theologians be prone to this?