Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: The Paradox of Biblical Education

Friday, June 8, 2007

The Paradox of Biblical Education

I was involved in a discussion a few weeks ago at SharperIron in a thread called Fundamentalist Distinctives (Post #134). One of the participants in the debate raised a serious question. Although the post was posited in a question form, it really was not a question at all. The post challenged the fundamentalists in the debate regarding the issue of narrow exclusivism regarding the gospel of Jesus Christ and what professing believers must believe to be saved. This issue regarding the challenge to fundamental Christianity critically defines what is involved in saving faith. This is a serious controversy. However, my concerns go far beyond the simple answer to the challenge postulated.

Two things about the challenge amazed me:

1. The Pastor postulating the challenge is a man who holds theological degrees from two respected and well-known fundamental Bible colleges (NBBC and BJU).
2. That on the SharperIron Forum, where professing to be a fundamentalist is required to participate, consisting of 1,000’s of men trained in fundamental Bible colleges and Seminaries, NO ONE answered this challenge or dealt with it in any way. (See, “What is this site for?” at this Link)
Perhaps this raises an even larger question and is the answer to my first concern.

1. Either these thousands of well trained Bible college and Seminary graduates professing to be fundamentalists did not understand the challenge (a serious problem in itself, no discernment)
2. These thousands of well trained Bible college and Seminary graduates professing to be fundamentalists were sympathetic to the challenge (revealing their education in fundamental institutions was inadequate and these institutions failed them and the parents, pastors and local churches entrusting students to them)
3. These thousands of well trained Bible college and Seminary graduates professing to be fundamentalists did not care about the challenge (manifesting they had lost their militancy for contending for the faith and are not fundamentalists at all).
First, let me state, I love our Bible Colleges and what they are trying to accomplish. I do not want to be construed as merely pointing a finger of accusation and condemning the professionalism of Academia. Most of the men and women I know working in these fields of ministry are extremely dedicated people making overwhelming sacrifices to do what God has called them to do and what we ask them to do. They deserve our respect, love and they deserve our prayerful intercession on their behalf before the Throne of Grace. The issue I want to address is what appears to be an underlying problem within the realms of Academia (and they are indeed realms).

Fundamental Bible Colleges and Seminaries continue to struggle with the issue of what has come to be known as Young Fundamentalism and its adherents as Young Fundamentalists. These schools should be more than concerned. These schools should be alarmed. This is a manifestation of a critical problem that needs to be dealt with immediately. The problem is not in the fruit, but in the seeds that produce the fruit. There is something critically wrong with institutions where the vast majority of the fruit produced lacks in definitive ways contrary to what that fruit should be. This is almost equal to the liberalism of public education where the outcomes of education are never to be measured. It would appear many of our fundamental institutions have adopted the we are responsible to teach them how to think, not what to think as their dominating mission statements.

Philology was a word frequently used by educators when I was younger. The word meant the love of learning and literature. It was a word only educators and Academians used. As far as I was concerned, no one really loved learning and I only knew a few people in my life that really loved literature.

I never loved the process of learning. It was hard, laborious and often boring. I never enjoyed the hundreds and thousands of hours necessary to reading textbooks and memorizing thousands of facts and minute details. I certainly never enjoyed the quizzes and tests that measured if I had done the work, studied and memorized the facts I was supposed to learn. However, I did come to love the outcomes of education.

Perhaps I never understood the process of education until I understood the purpose of education. The truths I learned would become the tools I would use to help people with their lives. They were the tools of the spiritual healer and surgeon. In order to be effective, these tools needed to be definitive (sharp), clean (free from error and heresy) and, I needed to be skillful in their use (application). I could never be effective in the ministry God called me to do until all three of these criteria were part of my resume.

Secondly, my education needed to be detailed enough to give me spiritual discernment. I needed to be able to diagnose spiritual problems by watching how people lived and by listening to what they said. This requires a depth of theological definitiveness I never comprehended as a young pastor enrolled in Bible Basics 101. Yes, I needed to know how to think to be able to make accurate diagnoses of the many theological viruses that infect the body of Christ. I also needed to know what to think if I was going to be able to tell the viruses from the living cells that make up the organism known as the Church. If I did not know with a high degree of certainty what is right, how would I ever be able to diagnose what was wrong and work to remove only the virus without killing the patient?

The theological smörgåsbord coming out of our fundamental Bible Colleges and Seminaries today leads me to believe that exit outcomes are no longer priorities. Many of these schools tell us exit outcomes are not their responsibility. In fact, some of them no longer even require their graduates to believe certain definitive truths as long as they can adequately defend the position they hold. We are told by these institutions that these are issues to be decided by local churches and ordination councils. I have been involved in a large number of ordinations of pastors, missionaries and, even Bible College professors over the years. I have often been amazed at how many of these men have achieved Masters Degrees, but who have not yet landed on many theological issues. They can tell you five different positions on the marriage, divorce and re-marriage issue, but cannot tell you the one they think is correct. How can that exit outcome ever function satisfactorily in the work of the ministry where decisions regarding that belief will be necessary constantly? Did that person learn what he needed to learn to be able to do the ministry God called him to do?

The first question that must be asked here is, are these fundamental institutions being entrusted to train men and women for the “work of the ministry” with expected and measurable exit outcomes or not? If we have institutions of spiritual education that tell us they will not be held responsible for exit outcomes, should we continue to entrust students to them? If they tell us they will not be accountable, should we hold them accountable anyway? The fact is, most fundamentalist pastors and local churches DO recognize the problem and ARE holding these institutions accountable! They do this by discouraging their young people from enrolling in these institutions and encouraging those young people to enroll in schools where definitive exit outcomes are important.

If our answer to the first question is yes (and the answer MUST be yes), the second question is, what are these exit outcomes and how will they be measured? Ministry is about doing, not just knowing. If a graduate of a fundamental Bible College or Seminary is not an active, committed soul winner, is not a focused, definitive disciple maker, and is not a theological absolutist regarding every major category of Theology (and most definitive sub-categories) that school has failed to achieve adequate exit outcomes. That graduate will never be able to stand on the hilltops of Absolutism and Dogmatism in order to effective contend for the faith deposited to his accountability and use those truths to produce Gold, Silver and Precious Stone believers to the glory of the Lord Jesus.

Every pastor needs to look at the various Bible Colleges and Seminaries they support and recommend to their prospective students and evaluate the fruit they are producing. If the fruit is bad, the seed is bad. If there appears to be a problem with the fruit, changes must be demanded or students must be channeled elsewhere. If institutions refuse to acknowledge they are producing defective fruit or amalgamate your inquiry with deflective rationalization, do not gamble with the life of another student by entrusting that student into their care. They do not deserve that trust. If they ask you how they will accomplish the exit outcomes you expect, do not trust another student into their care until they answer their own question. If they do not know how or, cannot discover how, they do not deserve your trust! In fact, they do not know what they are doing. If they do not know what their product should look like at the end of the production line, do not entrust them with the raw materials.

1 comment:

Lou Martuneac said...

Dr. Ketchum:

You have raised important questions and concerns.

During the discussion at SI I was disappointed that more men who surely viewed the comments of the "alleged" fundamentalist either did not recognize the danger of, or did not care about what this man had to say and/or would not say.

He would not even state one way or the other whether he believes the Roman Catholic Church is a heretical apostate denomination. He encouraged believers to stay in apostate, doctrinally corrupt denomination to do what they can to battle for truth. He rejects biblical separation! How anyone can look at that kind of positioning and think the man is even orthodox in his theology, let alone a Fundamentalist is hard to fathom.

I don’t know what the answers are, but surely we should have Bible college graduates who can read what that man wrote at SI, know it was wrong, why it was wrong, and say so with clarity.