The Bible and Culture


The full page ad said it all.  A Masters of Divinity degree offered now with
only ONE required course in Bible,
ONE in theology, and none in church history over a three year period!  And a more economical one as well— you can
have the degree with only 75 hours of course work!  Why labor in the vineyard for 90-96 hours (the length of most
M.Div. degrees), when you can get a more spiritually formed and forming degree
with as many as 21 few credit hours required than the traditional degree?   Doubtless the marketing department of this
particular school (which shall remain anonymous) had a say in this.  One
can over hear the conversation— “Let’s tap into the current post-modern interest
in spirituality, and attract more degree seekers that way!”  The problem with this is, we primarily need
more truth seekers, not just more degree seekers interested in spirituality in our

How should one react to the
trumpeted announcement of such a degree by an important Evangelical school?  Should we all rise up and call it
blessed?   I think not.  Frankly, I think we should be appalled, because this new degree is both a travesty and a tragedy. The
last thing in the whole world we need of an Evangelical educational institution
in an age of Biblical illiteracy is a curriculum that requires not only no
Biblical languages, but much less actual Biblical content, never mind
theological content or knowledge of Christian history.  This is not merely a dumbed- down curriculum,
it’s just plain dumb, and makes no sense. This is a recipe for further bad
preaching, teaching, and counseling, and will just further promote the current
amnesia we find in the church about our Biblical, theological and church
historical heritage.

But it’s not just that the
theological focus of the degree is changed in this advertised program, it also
seeks to offer more tools and practical skills for ministry, at the expense of
understanding the theological and Biblical character and basis of Christian
ministry.  I am all for practical skills
and tools for ministry, but not at the expense of actual understanding of God’s
word, of theology and of Christian history.  It’s no good having tools if you don’t
understand their theological purpose and Biblical function and historical

Imagine going to a dentist who
said, “I have all the latest tools and gadgets to do oral surgery on you, but I’ve
never actually studied what the purpose of each tool is, and how it should be
carefully used…. But what the heck, look at my shiny tools! Let’s operate!”  The book of Hebrews tells us that the Word of
God is like a two edged sword, able to penetrate between bone and marrow, soul
and spirit…if properly used.  But what if
one doesn’t understand the Bible and is preaching it anyway?  What if one doesn’t grasp the meaning of this
or that profound theological concept but is throwing around theological words
here there and yonder in impressive fashion complete with video clips and slick
power point slides?   What happens is
distortion, and sometimes even the disabling of the congregation from its
ability to understand God’s Word. 


What is my advice to theological
schools heading in this direction, or already embracing it?  Well, let me tell you a good ole N.C. story.

There was a little white frame
church near the coast of N.C.
that was very appealing. It kept a peeling and peeling and peeling.  So the trustees thought they would surprise
their young preacher whilst he was taking his week of vacation and scrape and
paint the church.   The trustees, being
frugal sorts, went to a Mega-Store and bought all the white latex they could
get for $50.  They set Saturday morning
as the work day for the trustees and they got there early, because it was a hot
and humid July Saturday. Indeed, it was so humid near the coast on this weekend
that you could cut out a piece of humidity and eat it for breakfast.  But I digress. 

Anyway the trustees began scraping
the little white frame church at 6 a.m. and completed that job by 7:30.  Fifteen minutes later they began painting the
church, but in order to make the paint provide several coats they mixed in 30%
water into the paint.  They finished
painting the first coat at 10 in the morning, and the second coat by 1 p.m., at
which point they broke for gallons of sweet tea, eastern N.C. barbecue and hush
puppies.  By 2 p.m. they commenced putting
on the final coat, and by 3 p.m. they were admiring their work.  The church fairly gleamed in the sun.  But then in the distance over the Atlantic Ocean they heard thunder, and then they felt the
wind, and lo they saw a dark ominous cloud the size of a man’s fist on the horizon,
blowing their way, and a worried look came on the faces of the trustees.

The rain and hail and thunder and
lightning reached the church within twenty minutes, and so hard was the rain
blowing, it blew horizontal up against the sides of the newly painted church
and the paint began running off the walls down into the grass around the
church, down into the gravel parking lot, and as the Bible says, the
countenance of the trustees fell.  One
looked up into the sky and said….


“What did we do wrong O Lord?”


And a voice came forth from the
dark cloud and said “REPAINT, REPAINT AND THIN NO MORE!”

In short, if you choose to take this Master of Divinity
degree you may become the master of something, but it won’t be Divinity, and
dat’s all I got to say ’bout dat!    

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