Because of reading several polls on why people are leaving the Church, I’ve maintained for a while part of the issue is the lack of grounded intellectual discourse. While congregational members may have questions, often times, they are discouraged from asking them. At seminary, I met one pastoral student who loudly railed against questions and easily stated he would deny congregational questions their validity. This is measured out accordingly into our curriculums and often times in the sermons. Please, for the love of God, don’t ask questions. And this is admittedly my current bent.
It was Calvin who began the tradition of wearing academic robes in the Church. Why? Because Church was supposed to a place of learning. This is why the catechisms were taught to children early — because it taught doctrines, writings, and the such. Now we seem content with a poor study set with a focus meant to do what?
Anyway, when someone on Fb posted this last night, two remarks met my immediate notice and agreement.
Because the people who teach me and who ask me hard questions and who I want to live like and learn from are outside of my church.
Because I am not expected to contribute to the intellectual climate of the church community, and I am not expected to work hard at the practical things, although being young and available I am the most able to work hard and being hungry intellectually I also have the most need to contribute.
Let us not deceive ourselves — since the Sunday School industry started in the 1940’s, along with changing views of the role of the Church and the life of the Christian, we have seen a remarkable decrease in the intellectual Christian and church attendance. Frankly, instead of Spurgeon, Hodge, and Lewis, we have Todd Bentley, Joel Osteen, and anyone who picks up a bible calling himself a preacher. I don’t have to agree with Charles Hodge to appreciate his intellectual prowess.
I understand and sort of appreciate that Sunday sermons with an intellectual content, small groups, and other educational venues at Church are not everyone’s cup of tea, yet we seem to strive for the lowest common denominator. Are we really afraid to teach? Why can’t we teach a bit more about King David? Or Jesus? Or Judges? Why can’t we teach people, starting small, to grapple with their faith and to question it?
How much better would we be if we had taught questioning our faith instead of absolute intellectual surrender when the New Atheists and Ken Ham arrived?
I am not saying that the current trend is the same as the anti-intellectualism of fundamentalism, although passively, it is rather similar. We have a strong intellectual tradition in the Mainlines. Let’s return to it.
as a side note, anything said here about my current church would seem like a platitude.
- Intellectual Understanding, or Emotional Integrity? (greatmiracleshare.wordpress.com)
- Should Christians use a church congregation SOLELY as a place to meet and marry? (innocentbystandersblog.wordpress.com)
- Gathering as Church: Reflections on the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). (bobcornwall.com)