The Importance of Staying Current

I had a conference call with my pastor and another pastor a couple of hours ago and the other pastor was talking about Carlton Pearson’s doctrine of inclusive salvation. He spoke for 30-45 minutes and covered a lot of ground and then I was asked for my thoughts. I won’t recount the conversation but I will say that this particular pastor seemed to be reliant on some older views in NT scholarship.

The majority of what he said was based on acceptance of the Gospel communities hypothesis. On this understanding he made the comment that Matthew had “one gospel” while Mark, Luke, and John all had “(an)other gospel(s)” since they were all writing to different communities and only sought to address the situations of those particular communities (his point was basically that Carlton Pearson is addressing a particular community while my pastor and I are addressing another so while we might differ we can’t suggest that Pearson is not a Christian or that he’s teaching false doctrine). He didn’t seem aware that this understanding has been challenged over the last decade or so, so I gave a few of the points for why this view has come under dispute (interested readers would do well to check out The Gospel for All Christians: Rethinking the Gospel Audiences).

Something else he said that seemed more than a bit dated was that John’s prologue was Gnostic. He cited John’s use of Logos as one of the main indicators of this since Gnostics were very familiar with the Logos. This understanding never enjoyed widespread acceptance so far as I know, but it’s biggest champion (that I’m aware of) was Bultmann and a few of his students (e.g., Schweizer & Becker). But not even all of Bultmann’s pupils (e.g., Käsemann & Conzelmann) saw things his way. Unfortunately I didn’t get the opportunity to comment on this since I accidentally hung up the phone and he had to get going before I could reconnect. But I would have liked to point out the roots of John’s prologue in the creation narrative from Genesis 1 (which, btw, is not a new revelation). I would have also liked to have mentioned the OT background of God’s davar and I more than likely would have brought up the Memra in the Aramaic targums (the point being that John’s use of Logos was thoroughly Jewish).

But here’s what I’m guessing is the case with this particular pastor. I’m thinking that he learned about most of this stuff in seminary and read the books he was supposed to read at the time but hasn’t kept up with the shifts in scholarship since. I have to imagine that this is a common thing for seminary educated pastors. They learn what they need to in order to get the degree, but once they get into the thick of ministry they don’t need to keep up with the academy. On the one hand I completely understand this; there are more important things for pastors to do then read every new monograph by this or that Biblical scholar. On the other hand, if one is going to engage in some kind of in-depth teaching and rely on the scholarship of yesteryear, they’d probably do well to see what’s been going on since they initially learned about the subject. It can’t hurt and it will almost always certainly help.

B”H

7 thoughts on “The Importance of Staying Current

  1. Good points, theology and biblical studies are not like the math you learn, or don’t learn ; ) in school, it requires maintenance. I imagine it is hard as a pastor to stay current though. Between meeting with people during the week, preparing sermons, meetings concerning church issues, and family, I know our pastor has trouble staying up with the current thoughts in biblical studies.

  2. Nate: Exactly. The everyday duties of the pastor are enough to keep them busy. They’d really have to have a passion for the subjects to stay current with them. And then there are pastors who have never been up on the literature and don’t know what’s old or new. They just base they’re beliefs and preaching on their personal study of Scripture.

  3. I wonder what a good way would be for them to keep up with developments in scholarship, without having to plow through every book that comes along. I like the Anchor Bible Dictionary, but it’s 15 years old! Also, I learned that whole communities view of the Gospels when I was an undergraduate, and that doesn’t seem like that long ago—so to hear that it’s been challenged! Maybe they can join SBL and read the book reviews that get sent out.

  4. James: I think that would be a good way to stay current without having to invest too much time into the literature itself. If they were to subscribe to a few journals and just mine them for book reviews then they’d probably do quite well.

  5. If pastors took the time to read this blog, they would be current. :)

    “The word became flesh and dwelt among us”. Gnostic, I don’t think so….

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