Thursday, December 03, 2009

Machen on Education

In discussing the fight for Christianity against liberalism (which Machen rightly considered two different religions), Machen closes with four points of action, the last of which is the “renewal of Christian education.”

He says,

In countless cases, Christianity is rejected simply because men have not the slightest notion of what Christianity is. An outstanding fact of recent Church history is the appalling growth of ignorance in the Church. Various causes, no doubt, can be assigned for this lamentable development. The development is due partly to the general decline of education—at least so far as literature and history are concerned. The schools of the present day are being ruined by the absurd that education should follow the line of least resistance, and that something can be “drawn out” of the mind before anything in put in. They are also being ruined by an exaggerated emphasis on methodology at the expense of content and on what is materially useful at the expense of the high spiritual heritage of mankind (Christianity and Liberalism, p. 176).

Machen sparks two thoughts centered primarily on pastoral training.

First, Christian education, even of pastors, seems woefully deficient. A man believes he is called of God to pastor and believes that the call alone makes him qualified. So he gets to work at the task of pastoring. But he has never taken time to learn first. It is a tragedy foisted on an unsuspecting church. And all are the worse for it. Such a man may believe he is called, and he may well be. But zeal is no substitute for knowledge. Nothing can be drawn out until something has been put in.

Before you pull out the line that the disciples were uneducated men, remember that they spent three years with Jesus day after day.

Second, a man who learns primarily methodology will soon find himself past his “use by” date. Methods are constantly changing. The methodology you learn in seminary today will be out of date before the next class graduates. A sound biblical theology will never be out of date. A man who goes to seminary and learns theology and languages will find himself well ground to learn methodology later.

A seminary filled with methodology will train a man to pastor for ten years or so. A seminary filled with theology and the languages will train a man to pastor for a lifetime.

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