Monday, November 16, 2009

Why the church is vitally important...

Good stuff from Carl Trueman...

It is all too easy for the theological student to end up remembering God as an object of knowledge; it is quite another thing to remember him as the all-surpassing subject of existence.

This is why church is vitally important. OK, long-standing readers of Themelios know what is coming next: Trueman’s pitch for seeing the local church as the necessary context for the Christian life, not least for those called to study theology at the highest level. Well, here it comes; and just because I have said it before does not make it any less true or any less necessary to say it again. After all, some of you may—ahem—have forgotten the speech. As noted above, that’s what the Bible itself indicates as happening when predictable but important routines are abandoned or their content taken for granted.

Much modern theological scholarship, particularly—though not exclusively—in the areas of Old and New Testament studies is predicated on a culture of amnesia. What the church has said about the Bible between the close of the apostolic era and the present day can be, by and large, dismissed. These people did not have access to the documents we now have, they did not understand Judaism as we now do, some were simply na├»ve in how they looked at the world and how they read texts. These are the kind of arguments which pervade this culture.

Now, for the student studying for an MA or MDiv or PhD, these are not insignificant points; they have to be addressed if the student is to avoid being an obscurantist. But the student should also be aware that the framework out of which these kinds of arguments arise is not a value-neutral one; nor does it actually reflect a particularly biblical view either of the value of the past or the importance of the church as the Body of Christ in biblical interpretation, systematic doctrinal synthesis, or application. Thus, it is vitally important that such students make sure that they place themselves within a local church and under the sound preaching of the word and administration of the sacraments/ordinances on a regular basis. Why? Because otherwise their memories of who God is and what he has done over the years will slowly fade or distort as they simply accommodate to sinful, human expectations of who God is and how he acts.

To the research student, and even perhaps the one studying theology for a first degree, this all sounds terribly boring. To spend the week voyaging at the far reaches of intellectual seas of scholarship, and then the weekends listening to some person standing in a pulpit and simply expounding the text or serving bread and wine? What is the value in that? One can imagine the Israelites in the Book of Judges raising similar questions. Do we need to do that Passover thing again? Do we not all know what it means? Do we really need the law read to us so often? Surely once we know what it says, we can move beyond it? The net result in Judges is, of course, that the values of Sodom come to flourish within the very boundaries of the Promised Land and within the very practices of the Lord’s people, with fatal consequences for at least one young woman. Neglect of the boring, day-to-day routines led to absolute disaster.

It is the same today. I have yet to come across a student who struggled with, or even abandoned, the faith, who did not, at some early point in their struggle, abandon the mundane routines of the Christian life: regular attendance at the preaching of the word, prayer, etc. etc. Boring they may be, but they are God’s means of preventing amnesia; and we forget them at our peril.

Read the entire article HERE.

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