Credible Voices

What do Mark Driscoll, Billy Graham, Robert Schuller, Jim Bakker, and Bishop Desmond Tutu have in common?

Answer... they are (or were) all high-profile Christian ministers, with completed (or part-completed) theological training.

My question of the day is... does having a high profile and a teaching platform mean that we should accept what these people teach?

My personal answer is... duh... no, not necessarily.

It is not profile per se, but expertise, that carries weight in my mind. There are probably a million or more pastors in the world with some theological training... their opinions need to be considered. There exists a much smaller number of biblical scholars, who devote much of their life to researching and publishing about the biblical languages, or the history, customs and languages of cultures in which the bible was written (and how this may influence our interpretation of texts), or textual criticism, or systematic theology, etc. etc. In complex and difficult questions of the faith, (and these will always exist when interpreting the bible, seeking to find how it speaks into our contexts today), we should "weight" the opinions of those who devote themselves to theological research.

This is, of course, how we respond to other important questions in life... we seek genuine expertise! I would hope if I am experiencing (say) gynaecological troubles, I will quickly seek a referral to a specialist gynaecologist ... rather than relying upon a book, advice on the Internet, or even the opinion of a GP. I hope if I wanted financial advice, I'd be looking to investigate credentials of an adviser. And so on...

My blog posts on controversial issues are (I hope) more about triggering thought and discussion than my attempts to indoctrinate... and I hope I at least attempt to refer to reputable research and sources when I wade in to an issue. (Unless I'm being funny... it's usually not that hard to tell the difference).

So what started today's rant? Well, I had a conversation yesterday about a pastor who was once an Egalitarian, but became Complementarian because... (drum roll).... he listened to podcasts by Mark Driscoll.

OK, I'm up for changing my mind on issues. I'm up for listening to diverse opinions. What I'm not up for is changing my mind based on the opinions of people who lack genuine expertise on a subject.

I have noted before my hunch that much of the impetus for Complementarianism is not in its theological strength, but in unconscious sexism.

A quick Google will reveal many misogynist sayings of Mark Driscoll on women and their role in society and in marriage. Do his public comments display a dislike for women's empowerment? Yes. Does he devote his life to theological research? No. Does this mean he is wrong on this issue? Not necessarily. However, there are far, far more scholarly and credible voices out there. These voices should be heard. These voices carry weight.

Access to a wealth of information is at our fingertips in the age of Google. This is a wonderful thing. It also means mountains of poorly informed and biased opinion is at our fingertips. The key skill we need today is discernment, and the capacity to pick credible voices out of the cacophony of ideas. I would like to think we should take thoughts about God, and God's interactions with us, (theology) as seriously as we take our bodies, or organising our finances, or servicing difficult problems on our cars... perhaps more seriously. There is a time and a place for reading rubbish Christian books, and hearing the opinions of this or that Christian... but I'd like to think loving God with all of our mind means we take the task of discernment seriously.

So what do you think? What voices should carry weight for us? And does serious theology matter? (not just on equality, but on all theological issues)


Lucy J said…
and then there's "the still small voice"...
Janet Woodlock said…
Yes indeed Lucy... see my next rant! :-) Great theology should lead us to discerning that voice, not to impose a whole lot of decrees upon us!
Lucy J said…
2600OK, Janet, I'll look out for your next rant (RANT - Reality And Nascent Theology?)

I think discernment and wisdom are good partners... but their marriage takes time and a whole lot of LOVE ;-)
Janet Woodlock said…
If we're talking about discerning... I John makes it pretty darn clear we look for the mark of LOVE. And as Paul writes... without this all is but a clanging gong.

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