Barry Brings It!
It was a real pleasure to see Barry York’s very kind interaction with my recent DenDulk Lecture. The lecture itself was, as I confessed, long on analysis of the manifold temptations to corruption and incompetence to which religious institutions are prone and rather shorter on solutions. Barry’s response beautifully fills that lacuna. He offers a vision of seminary life that is not simply committed to protecting the brand, whatever the cost, which actually cares for and respects the church, which humbly listens to more than just the local gods, which prioritizes competence and catholicity in theological thought, teaching, and writing, and which stewards its resources for the good of the kingdom not for the good ol' boys.
Here’s a taster, where he summarizes a point I made and then offers an answer:
Intellectual Incest Breeds Idiot Children
If the above subtitle (When Your Universe is Small, Your Tiny, Local Gods are Powerful) was provocative, this one is far more so! What does Trueman mean? He is continuing with the thought above, that when seminaries become isolationist they develop an "us versus them" attitude. They become suspicious of outside influences and, given inherent blind spots in their theological system and overemphasis on certain distinctives, begin to narrow down to protect their turf and consequently become inbred. A spirit of Pharisaical pride is cultivated and breathed in by the students. The seminary can begin speaking in terms of manifest destiny, using pious, kingdom language to describe their initiatives and projects as if they were ultimate in nature.
Read more broadly. This suggestion is actually the main application that Trueman offered in his lecture. Despite saying he did not have any solutions, he did encourage this one at least to students. Seminary curriculum should contain a healthy dose of classical theological literature, not just a focus on the literary minutiae of the theological or ecclesiastical camp of the seminary. One encouraging trend for the church at large, that the seminary should encourage, is reading and discussion groups of classic texts. Reading beyond our own camp helps maintain an appropriate balance in our theology.
Thanks, Barry. And apologies for forgetting RPTS in my introduction. I will buy you dinner next time you are at Grove or I’m in Pittsburgh.