The Center for Pastor Theologians
Friday, August 29, 2014 at 03:27PM
Embryo Parson in Anglican Follies, Anglican Spiritual Life, Anglo-Catholicism, Church of England, Church v. Academy, Dogmatic Theology, English Reformation, Historical Theology, N.T. Wright, New Perspective on Paul, Traditional Anglicanism

What has the Academy to do with the Church? - Tertullian of Carthage

There is no such thing as a conservative academic, because the academy today only accepts liberals who have been trained as such. It is impossible to study conservative theology at a post graduate level. Many people would disagree pointing to those with Masters Degrees, but those are just three year post-graduate courses where the first degree is not theology. I am talking about is the English system where you do your first degree in theology, then do post graduate work, again in theology. There are no universities who accept conservative Professors.

The student at such a faculty will be taught all about source criticism etc. of course using only the NA critical text, and studying only modernist "theologians". To be accredited a university must toe the line, or they are out.

This is a comment that Rev. Roger du Barry made to a recent blog article I posted entitled, "Lent and the Academic Theologian."  I posted this article and a previous related one under a new category I've created called "Church v. Academy", because I have become increasingly aware of a threat that a certain kind of academicism poses to Anglicanism, and in fact has been doing so since shortly after the Reformation.  It's common knowledge that universities in Christendom were created largely, though not solely, for the purpose of training ministers.  It's also common knowledge that these universities and divinity schools, from Oxford to Princeton to Georgetown University, have tended to liberalize, and later to radicalize.  For certain reasons, one of which is the laudable goal of intellectual freedom, the Church could simply not keep them orthodox.

This means one of two things.  Either the laudable and necessary goal of intellectual freedom inherently leads one away from orthodoxy, and therefore orthodoxy must be dispensed with, or there is some sinful, fallen dynamic (or set of dynamics, usually revolving around egoism and pride) that naturally attends intellectual freedom and therefore must be identified and remedied by orthodoxy.

I mentioned a specific threat to Anglicanism.  It was in the Church of England's universities that Pelagianism and Semipelagianism reared their heads in the Middle Ages, that Arminianism arose to challenge Edwardian and Elizabethan divinity around the turn of the 17th century, and that Deism and liberal Protestantism, both based in Enlightenment thought, arose later. 

The problem, as I see it, isn't limited to the way the academic environment nourishes the heresies and unbelief typically associated with liberalism.  "Conservative" academic types get caught up in the dynamic as well, as Rev. du Barry correctly implies.  I've recently rubbed shoulders on Facebook with two somewhat unpleasant ACNA priests, whose comments show how smitten they are by the academy and whose pastoral sensibilites are, in my estimation, suffering accordingly.  One of them thinks that it's simply a matter of time before Tom Wright's work on the New Perspective on Paul becomes orthodoxy for Anglicans, and looks down with elitist disdain on Wright's critics.   The other priest, an Anglo-Catholic who eschews the Articles of Religion, predictably wants to vest orthodoxy in councils of bishops, but bishops whose ears are keenly attuned to the scholarship produced by Anglican academics, which is to say, an alliance of Anglican bishops and scholars that would be much like Rome's Magisterium. 

Enter the Center for Pastor Theologians (CPT), an organization dedicated to addressing this "disconnect that exists between the academy and the local church", per its founder Gerald Hiestand.  I would love to see Anglicans get on board with this project, because for far too long too many Anglicans have been laboring under "the assumption that Christianity can be abstracted from the Church", to quote Orestes Brownson's criticism of Newman's flawed method.  Prior to the rise of the medieval university, education had been procured at cathedral or monastic schools, and prior to the Reformation, theologians were generally either pastors or had some vital connection to the Church (e.g., the religious).  After the Reformation, the Church in the West looked increasingly to the university scholar, and not the pastor/theologian, for guidance into all truth.  I would argue that the legacy of that has patently been a sad one.  Theology must spring from where the Holy Spirit is, and I would argue for a number of reasons that the Holy Spirit ain't in the secular academy, and is becoming increasingly unimportant in the Christian academy.  Hence the need to train orthodox, Spirit-led pastors as theologians, just as in the days of the Fathers, who relied principally on the theology of the apostles, whose theology was likewise crafted in the context of pastoral activity.  Though the charge will be lodged that CPT's project is "obscurantist" or "anti-intellectual", we must answer, "Frankly, dear, I don't give a damn" to those who register that concern.  One need only examine the trajectory of the academy in the Western world to see that obscurantism and anti-intellectualism increasingly marks that environment as well, not to mention all the other signs of moral and intellectual degradation. 

I've linked the CPT and related sites in the sidebar.

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