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Monthly Archives: October 2014

Even more advice to theology students!

The final installment from John Frame:

21. Don’t be one of those theologians who get excited about every new trend in politics, culture, hermeneutics, even theology, and thinks we have to reconstruct our theology to go along with each trend. Don’t think you have to be a feminist, e.g., just because everybody else is. Most of the theologies that try to be culturally savvy are un-Biblical.

22. Be suspicious of all trendiness in theology. When everybody jumps on some theological bandwagon, whether narrative, feminism, redemptive history, natural law, liturgy, liberation, postmodernism, or whatever, that’s the time to awaken your critical faculties. Don’t jump on the bandwagon unless you have done your own study. When a theological trend comes along, ask reflexively, “What’s wrong with that?” For there is always something wrong. It simply is not the case that the newest is the truest. Indeed, many new movements turn out to be false steps entirely.

23. Our system of doctoral level education requires “original thought,” but that can be hard to do, given that the church has been studying Scripture for thousands of years. So you’ll be tempted to come up with something that sounds new (possibly by writing a thesis that isn’t properly theological at all in the sense of #3 above). Well, do it; get it out of the way, and then come back to do some real theology.

24. At the same time, don’t reject innovation simply because it is innovative. Even more, don’t reject an idea merely because it doesn’t SOUND like what you’re used to. Learn to distinguish the sound-look-feel of an idea from what it actually means.

25. Be critical of arguments that turn on metaphors or extra-Biblical technical terms. Don’t assume that each one has a perfectly clear meaning. Usually they do not.

26. Learn to be skeptical of the skeptics. Unbelieving and liberal scholarship are as prone to error as anybody. More so.

27. Respect your elders. Nothing is so ill-becoming as a young theologian who despises those who have been working in the field for decades. Disagreement is fine, as long as you acknowledge the maturity and the contributions of those you disagree with. Take 1 Tim. 5:1 to heart.

28. Young theologians often imagine themselves as the next Luther, just as little boys imagine themselves as the next Eli Manning or Shaquille O’Neal. When they’re too old to play cowboys and Indians, they want to play Luther and the Pope. When the real Pope won’t play with them, they pick on somebody else and say, “You’re it. “ Look: most likely God has not chosen you to be the leader of a new Reformation. If he has, don’t take the exalted title “Reformer” upon yourself. Let others decide if that is really what you are.

29. Decide early in your career (after some experimenting) what to focus on and what not to. When considering opportunities, it’s just as important (perhaps more so) to know when to say no as to know when to say yes.

30. Don’t lose your sense of humor. We should take God seriously, not ourselves, certainly not theology. To lose your sense of humor is to lose your sense of proportion. And nothing is more important in theology than a sense of proportion.

HT: Rev Dr James Dobson via Andy Naselli

More advice for theology students…

From John Frame:

11. If you get a bright idea, don’t expect everybody to get it right away. Don’t immediately start a faction to promote it. Don’t revile those who haven’t come to appreciate your thinking. Reason gently with them, recognizing that you could be wrong, and arrogant to boot.

12. Don’t be reflexively critical of everything that comes out of a different tradition. Be humble enough to consider that other traditions may have something to teach you. Be teachable before you start teaching them. Take the beam out of your own eye.

13. Be willing to re-examine your own tradition with a critical eye. It is unreasonable to think that any single tradition has all the truth or is always right. And unless theologians develop critical perspectives on their own denominations and traditions, the reunion of the body of Christ will never take place. Don’t be one of those theologians who are known mainly for trying to make Arminians become Calvinists (or vice versa).

14. See confessional documents in proper perspective. It is the work of theology, among other things, to rethink the doctrines of the confessions and to reform them, when necessary, by the Word of God. Do not assume that everything in the confession is forever settled.

15. Don’t let your polemics be governed by jealousy, as when a theologian feels bound to be entirely negative toward the success of a mega-church.

16. Don’t become known as a theologian who constantly takes potshots at other theologians or other Christians. The enemy is Satan, the world, and the flesh.

17. Guard your sexual instincts. Stay away from Internet pornography and illicit relationships. Theologians are not immune from the sins that plague others in the church.

18. Be active in a good church. Theologians need the means of grace as much as other believers. This is especially important when you are studying at a secular university or liberal seminary. You need the support of other believers to maintain proper theological perspective.

19. Get your basic training at a seminary that teaches the Bible as the word of God. Become well-grounded in the theology of Scripture, before you go off (as you may, of course) to get first-hand exposure to non-Biblical thought.

20. Come to appreciate the wisdom, even theological wisdom, of relatively uneducated Christians. Don’t be one of those theologians who always has something negative to say when a simple believer describes his walk with the Lord. Don’t look down at people from what Helmut Thielicke called “the high horse of enlightenment.” Often, simple believers know God better than you do, and you need to learn from them, as did Abraham Kuyper for instance.

HT: Rev Dr James Dobson via Andy Naselli