More What If. . . ?

I realize there’s a spirit of non-competitiveness afoot in the churches, and I understand the commendable side to that — but what if we took knowing something about our faith seriously enough to conduct something such as Quiz Bowls on topics of pertinence to theological education?

What if theological institutions felt at least a superficial obligation to demonstrate their capacity to stir up theological literacy adequate for participating in such an endeavor? But I suppose the answer is that the present climate of non-compeitition has fostered a nigh-ideal state in which all share equally in the spiritual gift of understanding.

Dylan rebutted:

There’s a spirit of non-competitiveness afoot in the churches? You’ve got to be kidding. Haven’t you heard priests at diocesan conventions comparing ASA figures? And I’m sure you’ve noticed all the complaints about how seminary education doesn’t prepare priests “for the real world,” and the move to add requirements in fields such as “leadership training” to the canons.

There is indeed a notion floating about that because understanding biblical texts is important and different people have different kinds of levels of training and different kinds and degrees of intellectual capacity and interest, therefore understanding biblical texts does not really require training or intellectual enterprise. However, I suspect a dynamic more active in the lack of emphasis we see on hard work and training in scriptural interpretation is not so much the product of an idea that spiritual gifts are distributed to all equally as it is of the quintessentially American idea that success is both equivalent to profitability and the ultimate measure of God’s blessing. A pastor who can “grow the congregation” numerically and financially or at least do better than her or his peers’ congregations in those two measures clearly knows everything s/he needs to know, or that is desirable for a pastor to know.



[Well, I’ve certainly encountered a lot of non-competitiveness in certain regards. Clergy don’t usually talk to me about congregation size, but they do talk about the relative lackof necessity that they or seminarians attain more than just rudimentary theological. historical, or scriptural knowledge. Much more important, they assert, are small office management and leadership and accounting.

I firmly acknowledge that these represent valuable capacities, and would be happy for all our clergy to develop expertise at them. I don’t see these as taking precedence over knowing what they’re doing and saying theologically, any more than it’s acceptable for a physician to substitute office management skills for anatomy, or to cultivate a thriving practice by applying maleficent but popular treatments.

I don’t think we disagree, and I concede that I may hear more about “not competing,” and observe less competitive number-touting, in my seminary environment than I might if I were based primarily in a parish.]

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