To Godly Seminary Professors Everywhere
This is a letter to any of you who are godly seminary professors. I’ve want to write you about this for a while now. What sparked it recently is the announcement of a new biography on G. E. Ladd. Apparently, the biography focuses on the paradox of his life, namely, the fact that he did excellent scholarship for the evangelical academy while, simultaneously, sinking into depression and alcoholism because he could not gain the mainstream academy’s approval.
What a tragedy—to know God’s freeing truth in Christ in your scholarship so well, but to fail to apply that freedom to you own heart!
Here’s my purpose for writing you: I’d like to invite one of you to write a short booklet, kind of in the tradition of B. B. Warfield’s The Religious Life of the Theological Student or Helmut Thielke’s A Little Exercise For Young Theologians, for aspiring Christian biblical and theological scholars and, more importantly, pastors everywhere. In your booklet, tell them that, as scholars and pastors, we should seek eternal credentials and accolades, not temporal ones. Tell them that the mystique of the academy is a trap and a lie.
Remind them that Elijah never sent Elisha off to the Assyrian academies, and Paul presumably never considered funding Timothy through the schools of Athens, in order to fit such men for the ministry. The thought is unimaginable. No, remind them that the scholarship they will do should only seek to clarify further a message that’s considered foolish and a stumbling block. If they intend to follow their Savior, their path is persecution, not praise. So challenge them to join you in suffering for the gospel, like Paul explicitly challenged Timothy.
Suggest to them that if, by God’s strange providence, one of them finds himself training in an institution which happens to garner worldly respectability, like Daniel and the three Hebrew boys in the palaces and academies of Babylon, that they would do well to abstain from eating at the king’s table and cozying up to the king’s banter. It’s a danger zone; it’s enemy territory; so keep praying in the direction of the Holy City.
Encourage them to ground themselves in the ministry of the local church. There’s nothing like the challenges of living and ministering together with fellow sinners in “real life” to bring the Bible’s claims into life-or-death reality. Also, you might encourage them to place themselves beneath a pastor or professor who demonstrates an indifference to the praise of people, the kind of man of whom the world is not worthy. How often does it seem like the young man who wanders off, enticed by the guild’s adulterous call to lie down in her Ivy perfumed sheets, is the pitiable one who has never been loved and nurtured by an older, wiser shepherd.
Brothers, will one of you write this booklet? Consider the possibility that it might be used to save a sheep from wandering off into a ravine and, what’s more, bring a whole flock with him. I’m tired of hearing those stories. Every one grieves my heart. Indeed, I know the temptations t hear the praise of men myself. That’s why we need one of you to write such booklet, one that will remind us all with the words of Luther, “There are tw days on my calendar, today and that day.”