If Seminaries Began Teaching Biblical Ecclesiology

10:19 AM Ya gotta love that Eric Carpenter! Is nothing sacrosanct to him (*smile*)? His latest post is called What Would Happen if Seminaries Began Teaching Biblical Ecclesiology? What a great topic to explore! What can we say about this?

I might suggest that a good place to start would be our New Testament Introduction classes. Here we could contrast the position that existed under the Old Covenant with life under the New. For example, in the Old Testament, sacrifices were a vital part of worship, so much so that a special building was set aside for that purpose. Moreover, only certain people (called priests) could perform sacred duties on behalf of the rest of the people. Finally, specific animals had to be sacrificed. Under the New Covenant, however, a new set of conditons exists. The emphasis is no longer upon a building (the people form the church), the sacrifices are offered by all (every Christian is a fulltime priest), and the offerings are now spiritual in nature — praise and thanksgiving. (The book of Hebrews is explicit about all of this.) In addition to New Testament Introduction, what about church history classes? Could we not discuss New Testament ecclesiology when we are analyzing the Anabaptists of the sixteenth century — those men and women who refused to be shackled by ecclesiastical tradition and who sought to return to the simple practices of the New Testament? Even in our Greek classes these questions could be tackled as we exegeted such passages as Roman 12 or 1 Corinthians 12-14. (I do.)

The simple truth is that seminary can and ought to be a place of genuine discovery. Questions about church life, even though they might make us uncomfortable, can and must be asked.  At the same time, let’s realize that the main purpose of a seminary education is to acquire the tools necessary for self-study, realizing that all learning is ultimately self-learning. A SEBTS Ph.D. grad recently published his dissertation in which he argued against tithing as a New Testament requirement, and a current Ph.D. student is re-examining the question of why the church assembles. But having said that, it remains true that no amount of formal biblical education can ever bring us to a mature understanding of Scripture for the simple reason that education involves more than the intellect. God the Holy Spirit must do His work in our lives. The Good Shepherd alone can lead His sheep into truth. Are you off course? Allow God, through the Scriptures, to make you receptive to truths you may have previously rejected.

In the meantime, let’s not forget that as Christians we are wonderfully bound to each other in a fellowship that goes far beyond the mere sharing of convictions about ecclesiology. It is a supernatural and spiritual reality of Christ-like love and mutual burden-bearing. Only when we learn to experience that kind of love will the world stand up and take notice that we are truly followers of the Prince of Peace.

(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission. David Alan Black is author of Energion titles The Jesus Paradigm, Christian Archy, and Why Four Gospels?.)