Today I received the following announcement from the Greystone Theological Institute, announcing another presentation in their Postgraduate Seminar Series. Let me say plainly up front that my purpose here is not to slam Greystone or to try to say that a seminar like this has no value at all. That is not my purpose. You can read the following quote from the email they sent me, and then I will tell you what my point here is. As you can guess, it has to do with abusers in the church:
On 23 October, at 10 AM (EST), Greystone is pleased to host an online-only presentation by Dr Jake Griesel (Cambridge) as part of the Greystone Online Postgraduate Seminar Series. Dr Griesel will present on “Reformed Orthodoxy in the Church of England, 1660-c. 1730.” Here is a summary of his forthcoming presentation:
“The conventional historiography has long depicted the post-Restoration Church of England as having shed itself of its earlier Reformed heritage. Historians have supposed that, after the Great Ejection of 1662, Reformed orthodoxy in England was almost entirely restricted to dissenters, whereas Arminianism became overwhelmingly dominant in the established Church before being challenged by the Calvinistic wing of the evangelical revivals of the 1730s and 40s. This presentation will challenge the foregoing narrative by considering the abiding strength of Reformed orthodoxy within the established Church between the Restoration (1660) and the dawn of the evangelical revivals (c. 1730). Particular attention will be given to how the Church’s Thirty-nine Articles and Homilies functioned as confessional authorities as post-Restoration Reformed conformists strove to preserve Reformed orthodoxy against Arminianism as the official orthodoxy of the established Church.”
The subject of Dr. Griesel’s presentation will no doubt be interesting to many. The study of church history is important and can have great value. I would probably enjoy hearing it myself.
As I looked down the rest of the schedule for upcoming presentations in this series, I could not help but notice that they are all of a very similar scholarly, academic nature for the most part presented by PhD’s. And there is a great danger in this…in the world of academia. Luke describes it as it was found by the Apostle Paul in Athens:
Acts 17:21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.
And when “something new” is heard, what then? Does anyone press on to answer the question, “so what?” The pursuit of knowledge can become an end in itself, but knowledge unapplied is, well, worthless.
Our task, our mission, given us by Christ is to take the good news of the gospel into all the world so that people living in darkness can see His Light. We are to be Light. We are to expand His kingdom so that people enslaved to the devil can be set free. And we are to expose the darkness, expose the wicked, and render justice to the downtrodden. This requires knowledge, yes. Knowledge of Christ. Knowledge of His truth. But the true knowledge of Christ is inevitably a working, doing knowledge. It is a knowledge that battles evil with the sword of the Word of God.
So let me bring my point home. Many professing Christians, many pastors, many theologians and church members, are just like those Athenian philosophers. They want a pastor in their church who has the PhD. They want to come to church, hear something new, and then go home to go about their lives as always. They want to hear lectures, not gospel preaching that calls the wicked to repent and sets the righteous free.
I have seen this thing first hand. I have seen it in annual General Assemblies of denominations where the schedule of topics primarily consists of nuances of doctrine or interesting rehearsals of church history. But when someone (like me, I did it) stands in the pulpit and talks about the wickedness of sexual predators and domestic abusers hiding in our churches, crickets. Literally dead silence. A shocked silence. “Boy, that wasn’t something we expected to hear.” And then a phone call the next week from the CEO of the denomination informing me that the recording of my “talk” was not going to be put on the denomination’s website because it was too “personal” for that. “You understand, Jeff, right?”
Yes, indeed I do understand.
And THAT is the ever present danger of academia in handling the things of the Lord. That is what Greystone and all of us had better look out for. Because in the end if all that this knowledge does is produce more discussion groups with cigars and wine in a room with a wall full of books and Pharisees who want to debate their favorite takes on religion and point to their degrees on the wall, then evil is going to remain perfectly comfortable among us.