I may be revealing my current station in life, but I found this totally amazing! HT: Eric Crisp
Hey friends, here’s a link to the Graduate’s Chapel sermon I preached at ATS on Wednesday:
Let me know if you have any thoughts or criticisms. It’s the one from May 12th and is titled “This Can Only End in Tears.”
When I left the Christian security blanket of Hannibal La-Grange College for the supposed secular cesspool of the University of Missouri, I had well-intended friends who were worried about whether my faith would wane in its confidence. While I had no such worries, I without a doubt did wonder what ways I would come out the other end a different man. After all, all worthwhile education ought to transform the student in some way or another.
But although friends articulated such apprehension at my attending a secular school, I actually may have amassed more words of alarm when I departed for seminary. Indeed, I cannot even add up the amount of times I heard the axiom “seminary is cemetery.”
Such outspoken angst in both instances made me wonder if Evangelicals often just don’t have a fear of higher education – as Mark Noll more than hints at in his 1995 book “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind,” where he prophetically calls the American church out on her anti-intellectualism.
But in the end, my concern in this post is to lay those fears to rest. Yes, of course, in my education at both the University of Missouri and Asbury Theological Seminary, my life has been dramatically changed.
Being at Mizzou didn’t ruin my faith – it informed it, fleshed it out, confirmed it, and challenged it to think more deeply about the this-worldly, everyday aspects of my theology. I wouldn’t change my time there for the world. I still engage the world with some of the valuable lenses I was given as a graduate student at Mizzou.
And as a graduating seminary student, I can tell you that my seminary experience has also been anything but death for my spiritual life. Seminary has helped me see the value of orthodox theology and orthodox practice for the everyday things in life. I don’t think anyone who spends any time with me would say that seminary was cemetery for me. In a lot of ways, seminary has brought new life to my Christian walk – new life that will encourage and challenge me throughout the rest of my life.
So if anyone tells you that seminary is a cemetery for good Christians, they are either ignorant or foolish. I don’t doubt that some people have bad seminary experiences. And I don’t doubt that there are bad seminaries out there. But let’s not take the exception to the rule and apply it like it’s a universal axiom.
The Christian faith is not anti-intellectual. The Christian life is a place where, as Asbury says it, “head and heart go hand in hand.”
When was the last time Ford Motor Company tried to persuade you to purchase an F-150 through bullet-pointed pamphlets logically delineating their superiority to Chevy?
Ford’s too clever for that. They cast commercials our direction boasting of beautiful black trucks with purring engines; they seduce us with sweet scenes of slain mud pits and loyal construction workers. They don’t need logic to convert you to the kingdom of Ford, they bribe you with beautiful babes riding shot-gun while you pull a 30 ton payload.
Or when was the last time you purchased a pair of Nikes simply because the president of Nike came on TV and lectured you on their shoe’s health benefits?
They arrest our imagination with images of last-second three-pointers and impossible dunks, races won and the feeling of victory, stolen bases and the despair of defeat. They don’t need logic to convert you to the kingdom of Nike, they bribe you with, well, uh…puppets.
Great businesses have tapped into something the church has largely forgotten – people are not oriented to the goals of their kingdom through logical premises and nuanced argumentation – much less three points of alliterative kitsch. They orient us toward their marketing kingdoms before we ever think a logical thought; before our cognition kicks in we are formed by their images, sounds, smells, dreams, and tastes of “the good life.”
While the church is busy with bullet-points, power-points, and alliterative points, we’ve forgotten that it is not arguments that primarily shape people, but images, sounds, imagination, and tastes of “the good life.” Appeals to the senses, more than appeals to reason, shape human desire and form us toward a particular kind of kingdom. We, the church, need to begin exploring what this looks like and how the we can revive this understanding of human persons as embodied rather than mere thinking things. Or, to put it another way, “what would the church’s practices have to look like if they’re going to form us as the kind of people who desire something different – who desire the kingdom?” (James K. A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom. 25.)
“Phoebe, if you’re going to hit someone in the face, make sure it’s yourself yourself…..ouch!!!!!”