Starting at the Heart: by Jacob Mentzel
Comments from readers of this blog are often better than the posts which prompt them. This morning I call our good readers' attention to two such comments from the past week, one placed just this morning by Jacob Mentzel on the Bishop N. T. Wright Again, As It Were post. Jacob hits the nail on the head in suggesting that any witness to academics must begin with the heart....
I just posted a slightly different version of this comment on the Pyromaniacs blog a few minutes ago, but I think it's relevant to this discussion too. I doubt many people who comment on here will ever understand the significance of these issues unless they set foot in the real war zones themselves.
I've been a religious studies student at Indiana University for 4 years now (I graduate in May.) I came here, a believer of only a year, from a rather weak church and jumped right into this academic rigamorole. The academy has so thoroughly burnt me out that I have neither time nor the desire to pander about in the world of higher criticism or anything associated with it.
I have fought (or tried to fight) the fight of faith here in the context of one of the most liberal universities I know of. I've attempted rather poorly (as well as ill-equipped) to engage these scholars (J.Albert Harrill, for instance) both on an academic level and on a non-academic level, and have been thoroughly trashed. I've been called a redneck, a hillbilly, a backwards neanderthal- you name it. Holding to the authority of Scripture has constantly been equated to bowing to a "sacred cow." I've watched friends and fellow believers be seduced by the intellectual environment, I've been tempted severely myself, and I've seen faith crushed under the weight of professors with fancy degrees, semi-valid arguments, and a seat of authority that they use to bully Christians. All of that to say, to engage the pagan academics in an academic way is something I've found to be a completely worthless pursuit. Every single one I've encountered has long committed their soul to the study of Scripture for one reason with one primary personal aim: To tear down its authority to justify their sin. They have no interest in hearing arguments opposed to them. They are deaf to them. To my knowledge, every professor engaged in Biblical Studies I've talked to has a troubled background with religion (and most with family) and has turned out either a flaming feminist or a homosexual with a vendetta against fundamentalist Christianity in any form it takes, with the exception of one rather liberal Roman Catholic.
The point is that if we're to engage the academic world with any kind of heart at all, the place to start is right at the heart. The woman at the well was happy to talk theology in periphery, but Jesus went straight to her adultery. In the same way, the way to engage these academics is to confront them with their sin and the root of their rebellion. Now, to be sure, I really, really believe that biblical scholarship is something that evangelicals need to be engaged in. We need to have an answer for the pagans when they attack Scripture, but the most clear reason for this in my mind has nothing to do with persuading them. They're not budging until we put our fingers on the real issue. The reason I see is for all of the lambs that are sent to the wolves every year without any ground to stand on. It has to be done with a pastoral heart, or else it is vanity. And with that in mind, with my brothers who have stumbled and fallen on account of these wolves on my heart, I say with full conviction fie on anyone who does so in such a way as to cater to the sensitivities of the academic community while lambs are being led to the slaughter. The matter is far too urgent when souls are at stake. We either believe the Word of God is what it claims to be and treat it as such, or we deny it. How can anyone, especially a man called to be a shepherd, be so careless and irresponsible? The air in there be poison- but praise God for the breath of fresh air provided by those who stand boldly and proclaim the truth unabashedly.
Posted by: Jacob Mentzel at March 25, 2006 02:34 AM