Quality standards for Christians?
David Foster is a pastor from Nashville, Tennessee whose blog is one of many I regularly keep track of.
His blog is always an interesting read, although I don’t always agree with what he says. His blog post from yesterday is one of those times.
Go there and read it before you read the rest of this post. It’s short, posting a key quote would spoil the post, and what I say won’t make sense unless you read Foster’s article.
Since Foster was so short in what he said, I choose to be a little longer with my response 🙂
Yes, there are people who don’t know what they are talking about when it comes to matters of faith and Christianity. There are people who don’t know what they’re talking about when it comes to politics, science, et al.
That doesn’t invalidate the ones who do know what they are talking about, who do have something of value to say.
To suggest that one has to be qualified to speak about theology, faith, Christianity, et al. begs the questions: What are the qualifications? and Who gets to determine who’s qualified?
I suggest that this could be a tool used by some church leaders to silence their congregations and the general Christian public. You’re not qualified, you didn’t pay the price, you didn’t spend years at seminary, you didn’t spend years working in the mission field or at the church doing garbage jobs…
And who decides who’s qualified to speak publicly? What if the judge doesn’t like you? You could be the most qualified person on earth to speak to God’s people, but if the League of Extraordinary Pastors decide you’re not good enough, and you actually submit to their ‘authority’…
I think it’s fine and good to submit to one’s local church, and to exercise responsibility in what you say online or offline. If everyone is going to have to meet some kind of high standard to have a blog or a radio show or podcast, then only those with the most money and the best connections will be allowed to speak, which would be fine for them and bad news for the rest of us.
The fact is that even among Christians standards can be subjective.
One person would say the small church pastor, who learned the Bible through listening to J. Vernon McGee tapes and taking correspondence courses and shows through his life that God is using him to minister to those in his church is qualified.
Another would say no, he’s not, because he does not have a seminary degree and J. Vernon McGee is theologically deficient and the pastor clearly does not have a proper understanding of the doctrines of grace nor does he agree with them.
Anyway, there are so many different groups in Christianity you could never reach consensus on what the standards are anyway.
Conversely, I think Foster’s argument does raise a good point that he himself never raises: educate yourself.
Study the Bible. Read good Christian books. There’s a world of theological resources out there that are of high quality and are free. This is the best time in the history of the American church to give yourself a seminary-level education.
Educate yourself about the issues you want to talk about. Don’t go out there and spout off opinions about things you don’t know anything about. You’ll be there, but you won’t be heard. That is when guys like Foster are in the right.
Where they’re not in the right is if they apply their argument to the average person who doesn’t have a seminary degree and the right connections and hasn’t “paid the price” in the established ministry for years and years.
God may very well choose to use people like that to speak His truth to His church and the dying world it lives in. He may have been doing it all along, in fact.