Home > General, Theology > Quality standards for Christians?

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 πŸ™‚

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.

Categories: General, Theology
  1. Em
    July 22, 2010 at 10:36 am

    well, now dear Brian, wouldn’t you just know that i’d have a thot or two on this one? πŸ˜€
    first of all, it is very difficult for an educated (really educated) person to put up with ignorance – opinionated and otherwise – but, interestingly, that works in reverse, too…
    my late husband was very, very disciplined and educated – he was comfortable and able to handle logic in all it’s form – it was a beautiful thing to watch him interact with those of us who aren’t… the only time he’d lose patience was with arrogance on either end of the spectrum…

  2. BrianD
    July 22, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Then are you implying that if one is not really educated, one is ignorant?

  3. Em
    July 22, 2010 at 11:17 am

    nope, i was addressing Foster’s ignorant πŸ˜€ assumption that they go hand in hand, but i do understand that opinionated ignorance offends no matter what the level or type of education

  4. Em
    July 22, 2010 at 11:22 am

    aaand i should have said that i followed your directions and read his post before i read yours πŸ˜‰
    you countered his assumptions very well
    it’s a busy 3 days ahead of me and now i’m off to an appointment – let me say it again, i like your response

  5. Em
    July 22, 2010 at 11:25 am

    more clearly said, I agree with what you said, i don’t agree with Foster – now i’m late

  6. TonyP.
    July 22, 2010 at 11:45 am


    EXCELLENT!!! The first thing that guy’s post did was irritate me. WHo is he to dictate? I also agree with your point that we need to educate ourselves. I admit to lacking personally, but am correcting as we speak. Free is good!

    Peace, bro.

  7. timburns
    July 22, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Excellent article, Brian. Well done.

  8. jlo
    July 22, 2010 at 12:11 pm


    And yes we need to educate ourselves.

  9. mn10
    July 22, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    Now I’m irritated…
    There is a degree to which he’s correct.
    It is to that degree that he should be busting his pompous butt to help people…putting resources and teaching in front of them.

    He’s the same guy that bloviated about the Nashville flood…he’s way too special for me to interact with.

  10. July 22, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    I think it’s interesting to look at the original apostles. Paul was a trained, educated teacher of the law, but said that wasn’t what qualified him. We do not read about the excellent higher education of Peter, John, or the early pastors like Timothy. Some were highly educated, others were not. What was important is that they were disciples of Christ. Discipleship does require learning (which can be done in many environments), and living, and I always find it distasteful to hear teaching on God from those who are not His followers. I do think it’s a shame when people pontificate and misrepresent the scriptures, or have not even bothered to read context, but just because a few are sloppy does not mean that those who “study to show themselves approved” outside of institutions and organizations with titles should be disqualified from offering.
    Well done Brian.

  11. Another Voice
    July 22, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    My comments are not about what Foster wrote, or how he wrote it. Just springboarding here…

    1) Often the world challenges the pastor who talks about issues of science for example from a Biblical perspective with ‘You aren’t a scientist’ – yet the world doesn’t hesitate to talk about the so-called errors of the Bible despite ‘not being a theologian’ I do like to point out that double standard from time to time.

    2) We are commanded to ‘study to show ourselves approved…rightly dividing the word of truth” (as Brian points out very well)

    3) God seems to rip Job’s friends for laying a theological trip on their brother when they didn’t know what they were talking about.

    To me it comes down to whether we (as pastors) want to be humble and gracious (two things lacking in Foster’s blog entry IMO)

    I have believers point out to me details from Scripture all the time, that are new to them and they assume very new to me. Without lying (i.e. “I have never seen that”) I can still rejoice with them and excitedly share their discovery, even when it is not a discovery to me. Only a pompous jerk would say something like “You just finding that out?”

    Likewise, I can state a case of disagreement with someone who challenges a teaching, without shouting him down. For example, I can say “One reason I believe this is that the verb in Greek is in this mood and this tense…” OR….I can be a pompous jerk and say “Look, you haven’t studied Greek have you? I Have!”

    Of course, sometimes online you can only type so much – as has been shown on the PP. Michael has mentioned the idea of studying enough to have earned an opinion on theological details. I think there is something to getting to that point, when the person misrepresents the view he seeks to disagree with (i.e. the nonCalvinist debating why Calvin is wrong who has never really studied the issues in depth). But there is a difference between someone expressing their own opinion and why, no matter how little studied, and someone going out of their way to tell YOU that you don’t know what you are talking about.

    But my primary ministry is to those face to face that come to our fellowship to worship – not online message boards. I love how we are told that Priscilla and Aquilla took Apollos aside and explained things more clearly – rather than calling him out before everybody.

  12. Captain Kevin
    July 23, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    “…bloviated…” Gotta love it!

  13. BrianD
    July 23, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    Thanks for the kind words and feedback, everyone.

  14. Na'amah
    July 24, 2010 at 2:02 am

    and i think no matter how pompous or whatever Foster maybe, there is still some value in what he is stating. It does make more sense for someone who has studied to have greater knowledge of/on a topic than one who only has their opinion.

    Isn’t this one of the disqualifications of the ODM’s? They have no ‘formal’ education and still offer opinions… most of the discussions here and elsewhere in regard to theological arguments are way over my head as i have not studied or read as much as so many here πŸ™‚ i actually recall one discussion that was truely ‘Greek’ to me…literally!

    And one who has studied in any area comes to realize the more they study, the less arrogant they tend to be as their studies bring them to the realization that there is so much more they do NOT know.

  15. BrianD
    July 24, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    Thanks Na’amah…he’s right if that’s what he means…but I think he is saying that one is not qualified to speak of anything spiritual unless he/she has a) a seminary degree or b) has “paid the price” by serving for years in church.

    Convenient way to tell the rest of us to shut the heck up…very Driscollesque almost.

  16. Na'amah
    July 26, 2010 at 12:49 am

    and BrianD πŸ™‚ i think w just the limited amount of interaction between us, you KNOW how receptive i tend to be when someone directs me to ‘shut up’ πŸ˜†

  17. Saw the Light Early
    July 27, 2010 at 2:10 am

    Na’amah :and i think no matter how pompous or whatever Foster maybe, there is still some value in what he is stating. It does make more sense for someone who has studied to have greater knowledge of/on a topic than one who only has their opinion.

    And one who has studied in any area comes to realize the more they study, the less arrogant they tend to be as their studies bring them to the realization that there is so much more they do NOT know.

    There is definitely something to be said about pursuing formal education, or as some would say, “Put your money where your mouth is.” (Anyone here willing to go to a “doctor” who says he/she is well-read and has a “calling to set your broken arm, but hasn’t been to medical school? Shouldn’t we take even more care in choosing the earthly shepherds of our souls?) We can all cite individuals, both public and private historically and contemporarily, who are truly erudite that have gone the formal education route and/or have opted to be self-taught. Both schools of thought (no pun intended) have their unique merits. Perhaps a couple of caveats are appropriate here: much of the public education system (including post baccalaureate and seminary programs) have “dumbed down” their curricula and employed inflated grades in the last few decades. Don’t think so? Average US high school graduates in the 1950’s outscored college graduates post 2000. Research it. School and seminary ain’t quite what they used to be. Step beyond the microcosmic America, and evaluate other countries’ graduate institutions. It behooves all of us to be informed and well read. Now I’ll get off what you might construe as my high horse and submit to you one of my favorite paradoxes: the more I know, the more I realize I don’t know. That and Christ should ultimately keep us humble.

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