The Church and the Academy

books-13I am a pastor.  I also teach as an adjunct faculty member.

I’m a student of the Bible. I’m also a student of leadership.  And I’m pursuing a Ph.D. in archaeology and Old Testament.

I live with a foot in two worlds.  And because I do, I have a perspective that I think is a little unique.

For many, many years, the church led out in academic pursuits.  Much of scholarship was written by leaders in the church over the centuries following Jesus.  But in the 19th century, with the rise of theories such as evolution and the documentary hypothesis, the church began to disengage from academic pursuits, with the result being that the academic community was no longer influenced by and impacted by followers of Jesus.  And the results were predictable.

I believe it’s time for that to change.

One day, Jesus was asked “what is the greatest commandment?”  Out of 613 laws that made up the Mosaic law, which was the greatest?

Jesus response informs today’s topic.  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” I believe that loving God with all our mind means that we have to grow intellectually, to stretch and be challenged and learn consistently.   For me, that’s a formal program of learning ending with a degree.  It’s a consistent diet of reading (and not always people I agree with!).  And it’s going and listening to people speak and lecture on a variety of topics (again, not always people I agree with!).

I want to love God with all my mind.  And I believe that as followers of Jesus, we are all called to do that.

I believe that it’s time for us to return to active involvement in the academic community.  I’m not saying all of us should be teachers or educational professionals, but I believe that all of us can contribute to the work of followers of Jesus in the academy as we are each gifted.

I’m still working out what that looks like.  I don’t have all of the answers.  But I do believe that we can no longer ignore this issue.  The next generation is watching and listening to those who teach, and if followers of Jesus don’t get involved and engage in this area, we cannot be surprised when this generation walks away from the faith.  Currently, 85% of those who grow up in church are disengaged by their 25th birthday.  I’m not ok with that.  And I believe we can do something about it.

Do you believe this is important work for the church to be involved in?  What do you see as a way the church can get involved?  How can you engage in this?