Monday, November 2, 2015

Apples Are Not Oranges

Sometimes, those of us who call ourselves "Christian" can say some pretty dumb things.

Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it's unintentional and does not come from any deliberate desire to spread disinformation.

Most of the time, it's simply the mistake of comparing oranges to apples and discovering that (gasp!) they're not the same thing. And then blaming the apple for not being an orange, as if the apple has somehow failed -- or even worse -- deliberately deceived us.

Let's cut to the chase:

I've lost track of the number of books, articles or blogs that I've read, or preachers/teachers I've heard say it, but it goes something like this:
"God has been showing me a lot recently about (insert topic here: community, justice, intimacy with God, worship, etc.), and let me tell you, they didn't teach me that in seminary."
And the audience nods and chuckles; after all, can anything truly spiritual come from seminary?

I'm surprised that they are surprised. Were they not paying attention in class? Did they somehow become confused about the difference between seminary and the Holy Spirit?

Bible colleges & seminaries are designed to provide training in theology, skills in biblical interpretation and a variety of other disciplines, and be a time of preparation and honing for people who are already following the Spirit's leading (why else would they be there?).

The Holy Spirit has a different job description, and works in different ways within each Christian. He alone is our source of spiritual vitality and vision. He can use Bible colleges & seminaries to hone and sharpen us, of course, but they were never meant to replace Him.
(And let's be fair: Bible colleges & seminaries always challenge students about the difference between head knowledge and heart transformation.)
To borrow a more commonly known proverb: "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink". Training facilities like Bible colleges & seminaries can only lead you so far -- you have to encounter the Spirit on your own. Nobody can "make" you.

So please, let's stop belittling seminaries because they aren't the Holy Spirit. It's like blaming an apple for not being an orange.

I, for one, am grateful for my years at Providence, even if they (really, really, really) don't like the Vineyard. Terrence Tiessen (author of Who Can Be Saved?) was one among many professors I was privileged to study under.

I am also thankful for my years at Tyndale, even if they had a tendency to roll their supralapsarian eyes at non-Calvinists like yours truly. I learned a great deal and was challenged by teachers like James Beverley (author of Holy Laughter & the Toronto Blessing).

Allow me to repeat myself (I'll try not to make it habit):
Please, let's stop belittling seminaries because they aren't the Holy Spirit. It's like blaming an apple for not being an orange.

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