Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A Conservative Education?

“Liberals approach education as being a matter of just exploring -- there is no right, there is no wrong, let's just look at all sides of things and try to create a tolerant open-minded person,” Owens explained. “A conservative says no. We want to teach everything that's out there. But we are going to advocate what we believe to be true.”

The above quote is directly from a Baptist Press article pertaining to the Steven Flockhart debacle at FBC West Palm Beach in Florida. Here is the link to the full article:

Pastor's Resignation Sparks Discussion of Accreditation

The quote struck me as extremely trite. I received a first rate education in seminary mainly because I was taught by a particular professor to think "theologically." The reason, in my opinion, that the professor was so succesful at it was because he did not advocate one position as true or right. He craftily led each of us to develop and learn the tools to decide the truth. He was as baptist and doctrinal as any professor there, but you could not decipher his position without work. If we strayed off doctrinal course he would deftly refocus us through questioning and challenge. He ensured our theological soundness through dialogue. He dared to allow me to drift from the truth in order to bring me back with sound apoligetic capability to defend the truth of Christ. The difficulty with the above position is that often the class is little more than instruction on what and how to believe. This creates the very shallowness that so many of the same people are speaking out against. Not only that, you end up with student after student with truth, but no ability to defend that truth, or answer the most basic question of "why?". That student has no real reason to believe that truth other than it is what he was told to believe. I am a better theologian, student, and minister because I was forced to think "theologically" for myself by this professor. Today, I continue to read theological texts that are diverse in their nature. I don't do this because I believe they are true, but to continue to hone my own theological skill and more than anything strengthen my personal faith in God.

6 Comments:

Blogger Athosxc said...

X -
I understand your point, but it seems that you are only underscoring the very quote that you called "trite". As you talk about the professor who allowed you to drift, only to bring you back, you are in essence saying that he did, in fact, teach you WHAT to believe, as well as HOW to think about what you believe. He just didn't do it in a shallow way. He did however have a particular viewpoint, and brought you around to the same viewpoint through reasoning and sound apologetics tied to doctrinal purity.

The problem I believe the pastor mentioned, is that "liberals" allow you to drift, but never bring you back. Wherever you happen to beach yourself is where you end up, and sometimes you land on islands of uncertainty and doubt, and sometimes on outright heresy.

I believe that you are right to say that we should not basically force-feed a particular viewpoint and just have our students memorize that viewpoint so they can parrot it when asked. Unless I'm mistaken, that doesn't tend to build mature Christians who are able to engage an unbelieving culture and "give a reason for the hope that [they]have". But when teaching, if one doesn't steer and guide back to the truth as your professor did, it is worse than teaching a parroted point. Now the student doesn't even SAY the right things, whether they understand them or not. Now they say incorrect things, based on a false sense of understanding.

Am I missing something here, or does that give a fair accounting of the situation?

10/27/2006  
Blogger Professor X said...

Athosxc,

Good astute catch. I will admit I ranted a bit with my post. You correct to point out that the professor taught me the "right" doctrine with his method. However, I wasn't fully clear. What made the education special was that he never advocated outwardly the doctrine. He taught me to develop sound doctrine through coaching me to think "theologically." He taught to arrive at a point through sound biblical exposition, and theological dialogue. My issue with the quote, which is very much plucked out of the middle of the passage and is eisegesis at its best, is the advocation of a particular belief that is right. This phrase opens the door to and abuse of doctrinal authority. It allows for a person to proclaim that their interpretation of something such as PPL is the "right" understanding, therefore if you do not hold to the same understanding you are wrong. That is the gist of what bothered me about the quote.

10/27/2006  
Blogger Kevin Stilley said...

So, in this post are you advocating what you think is true, or are you simply exploring the pedagogical options?

10/28/2006  
Blogger Kevin Stilley said...

Yes, that's a trick question so don't feel like it is necessary to answer.

10/29/2006  
Blogger Professor X said...

Kevin,

I believe more than anything that there has been a great loss in our seminaries from an educational standpoint. It is one thing to teach people to think, and another to tell them what to think.


Brian

10/30/2006  
Blogger Kevin Stilley said...

On what do you base that accusation. I am very curious because my experience has been just the opposite.

11/01/2006  

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