Friday, February 25, 2005

The Tale of Ernest Christian

"Ernest Christian was converted as a high school senior. He went to college and studied computer science; but he also worked hard at his church and enjoyed effective ministry in the local Inter-Varsity group. His prayer times were warm and frequent. Despite occasional dearth, he often felt when he read his Bible as if the Lord were speaking to him directly. Still, there was so much of the Bible that he did not understand. As he began to reach the settled conviction that he should pursue full-time Christian ministry, his local congregation confirmed him in his sense of gifts and calling. Deeply aware of his limitations, he headed off to seminary with all the eagerness of a new recruit.

After Ernest has been six months at seminary, the picture is very different. Ernest is spending many hours a day memorizing Greek morphology and learning the details of the itinerary of Paul's second missionary journey. Ernest has also begun to write exegetical papers; but by the time he has finished his lexical study, his syntactical diagram, his survey of critical opinions, and his evaluation of conflicting evidence, somehow the Bible does not feel as alive to him as it once did. Ernest is troubled by this; he finds it more difficult to pray and witness than he did before he came to seminary. He is not sure why this is so: he does not sense the fault to be in the lecturers, most of whom seem to be godly, knowledgeable, and mature believers.

More time elapses. Ernest Christian may do one of several things. He may retreat into a defensive pietism that boisterously denounces the arid intellectualism he sees all around him; or he may be sucked into the vortex of a kind of intellectual commitment that squeezes out worship, prayer, witness, and meditative reading of Scripture; or he may stagger along until he is rescued by graduation and returns to the real world. But is there a better way? And are such experiences a necessary component of seminary life?"

D.A. Carson, "Exegetical Fallacies." Pg. 23.