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Mike Pohlman Christian Blog and Commentary

The Temptations of Theological Learning

  • Mike Pohlman
    Mike serves as the senior pastor at Immanuel Bible Church in Bellingham, Washington. Mike is a former church planter in the Pacific Northwest, and served for three years as the executive producer of The Albert Mohler Program, a nationally syndicated radio show dedicated to Christianity and culture. Mike has a PhD in American church history from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mike is husband to Julia and father to four wonderful children: Samuel (12), Anna (10), John (9) and Michael (4). When not pastoring, Mike loves sports, music, and hanging out with his family.
  • 2009 Jul 30
  • Comments
Carl Trueman, professor at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has an excellent article in the latest edition of Themelios journal. While it is primarily written for theological students wondering about the merits of pursuing a Ph.D., his cautionary tale (and commendation) of higher learning is applicable to every thoughtful Christian. 


Here's Trueman's recipe for nurturing a life of the mind while avoiding the temptations that accompany theological education--and it has everything to do with the church: 


The simple way for theological students to resist both the temptation to pontificate beyond their pay grade and the temptation to pride and the moral and intellectual problems that inevitably come in its wake-fall is to find the proper context for accountability, to find their true home; and the good news is that this true home is easy to find—simply join an orthodox, gospel-believing and proclaiming church as member, submit to the elders, attend the corporate worship services, fellowship with the saints on a regular basis, get involved in the day to day work of the local body, even if it is “only” the cleaning rota (and, hey, worshipping in a dirty church quickly reveals how important that is), and pursue a disciplined life of private devotion


Here's the all-important conclusion: 


Too many theological students come unstuck not because they do not master the sophisticated intricacies of their chosen fields of specialization but rather because they failed their apprenticeships in the basics, the corporate disciplines of church attendance, submission to elders, hard work for the local body, and the individual disciplines which flow from these: private prayer and Bible reading, a crying out to God for his mercy, and a burning desire to be mastered by the Word of God. Successful theological students are never the subjects in theological study; rather they are always the objects of God’s grace. And the church is the place where they will be held accountable for these things. The church, not the seminar room, provides their only true home, their best classroom, and their best form of strenuous spiritual rest. Theological study at the highest level is a high calling indeed; but just for this very reason those who pursue it need to make especially sure that they truly are humble servants of the church.