Widening Gap between Christian Academia and the Church
It is believed that there is a widening gap between Christian academia and the church. I believe there is some validity to this assumption. While we can point out several reasons for this gap, in my opinion there are two major reasons for this gap between the Christian academia and the Church. The modern day theological institutions have slowly come to conform to the secular ideologies of public universities and focus on scholarly pursuit. Secondly there is a lack of trust between the church and the academia. There was a time when there was no gap between the two as the church was the primary institution for education and intellectual training. And there was no gap at this time because there was no academy. Later on the academic institutions started dominating intellectual training and educational endeavors. However, the goal of academic institutions is not always immediately congruent with pastoral concerns of the church community resulting in a widening gap between the Christian academia and the church.
As mentioned above, the primary reason for this widening gap between the Christian academia and the church in my opinion is that the academic institutions have a greater emphasis on scholarly pursuits rather than serving the needs of the church community as well as a tendency to conform to the secular ideologies of public institutions. While it is true that theological scholarship may not have a place in everyday life of church community, the academia does not encourage theologians and seminarians to come out of the academic circles and invest their time and effort to serve the church community from the vantage point of their academic scholarship. They don’t view the church leaders scholarly enough to be engaged in theological dialogue for the benefit of everyday believers. This problem is exasperated by the fact that church leaders and pastors tend to look at seminary courses as irrelevant to the type of ministry they feel they are called to do.
Secondly church community views the academia with skepticism. Church community does not trust the academia’s commitment to orthodox ideologies and the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith and views them in a somewhat negative light. For example, the church in general, believes in the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures, meaning that the message and every word written down were divinely chosen. This interpretation is based on 2 Timothy 3:16 which states that “all scripture is God breathed” and 1 Corinthians 2:13 which states that “not in the words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Ghost teaches comparing spiritual things with spiritual”. Most of the academic institutions take exceptions to this literal interpretation. The church views the academia denying the inspiration of the scripture and thereby the power of it. Moreover, church leaders do not perceive intellectual pursuit serving pastoral concerns of the everyday believers; therefore they tend to discount the academia.
I believe there is always going to be a gap between the Christian academia and the church because the role of the church and the academia are not necessarily the same. Each has their own role in building God’s kingdom on this earth. Seminarians and theologians can add an element of theological thoroughness and accountability to worship and the teaching of the word of God in the church. And the church should encourage the interaction between the academia and the church and try to benefit from the intellectual scholarship of the academia. And the Christian academia should embrace the idea that the primary reason for their existence is to build up the believers and therefore, partner and co laborer with the church in building the kingdom of God and reaching the nations with the Gospel. There is going to be some gap between the academia and the church according to the mission of each institution and we should be willing to embrace it and not resist it.
Abraham Mathew, Founder at India Gospel Mission – SALI
India Gospel Mission – SALI is to train and equip Christian leaders and reach unreached people groups in India through leadership training, conferences, and village outreach.