by George Barna and Frank Viola
“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as self-evident.” - Arthur Schopenhauer, Nineteenth-century German Philosopher p. xii
“Ambrose of Milan can be credited for the idea that the mere utterance of hoc est corpus meum supernaturally converted bread and wine into the Lord's physical body and blood. (Some scholars say that the stage-magic phrase hocus pocus comes from hoc est corpus meum.) p. 117
“One of the most influential professors in the shaping of contemporary theology was Peter Abelard (1079-1142). Abelard is partly responsible for giving us 'modern' theology. His teaching set the table and prepared the menu for scholastic philosophers like Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274).
Distinguished by Abelard, the school of Paris emerged as the model for all universities to follow. Abelard applied Aristotelian logic to revealed truth, though even he understood the tension between the two: “I do not wish to be a philosopher, if that means I contradict St. Paul; I do not with to be a disciple of Aristotle, if that means I separate myself from Christ.' He also gave the word theology the meaning it has today. (Before him, this word was only used to describe pagan beliefs.)
Taking his cue from Aristotle, Abelard mastered the pagan philosophical art of dialectic – the logical disputation of truth. He applied this art to the Scriptures. Christian theological education never recovered from Abelard's influence. Athens is still in its bloodstream. Aristotle, Abelard, and Aquinas all believed that reason was the gateway to divine truth. So from its beginnings, Western university education involved the fusion of pagan and Christian elements.
Martin Luther had it right when he said, 'What else are the universities than places for training youth in Greek glory.' Although Luther was a university man himself, his critique was aimed at the practice of teaching Aristotelian logic at the university level.
Seminarian. Seminary theology grew out of the scholastic theology that was taught in the universities. As we have seen, this theology was based on Aristotle's philosophical system. Seminary theology was dedicated to the training of professional ministers. Its goal was to produce seminary-trained religious specialists. It taught the theology – not of the early bishop, monk, or professor – but of the professionally 'qualified' minister. This is the theology that prevails in the contemporary seminary.
One of the greatest theologians of this century, Karl Barth, reacted against the idea that theological education should be relegated to an elite class of professional orators. He wrote, 'Theology is not a private reserve of theologians. It is not a private affair of professors…. Nor is it a private affair of pastors…. Theology is a matter for the church…. The term 'laity' is one of the worst in the vocabulary of religion and ought to be banished from Christian conversation.'
Concerning the seminary, we might say that Peter Abelard laid the egg and Thomas Aquinas hatched it. Aquinas had the greatest influence on contemporary theological training. In 1879, his work was endorsed by a papal bull as an authentic expression of doctrine to be studied by all students of theology. Aquinas's main thesis was that God is known through human reason. He 'preferred the intellect to the heart as the organ for arriving at truth.' Thus the more highly trained people's reason and intellect, the better they will know God. Aquinas borrowed this idea from Aristotle. And that is the underlying assumption of many – if not most – contemporary seminaries.
The teaching of the New Testament is that God is Spirit, and as such, He is known by revelation (spiritual insight) to one's human spirit. Reason and intellect can cause us to know about God. And they help us to communicate what we know. But they fall short in giving us spiritual revelation. The intellect is not the gateway for knowing the Lord deeply. Neither are the emotions. In the words of A. W. Tozer: 'Divine truth is of the nature of spirit and for that reason can be received only by spiritual revelation…. God's thoughts belong to the world of spirit, man's to the world of intellect, and while spirit can embrace intellect, the human intellect can never comprehend spirit…. Man by reason cannot know God; he can only know about God…. Man's reason is a fine instrument and useful within its field. It was given as an organ by which to know God.'
In short, extensive Bible knowledge, a high-powered intellect, and razor-sharp reasoning skills do not automatically produce spiritual men and women who know Jesus Christ profoundly and who can impart a life-giving revelation of Him to other. (This, by the way, is the bases of spiritual ministry.) As Blaise Pascal (1632-1662) once put it, 'It is the heart which percieves God, and not the reason.'” p. 204-207
“As one scholar put it, 'Whether a school was monastic, episcopal, or presbyterial, it never separated teaching from religious education, from instruction in church dogma and morals. Christianity was an intellectual religion.” As products of the Reformation, we are taught to be rationalistic (and very theoretical) in our approach to the Christian faith.” p. 209
“The Greek philosophers Plato and Socrates taught that knowledge is virtue. Good depends on the extent of one's knowledge. Hence, the teaching of knowledge is the teaching of virtue.
Herein lies the root and stem of contemporary Christian education. It is built on the Platonic idea that knowledge is the equivalent of moral character. Therein lies the great flaw.” p. 215
“One of the brothers in an organic church I was a part of brought an unbelieving friend to one of our meetings. We met in a large living room. In the meeting, every member shared his or her experience with the Lord that week. Jesus Christ was revealed, exalted, shared, declared, made known, and testified to by each member of the body. The meeting was so full of life that there were no pauses and no silence. We heard from our Lord from every member of the body in that room. The flow of the Spirit was undeniable. A common theme emerged in the gathering, though no agenda had been established for it.
As the meeting was winding down, the unbeliever fell to his knees in the middle of the living room and cried out, 'I want to be saved! I have seen God here!' This man was not prompted or asked to do this. There was no 'altar call' or 'salvation invitation.' It just happened.” p. 268