Today, I am starting something that I have been thinking about for a long time. At the beginning of my seminary education, I invested a considerable period of my life researching and trying to understand the undercurrent of anti-intellectualism in evangelical life (here’s an old bibliography). Shortly thereafter I wrote a little essay called “Never Mind” in which I attempted to provide an historical summary together with some contemporary analysis. Within a couple of months, I was introduced to the world of blogging, entering in with “Provocations and Pantings.” The title represents the false dichotomy of head (provocations) and heart (pantings), a product of Western thought which I hoped to reconcile. My goal was twofold: to use this blog to develop my thoughts and affections in knowing Christ, and secondly to attempt to bridge the gap between the academic high-brow’s and the everyday layperson in the pew with content that would appeal to both groups. I had become discouraged with both groups: academicians who were writing only to one another, and pop-Christianity in which anti-intellectualism had become a bragging point.
Over the course of the past year, I became more and more convinced that theological education was to take place in the context of the local church, not the seminary (you can see some of my thoughts here). While I have been incredibly blessed by what I have learned from both the seminary and the blogosphere, it is the church where theological education must find its home. Therefore, I am starting a series called “Blue Collar Theology” through which I hope to provide tangible ways for churches and leaders to become more theologically driven as well as excerpts from books, resources I find, and anything else that will assist local churches to advance the cause of theological education in their respective contexts. I had originally planned on calling this series, “To Be a Pillar of Truth: Theological Education and the Local Church,” but I thought it was too bulky. So I have settled with “Blue Collar Theology” instead.
Whether we admit it or not, theology has become relegated to “white collar Christians.” You know, seminary professors, students, and full-time vocational ministers. We have come to accept the idea that the 19 year-old Bubba who is just entering a technical college to be a plumber would never be interested in understanding the penal substitutionary atonement, or the 14 year-old daughter named Emma would be interested in Biblical womanhood, or the 67 year-old grandfather named Charles would be interested taking his extra time during retirement to take theological courses in redemptive history to be better equipped to teach his Sunday School class.
It should not be that the most theological book “blue collar Christians” read is The Purpose Driven Life or The Prayer of Jabez or anything else on the “best-seller” list at their local Christian bookstore. It should not be that their intellectual and spiritual pursuit of God be underchallenged and held in contempt as though God has not provided them the means and motivation for doing so. It should not be that provision for theological education be made only for those who are in full-time ministry. While I am in no way seeking to diminish the efforts or successes of seminary education, they were never intended to replace theological education in the local church, and it is there that I want to focus my time and attention.
So as I think about in the future weeks and months, I ask that you join me in thinking about theological education in the local church–answering the questions of “why,” “how,” and “so what,” fueling the much-needed discussion, and offering helps and resources for pastors and church members.