The other day I spent a great morning with a friend reading through some fairly weighty church history. For a couple of hours we stretched our thinking and responded with heavy hearts to an in-depth overview of medieval theology. One paragraph in particular caught my attention and my mind went back to this blog, especially in light of the Lit! review a couple of days ago.
I won’t try to give all the details here, but essentially the book was engaging a debate over the state of theological thought in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Was the fourteenth century about decline into chaos, or was it heading toward the harvest of medieval theology? And then what happened in the fifteenth century? Was it all progress and growth, or was there largely a retreat to the great masters of the thirteenth century? And our thoughts should go on to consider what really happened in the sixteenth century as well – was that all progress, or was there some significant relapses there too?
Your brain might be stretching trying figure out who was around in those centuries, but that’s not the point, here’s the sentence:
[The intellectual decline is attributed to] “the indolence of ‘easy-going scholars,’ who found it ‘so much more convenient to study one author rather than ten or twenty.'”
Ok, one more bit, then back to today:
Like war-weary Europeans who surrendered to strong-arm rule in the late fifteenth century, many argument-weary scholars appear to have given their minds passively to the intellectual giants of the past on the eve of the Reformation.
So fast forward to today. For most Christians, the preacher is the closest they typically come to a Christian scholar. But the question that sits up to be answered is fairly obvious, I think. Is my church being fed by preacher(s) who are enriched by good reading, or by preacher(s) who are “easy-going scholars?” It is, after all, so much more convenient to study one author rather than ten or twenty.
If you’ve read this site with any sort of frequency, I’m sure you’ll have noticed that my real passion is to get preachers to genuinely preach the Word (rather than just preaching from, or using, or in association with, the Word).
But I would also encourage wider reading too. Some preachers hardly read anything, and there is a “thin-ness” to their ministry. Other preachers constantly read one author, and there is a “superficial tone of emulation” in their ministry. Let’s be preachers who read, who read widely, who read quality, and who read so as not to give our minds passively to intellectual giants of the past, or the present.