Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Clerical Role of "Answer Man"

An interesting quote here which raises interesting questions about theological education. For what it's worth, I certainly know quite a bit more than I did when I started my theology degree, but I don't think I'm much better at coming to an opinion on a new topic than I was as a "proper" layperson. So on topics I have studied at university, I think I'm better informed than I was, but that doesn't mean I was wrong or incapable of refuting bad theology before. On topics I haven't really studied much, I don't see why my opinion now is worth more than it was two years ago.

To perpetuate the clerical role of answer man, the layman when inside the church building must act as if he has only half a brain, while outside, in the world, he is expected to be an ambassador for Christ, a lay transmitter of faith. Outside, he is to be informed and vocal; inside, he must appear ignorant and mute as a sheep. Christians have within them many questions--questions that are at once elementary and profound, questions that would ripple the water were they raised. However, because a Christian is supposed to have "answers," life's important questions are not discussed outside the church building; and, because the pastor is the educated, spiritual authority, they are not discussed inside either.
Paul G. Johnson (b.1931), Buried Alive [1968]


Iconoclast said...

After I completed mm first degree and started my research one, I found that most people in my subject area (physics)knew little more about physics than I did except in a few, very narrow areas.

I do not know much about theological degrees but I suspect after graduation, ordinands form their own little niche of theological expertise.

It seem to me that the most important qualifications a minister of the gospel needs are people and management skills which all appearto be sadly lacking in many areas of the Anglican landsscape,

Are these skills taught as a matter of course in theological colleges Custard? If so, how much weight is given to them?

Iconoclast said...

Apologies, This is the second time that I seem to have posted more than once.
I am just home for hospital today after having had a general anaesthetic to repair ruptured eardrums so I'm probably not very coherent at the moment....

John said...

I'd say the top two requirements are personal holiness and ability to teach the Bible.

As far as I know, leadership is not on the C of E required syllabus for theological colleges.

Wycliffe (somewhat ironically) was one of the first to start teaching it a couple of years ago (or maybe it was because they were acutely aware of the need for leadership skills to be taught).

I've not done any yet, but that's because I'm doing all my academic theology at the start of the course and the ministerial stuff later.

Anonymous said...

I'm not convinced. The article seems to assume that congregations take whatever their minister says as read. That's not true of a lot of Christians though, who have many disagreements with their ministers. I think it applies more to people who've always worshipped in one category of church, and (I'm less sure of this one) to people who have been brought up as Christians.

So, when you're a vicar, how do you propose to educate your congregation without them believing stuff "Because Fr Allister said so"?

John said...

Good question. I think you're right that some do and some don't - I'm attacking the culture where they do.

For my part, I'd hope I'd apply some of my insights from teaching and try to get people to articulate truth for themselves in their own words and into their own situations.

madeline bassett said...

here's the question i've always wondered about:
do you think the stars are god's daisy chain?