To any part time observer it is clear that America’s clergy corps has a good deal in common with the clergy corps of the West at the time leading up to the Reformation. At that time the clergy were stupid besotted with a incantational-superstitious theology. It is said that we get the phrase “hocus-pocus,” from the rush of the clergy of that time saying the Latin phrase during the Mass; “Hoc est corpus meum.”
Today, the clergy corps in the US is likewise at a low ebb. In this post I hope to explain some of the reason that might account for that.
1.) The clergy, generally speaking, like all others, is saturated for their first 22 years of life in a educational system that is committed to a anti-Christ agenda. In their most formative years, future clergy will learn to not think in a systematic/systemic/organic fashion, be trained instead to think compartmentally. As such those who will become clergy have little to no capacity to see the inter-connectedness of all of life. This, in turn, emasculates the ability to think through the implications of anything.
Further, because of this education, any foundational presuppositions they have will be humanist in principle since that is all they have ever absorbed. Even the way they learn to read the bible, if they are even exposed to that in their homes growing up, is going to be conditioned by a humanist world and life view. It is possible, after all, to know the bible from cover to cover and still be completely clueless as to what it is communicating. Now add that we are so far into this problem that even if they had old men as their ministers when the would be future clergy were young the odds are very small that those old ministers themselves were not also saturated in humanism.
So, the problem with our clergy today stems first and foremost from a lack of training in thinking as starting from first principles in the most formative years. People don’t realize how hard it is to change the original mapping of the mind when that mind has been trained to think one particular way in the first 22 years or so. We are training our children to think in a Revolutionary and subversive manner by putting them in sub-standard humanist schools for the most formative years of their lives (and these schools come in all varieties) and then we expect them to become clergy who can think as Christians. Here the old proverb comes to mind about trying to make silk purses out of the ears of old sows’.
So, here we have these young men who decide to become clergy and they have no capacity to think so as to trace through beginning premises. This lack of epistemological self-consciousness ensures a lack of consistency across fields of study and ensures the presence of one contradiction after another in their thought life. Again, it boils down to the fact that they just can’t think systematically.
Then, all this bad education from kindergarten through college, is expected to be washed away by three years of Seminary. Now, to be sure, if our imaginary clergy member attends a good Seminary he may be able to get a good start, but the bad news here is that most of our Seminaries are terribly compromised with Professors themselves who are merely baptized humanists. Even at the best of Seminary it is atypical to get a emphasis on Worldview thinking or inter-disciplinary studies that is approached from a Reformed/Biblical perspective.
So, three years of Seminary — even at a good Seminary (assuming they are out there) — is not enough of time to undo all the damage that has been done and re-map the mind’s ability to think conceptually and Biblically. The results, at best, are Seminary graduates who are earnest with the best of intentions but woefully unprepared for what he has been called to do.
Keep in mind that the complaint here is not so much that the future clergy have not been taught the proper “what” is their thinking. The complaint is that future clergy are not being taught how to think. The “what” does them little good if the how of their thinking is bumfuzzled.
As a result of this, the clergy are now easy prey to reinterpret Christianity through whatever grid the zeitgeist and their culture is pressing down upon them. Christianity thus is yoked to and becomes in service of an alien world and life view. The outside of the cup is clean but the inside of the cup is filthy.
2.) Denominationalism is structured in such a way that it discourages ministers from thinking. Learning to think biblically means one begins to see the problems with the current Church and its lack of Biblical Christianity. Should some young man start to insist that his fellow members of the clergy corps are not thinking biblically that young man will be immediately told to sit down and shut up. If our young minister refuses to do that and continues to press the crown rights of King Jesus upon the denominational structure he will be brought up on charges and bounced or eliminated in some other way. The modern church will do everything it can to mow down any prophetic voice that God raises up.
Harmonious with the observation about Denominations is the truth that individual congregations do the same. Individual congregations like denominations do not desire to hear from the pulpit a man who is learning to think biblically. Individual congregations are themselves filled with laymen who themselves have no capacity to think biblically and are not interested in continuing to support their minister if all of a sudden their minister starts making hamburger of the favorite cultural cows of the laity he is serving.
I understand that there are exceptions to all this. I am speaking here of what is generally true. I am not speaking of that which is universally true.
3.) Once clergy enter into their new charges they forget their study. Young clergy especially need to be pounding back great books in as many fields of study as they can. This departure from the study and the books may arise because of the demands of the congregation that have to be met. More often however, I suspect that men don’t want to do the work required and prefer the social side of being clergy (visitation, public presence at events, etc.). Spending days and days with the great minds in great books is hardly exciting to most men in the ministry. All of this is complicated by the fact that even should ministers be willing to do the hard work of putting the meat in the seat so as to read till they bleed, because of earlier observations they are going to be reading the wrong material, favoring counseling and psychology books over and above Church History, Systematic theology, Biblical Theology, Historical Theology, History, Sociology, Biblical Philosophy, Apologetics, Great Novels, Biblical Economics, Political Philosophy, Law, Worldview, Education, History of Science, Art, Polemics, etc.
Even when we find good Ministers reading good books, too often they are restricting their reading to formal theology books. The pursuit of that habit will likely lead to a minister excelling at abstractions while sucking terribly at casuistry and/or concrete application.
4.) It is likely true that throughout Church history there has been a type among the minister class who are fixated on climbing the denominational ladder to become movers and shakers. This class of individuals is forever licking their fingers and sticking it in the wind to see which way the wind is blowing before they determine what it is that they are going to say. They are more worried about their careers and status then they are just stating the unvarnished but necessary truth. If they have convictions they will seek to advance their convictions dialectically if needs be. They will become experts at triangulation and at the techniques of Machiavelli. They will develop the ability to cover all their bases in what they say or write so that it is anybody’s guess as to what their true position really is. Beware the minister who is consumed with his career.
Another aspect of this that ought to be mentioned is the “follow the money” principle. I am convinced, just by way of gut feeling, that there is a large contingency in our ministerial leadership corps in America (those reputed to be pillars in the Church) that are being paid off. The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil and my instincts are telling (quite without any hard proof) that Big Eva has a number of high flyers who are being paid off. Take that for whatever it is worth.