Monday, February 27, 2012

But My Pastor Said So!

I currently only read a handful of blogs (I am sure this will increase as time goes on), and they seem to start as my jumping-off point.  Yesterday, Rachel Held Evans posted her usual "Sunday Superlatives"  One of these links was deemed "Most Pastoral" and it was a post by Tim Keller called Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople

The website this came from, called "The BioLogos Forum: Science and Faith in Dialogue" is one with which I am not familiar, having only been introduced to it through this one post.  I love the idea of the dialogue between science and faith though, because I have found that too many of us Christians separate the two and act as if they are irreconcilable.  Once, in an email to members of a group to which I belonged, I stated that God and Science were not enemies, but that God created science.  The next time I  met with this group, within just a few days, I felt a somewhat chilly reception that I assume was related to that statement.

In Keller's article, I particularly liked this paragraph:
However, many Christian laypeople remain confused because the voices arguing that Biblical orthodoxy and evolution are mutually exclusive are louder and more prominent than any others. What will it take to help Christian laypeople see greater coherence between what science tells us about creation and what the Bible teaches us about it?
I look forward to reading the rest of the series, but my one hesitation comes from the last paragraph, which Rachel excerpted:
“In short, if I as a pastor want to help both believers and inquirers to relate science and faith coherently, I must read the works of scientists, exegetes, philosophers, and theologians and then interpret them for my people. Someone might counter that this is too great a burden to put on pastors, that instead they should simply refer their laypeople to the works of scholars. But if pastors are not ‘up to the job’ of distilling and understanding the writings of scholars in various disciplines, how will our laypeople do it? This is one of the things that parishioners want from their pastors. We are to be a bridge between the world of scholarship and the world of the street and the pew. I’m aware of what a burden this is. I don’t know that there has ever been a culture in which the job of the pastor has been more challenging. Nevertheless, I believe this is our calling.” 
While I agree without hesitation that pastors should be interested in and engaged in a variety of topics that affect their parishioners in multiple ways, I am hesitant to give the job as "interpreter" of these things to the pastor alone.  Each person in a congregation should be equipped and encouraged to study and explore the topics for themselves, whether it is the Bible, science, mathematics, history, art, etc.  This is especially true if there are laypeople in the congregation who are highly educated in these fields.

While laypeople may be less educated in the Bible or how to run a church or pastoral care/counseling than the pastor, that is not true in all respects.  A layperson is simply an unordained person, not an uneducated one.  And, each denomination will have its own rules and regulations as to the requirements for ordination.  As a woman, I would be able to be ordained in some denominations, but not others.  Therefore, I could be "clergy" in one and a "layperson" in another.

My hesitation in this mainly comes from my own limited experience.  I once attended a church in which the pastor, though possessing a Master's of Divinity degree, did not seem to hold education in much esteem.  This pastor was the type of person to say "we seen" or "ain't" and on multiple occasions, the sermon preparation consisted of finding a sermon online and hitting print or reading chapters from a book to constitute a "series".  It made me quite wary of trusting what a pastor has to say about the Bible, the topic in which a pastor is primarily educated, so how could I trust what a pastor says about those things in which he or she is not formally educated?

I agree wholeheartedly with the author that the job of pastor is one that is extremely challenging and I do not envy the pastors who are expected to be everything to their congregations and to be expected to have all of the answers to the questions the congregants ask.  I only hope that we can understand that a pastor, though a leader, is not one to have all the answers about everything.


Larry Lennhoff said...

Reposting from FB at author's inferred request:

I thought that one of the points of the Reformation was to allow individual access to truth without going through the mediation of a pastor. If this is true for biblical studies in which the pastor is deemed expert, homw much the more so for scientific stuides which are outside the normal range of expertise of a pastor?

Kelly said...

Yes, what you said :)

You know, I want to give him the benefit of the doubt and not assume that he necessarily meant it the way that I took it.