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Study Leave Reflections

Ministers' letters

I recently had the privilege of taking study leave.

During that time I attended two conferences. The first was for the Evangelical Theological Society and the other was for the Society of Biblical Literature.

Both societies, which are made of biblical and theological scholars as well as students and pastors, seek to foster scholarship of the Bible. Much of these conferences was listening to papers presented by people in academia regarding certain topics to do with the Bible.

As I attended both conferences a number of things struck me:

Firstly, what happens in the area of academia will eventually filter down into the churches.

A lot of these scholars are working in institutions where they are teaching and training the next generation of pastors and church workers. Or they may work in liberal arts colleges and universities where they teach students biblical studies as part of their undergraduate degrees.

This reminded me of how important theological education and its practitioners are for the church.

Secondly, the work done in the land of academia ought to be faithful to Jesus and furthering the work of the gospel. Paul reminds Timothy of the goal of not only pastoral church work but the work of biblical and theological scholars, to not promote controversial speculations but to advance God’s work (1 Timothy 1:3b).

And so it was great hearing Roy Ciampa, who serves at the Nida Institute and has written a great commentary on 1 Corinthians, present a paper encouraging his fellow scholars to produce good biblical scholarship that can be translated and useful for the church. I also attended a worship service where the preacher called on their fellow scholars to not serve their careers but to serve the church.

This means I’m very glad for institutions like Moore Theological College and Sydney Missionary Bible College in Australia, which seek to serve the church and remain faithful to the gospel. I was reminded of the need to not only pray for these institutions but to be active in supporting them. On the other hand it made me sad for similar institutions, which in part or in full are no longer faithfully serving Jesus and his church.

Thirdly, the church must not be anti-intellectual or anti-knowledge. Of course Paul warns us not to just have knowledge alone. But he also understands how important it is to have the right knowledge.

In 1 Tim 1:7, Paul will point out how there are teachers of the law who don’t know what they’re talking about. He’ll talk about the church as being the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Tim 3:14).

Regarding false teachers he’ll describe them as not knowing the truth (1 Tim 4:3). He’ll encourage Timothy to help the brothers and sisters to be nourished on the truths of the faith and to pass on good teaching (1 Tim 4:6). And in the final chapter of 1 Timothy, Paul will warn Timothy to correct those with a wrong type of knowledge.

This means we mustn’t shy away from thinking deeply about God and his gospel. Our goal is not only to refute error but to grow in our love for him.

Warmly in Christ,

Liam Shannon
(Assistant Minister)

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