Don Miller thinks we need fewer educated people running the church.

Really?

If that was the case, we’d be left with people opining all over the place, acting like 2,000 years of church history never happened, making pseudo-intellectual claims about the impact of the printing press on Christianity, and saying things like just “be the church.”

I normally wouldn’t take the time to respond to something like this, but of all the problems with evangelicalism, and all the possible solutions, suggesting that church leaders be less like educators seems to be among the worst possible outcomes we could wish for.

Miller’s assertion that we have disagreements and denominations because the church is made up of scholars is only partially true (more on this later). But, either way, if you believe in the importance of education, disagreement is not necessarily a bad thing. If my class is having a discussion and becomes amicably divided along lines of differing opinions, I’m happy because that means they are all earnestly engaging their minds toward a common goal, even if they don’t reach the same conclusion.

Also, if we’re talking about evangelicalism, suggesting, as Miller does, that the “church in America is led by scholars,” seems way off base. I think what he means is that people who are playing the role of scholars lead the church in America. But everyone from Charles Malik to Mark Noll to me has lamented the lack of scholars in evangelicalism.

Miller wonders what the early church might have been like if, rather than fisherman and tax collectors, the disciples had been professional scholars. Well, for one thing, had they been literate I bet we’d have a lot better records of how it all went down. Would they have, as he suggests, “Talked the command into a tailspin, dissected it into a million pieces, then divided themselves into different intellectual camps, and built a bunch of schools to teach their various interpretations?

Didn’t they? Isn’t this what happened? Division didn’t happen because the printing press granted access to scripture only to scholars, it happened because humans naturally organize ourselves into groups that share commonalities. And, again, this is not an inherently bad thing.

In a footnote at the end of the piece, Miller notes that this kind of post elicits dualistic responses, and suggests instead, “We really have to stop thinking in either/or.” I agree. But then he concludes, “Let the academics go to an island and fight about the things that matter to them, and we will be united based on the things that matter to us.”

I may just be a contentious academic, but this sounds an awful lot like an either/or, Mr. Miller.

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Jonathan D. Fitzgerald

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