An Exhortation for all Generations

One of my recent finds has been The Heidelblog (http://heidelblog.net/), which is the outlet for pastor and church historian Dr. R. Scott Clark. He teaches at Westminster Seminary California in Escondido, California.

The following link is to a quote posted by Dr. Clark on his blog:
http://heidelblog.net/2013/06/machens-warning-to-mdiv-students/#comment-186915

J. Gresham Machen founded Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) denomination in the late 1920s and early 1930s. When you read this quote from Dr. Machen, keep in mind that he penned those words in that era. The historical context of Machen’s words differs quite a bit from ours today; however, his exhortation to future pastor-scholars to stand upon Christ and his word rings true. There’s no other standard and purpose as a future shepherd. Machen’s words underscore the universal temptation facing pastor-scholars to compromise God’s truth in subtle ways, which eventually undermines the minister’s and his congregants’ profession of faith. It is the proverbial slippery slope.

Because I have been mulling over the notion of going to seminary, this quote offers both encouragement and a stern warning. Machen’s words echo my own sentiments about the high calling of pastoring in a church and teaching at a seminary. Studying God’s word is not the same thing as delving into William Shakespeare or the Greek Tragedies. I am not to study God’s word solely to accumulate knowledge. Hebrews 4:12 states the true purpose for any believer’s encounter with the word of God: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

According to the Hebrews passage, God’s word refines those who read it, who study it, and who marinate in its truths. Am I desiring seminary training for personal enrichment? There’s something deeply shallow about that angle. God’s word will uproot that shallow, heart attitude to expose it for what it really is in God’s eyes. When I encounter or interact with God’s word, I am encountering the God of heaven himself. It is useless to make a false distinction between God and his word. The two are inseparable.

Whereas humanity tends to say one thing and do another, the Lord exhibits a perfect one to one ratio between his words and actions. Humanity says to each other, “actions speak louder than words,” or “I won’t believe it unless I see it.” These statements do not apply to the Lord. The entire first chapter of Genesis illustrates that God spoke creation into existence. The Lord did not use his hands so to speak to create the world. When God speaks, it is no different than a physical action. This characteristic of God is totally foreign to the human experience. It cements the otherness of God from his creation.

Lastly, if much of what I wrote sounds like a warning, well, the encouragement comes in obedience to God and his word. He promises to shape, refine, and to bless those who take him at his word. This is the point of Hebrews 4:12. The Lord cleans his messengers from the inside out, so that nothing blocks the flow of his Spirit. In other words, minsters of God’s word serve as living examples of how God shapes and refines his servant through the power of his word and the Spirit. This is why James says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1, ESV). Needless to say, I’m doing some soul-searching as I consider seminary.

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