First-World Theology, Third-World Reality

Despite my jitters, I feel our class time went really well.

I’m teaching New Testament Survey.  The course utilizes a textbook which I find personally helpful and informative. Nevertheless, I am not sticking too closely to it, for several reasons.

First, the students will have the book available for future reference. Our time is limited and it really makes no sense to me to spend that time pouring over material they can read later whenever they wish.

But my primary motivation is this. The textbook contains lots and lots of information on the latest New Testament scholarship—the evidence for authorship of each book, various theories about its date of writing, its intended audience, the circumstances behind its writing, etc. As the saying goes, those are first-world concerns. It’s nice we have the time to debate whether Mark really wrote the Gospel According to Mark, and what the early church fathers said on the subject, and how Theologian A counters the arguments of Theologian B, but honestly …

What does a Kenyan pastor care about such things?  These aren’t theologians.  These are pastors.  Real world pastors.  Third world pastors.

More to the point, what does all this matter to the Kenyan in the pew? Or the hospital bed? Or the street?

So I’ve basically said to the class, “This is great information, and you have it available for future reference. But I want to spend our class time focusing on this question: What do you need to know that will make you a better pastor in your real-world setting?” In the same vein, I’m not giving a final written exam, but rather a final project, designed by the student and evaluated on completion by Pastor Moses, in which they put their newfound knowledge to some practical use.

Now I have to be honest, this is uncomfortable for me. I like esoterica. I like minutia. I like using (even inventing) words like esoterica and minutia. It’s so much easier, so much safer and more sanitary, than trying to figure out how to be a good pastor to the poor or how to faithfully extend the gospel to someone who is HIV positive. But this isn’t Staples, this is the Church of Jesus Christ. And in the end, I don’t want to hear, “That was easy!” but rather, “Well done.” And somehow, I just can’t imagine that Jesus will ask which theory I held about the author of Hebrews.

gkr1996 posted at 2017-10-13 Category: Kenya 2017