Prophets In A Pickle: Theological Education And The Church -- By: Welton O. Seal, Jr.

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 06:1 (Fall 1988)
Article: Prophets In A Pickle: Theological Education And The Church
Author: Welton O. Seal, Jr.

Prophets In A Pickle:
Theological Education And The Church

Welton O. Seal, Jr.

Pastor, First Baptist Church,
North Wilksboro, North Carolina

The “Pickle”

A prophet, in the biblical sense is “a person who serves as a channel of communication between the human and divine worlds.”1 The church which would look to its ministers and its other members for a prophetic word must allow all believers the freedom to converse directly with God and to communicate the upshot of that
conversation to the church. This freedom is implied by the doctrine of the “priesthood of the believer” as it has been traditionally understood among Protestants.2 If theological educators are to be prophetic, the church must give to them also the freedom to carry on a direct, ongoing conversation with God, just as the church holds them accountable to conduct a steady dialogue with the church. Only when the coupling of freedom and accountability keeps both lines of communication open can theological educators “conmmnicate between the human and divine worlds,” discovering God’s purposes for the church through one, and through the other learning of the church’s needs and delivering to the church the challenge of God’s purposes.

Regrettably, the church sometimes seems less interested in guaranteeing freedom for theological education than in “controlling” it. At such times, the church holds its theological educators “accountable” not to be truly prophetic but to be truly “Baptistic” or “Presbyterian” or “Methodistic”—truly reflective of their denomination’s generally accepted body of beliefs and practices. When their calling compels them to be “prophetic” in a way which challenges the denominational status quo, and when at the same time their denomination expects them to be “accountable” in a way which endorses the status qua, theological educators in church-sponsored institutions find themselves “in a pickle.”

Southern Baptist Theological Educators “In a Pickle”

The present plight of Southern Baptist seminary professors is illustrative. Consider the assertion made last year by then SBC president Adrian Rogers. Speaking from his conviction that the views of the majority of Southern Baptists should dictate what is taught in the classrooms of denominationally-funded seminaries, Rogers quipped: “If we believe pickles have souls and they can’t teach it, then they shouldn’t take our money.”3 Of course, Adrian Rogers does not believe that pickles ...

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