Mathematics, Medicine, and Theology

Don’t blame me for being bad at math; do blame me for being bad at theology.

When the Big Ten has fourteen teams and the Big Twelve ten, don’t blame me for being bad at math.  When 5,280 feet equals a mile in some cases and one inch equals a mile in others, don’t blame me for poor math skills.  When a baker’s dozen is not 12 but 13 and bankers’ hours are real hours, don’t blame me for being confused with basic math.  When a case of beer is 24 and a case of ammunition is 250, the guys who thought these things up are bad at math not I.

Do blame me if I’m bad at theology.  Not only blame me but call me to repentance and if necessary educate me.  If I won’t repent or can’t be educated than boot me out of the ministry faster than you’d remove a teller who can’t count, a seamstress who can’t sow, a mechanic who can’t mechanize, or a doctor who is bad at medicine.

This came to me recently when for the second time since I’ve been at this congregation one of the doctors had to take a test to retain his board certification in internal medicine.  The test was 180 questions. He studied for it for months.  It took hours to complete.  Those administering the test did everything humanly possible to make sure he was taking the test for himself and had no way to cheat. They even ordered him even to spit out his gum.  If the AMA is so concerned about who can be certified to take care of bodies, how much more should the LCMS be concerned about who can be certified to take care of souls?

Laymen should submit a resolution to the next Synodical convention stating that in order for pastors to remain theologically certified for ministry they have to pass an exam every 10 years.  This exam would be drawn up by a joint committee from the seminaries.  It could be pass/fail or graded with an 80% needed to pass. (However, if you fail the question why justification by grace for Christ’s sake through faith is the most important doctrine of the Christian religion, I for one don’t think you should pass.)

This does not seem unreasonable.  In fact, in seems downright responsible especially now that so many more men are taking the simplified path to the ministry.  The good doctor mentioned above is my age.  If he can be expected to study and to know his field, the same should be expected of me.

The LCMS has tried such things as continuing education credits, but I found those classes to be of a practical rather than a theological nature.  My doctor tells me that he finds his test focuses on too many obscure things. Ours should focus on basic theology: the six chief parts; defining the doctrine of the two natures; explaining why double predestination is wrong and why election is not in view of faith; distinguishing the three historical positions of what is the Lord’s Supper and why we receive it.  I’m quite sure our seminaries could come up with a great test.

But is there a will to do this?  There ought to be among the sheep.  You have to know as there are C-student doctors so there are C-student pastors.  It is as reasonable to expect a pastor to be theologically proficient as it is to expect a doctor to be medically.  Just don’t ask me to do math, shy away from spelling and science too, better add finance as well.


About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
This entry was posted in Missouri Megatrends. Bookmark the permalink.