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Monday, 14 February 2011

The Africans are at it too....

The excitiment of truth from different continents....
I love to hear how conservative evangelicals are thinking and writing around the world. (I have no similar interest in what the liberals are thinking: I could tell you what they were writing before I read them. How? Read contemporary philosophy, ethics and science, add a sprinkling of religion and hey presto, out comes liberal theology. Why waste time reading what you know? So predictable, so here today and gone tomorrow, so passe, so frankly boring. Liberal theology puts a wet finger into the air, detects the direction of the winds of modern thought and like some foolish sheep rushes off to follow).

Evangelical theology on the other hand is exciting because, rooted in the Scriptures, instead of following the world it interprets the world, fearlessly critiquing it and showing up its foolish silly idols.

A 'monumental work'
With this in mind I waited for the Africa Bible Commentary to arrive in the post. Called by Rick Warren - no less - "a monumental work" and by John Stott "a publishing landmark" I waited excitedly  to open the 1600 some pages.

On page ix were are told "All of the ABC editors are seminary professors". Oh dear, dear, dear. From page xiii onwards  the contributors are listed (70 in all - why seventy? LXX echoes? 7 times 10 numerology?). All Africans with wonderful names such as Adei, Bediako, Kosse and Semenye.......

Oh dear, here we go again...
....however, as each name is listed, what matters most in their brief CVs turns out to be their 'professional credentials' whether it be degrees or the names of the former companies for which they worked.

I thought for a moment that the Africans would run an independent course and think differently - as they do on so  many issues - and think more biblically than we Westerners. But no. What matters when writing commentary is not a man's experience in life pastoring and preaching, but his academic qualifications.

The Africans are thinking just like we westerners who think that academic qualifications matter most.

When, O When, will the Church return to Scripture and there discover that what God is looking for - and hence what we should be looking for - are spiritual qualities. What qualifies a man or woman for ministry in the Kingdom is not what letters man bestows, but what unction the Holy Spirit  bestows, not how many hours they have sat in lectures, but how many hours are spent in prayer, not in what institute they were trained, but in Whose Company they have dwelt.

In fact, a really Scriptural approach would require of us to hide our qualifications (lest pride take over) and call them what the apostle Paul called them "I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ" ('rubbish', my dear readers may be aware is NIV-polite-speak for 'dung').

On the last day Jesus will not ask anyone how many degrees they earned nor where they were earned. He will ask much more important questions, such as Did you exercise faith? How did you use the gifts I gave you? Were you humble? Did you exhibit a servant spirit? Have you been a good and faithful servant?

We're to blame you know. I notice that so many of these African Friends studied over in the West, where showing off your qualifications is a national pastime, copied by every Christian publisher.

After saying all of this, I am enjoying the new perspective of this Commentary. We haven't managed, it seems, to have completely squeezed the Africans into our mold.

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