Recently I was asked this by a good friend.
So as I plow my way through Regent’s summer Hebrew intensive (affectionately coined “suicide Hebrew” by students) I reflect on this question again. And my answer is still unwaveringly – yes. With all the gravitas I can inflect through a blog post – yes. Can you hear it in my voice? So what’s so important that someone would subject themselves to the torture of pronominal suffixes and third declension nouns when we have just fine English translations? And what about the postmodern context? Does that change anything (I really think not but adding the word “postmodern” tends to make everything sexy, like black-rimmed glasses and facial stubble)? I think John Piper is dead-on on this one:
One of the greatest tragedies in the church today is the depreciation of the pastoral office. From seminaries to denominational headquarters, the prevalent mood and theme is managerial, organizational, and psychological. And we think thereby to heighten our professional self-esteem! Hundreds of teachers and leaders put the mastery of the Word first with their lips but by their curriculums, conferences, seminars, and personal example, show that it is not foremost.
One glaring example is the nature of the doctor of ministry programs across the country.
The theory is good: continuing education makes for better ministers. But where can you do a D.Min. in Hebrew languages and exegesis? Yet what is more important and more deeply practical for the pastoral office than advancing in Greek and Hebrew exegesis by which we mine God’s treasures?
John Piper, excerpted from
Brothers, We are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry
However you feel about Piper – he’s awfully close to the mark, no? I’ve wondered the same; where can one pursue an advanced degree for ministerial purposes that focuses on languages and exegesis? Because even after 2 years of languages, in the words of my Greek teacher after a full year of Greek: “Now you know just enough to be dangerous.”