True Scholarship

We are
bombarded today with the opinions of self-styled scholars. However, not
everything that calls itself scholarship is worthy of all acceptation.
Neither is everything that pridefully poses as intellectualism to be
swallowed. The Gnostics presented themselves as “the knowing ones,” men
who had superior knowledge. Yet the Apostle John told the believers
that they did not need that kind of teacher. Scholarship without
spirituality can be a curse (1 Cor. 1:19-21, 26-29; Col. 2:8; 1
Tim. 6:20-21). Combined with spirituality, it can be of untold value.

don’t need the kind of scholarship that twists and distorts the
Scriptures until, as Spurgeon said, there is not enough left to make
soup for a sick grasshopper. For example, we don’t need the “experts”
to tell us that the Bible contains the word of God or becomes the Word
of God in personal experience but is not itself the Word of God. We can
do without the perverting of the Bible that teaches that the primary
meaning of baptism is immersion, but that the word is never used in its
primary sense in the New Testament. Or the finagling of God’s Word to
teach that there is no difference between men and women as far as roles
in the church and home are concerned. Or the nonsensical definition of
headship as self-giving love and service within the relationship of
mutual submission. Or that it does not really matter if Jesus actually
rose from the dead; it’s the Easter faith that is important. Or that
there was a time in the life of Jesus when He did not know that He was
the Messiah. As George Orwell said in a different context, “One has to
belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary
man could be such a fool.” Time magazine added, “He had glimpsed
something in ordinary folks that has endured in this difficult world.
It is called wisdom.”1

We should not blindly follow a man just
because he is reputed to be a scholar. He may begin well, writing books
defending the verbal, plenary inspiration of the Scriptures. Yet in
order to be accepted by the intelligentsia, he may start making
compromises and speak in tones of doubts and denial. All men and all
their teachings must be constantly tested by the sacred Scriptures.

who would be scholars face the danger of pride of position. William
Kelly writes: “There are no men less to be trusted than mere scholars,
because, being scholars, they are naturally apt to be proud of their
scholarship; and whatever we are proud of is the very thing in which
God will humble us. Here is the mistake that Christians often make.
They very often overvalue the knowledge of a little Greek or less
Hebrew. Depend upon it, that to know the English Bible well is far
better than to know somewhat of Greek or Hebrew; and I have rarely
found that knowing a little of these languages has any other effect
ordinarily than to give a good deal of conceit. It enables persons, of
course, to talk about knotty points, especially to those who do not
understand them; but I do not think that it is profitable for either

In another place he says, “The assumption that
because a man is a profound scholar, he is a safe expositor of
Scripture, is a grave mistake.”3 And Vance Havner wrote, “Head
knowledge is useful, but unless it is sanctified by the Holy Spirit, it
can be the most dangerous thing in the world.”4 When will seminaries
and Bible colleges learn that deep piety combined with the ability to
teach the Word in a life-changing way is more important than advanced
degrees that satisfy an accrediting agency?

When will we learn
that God characteristically passes by the great people of the world and
uses nobodies; “While Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, the word of
the Lord came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness” (Luke
3:2). Havner expressed it well: “God does not always send His prophets
through the conventional assembly line lest they come out wearing a
stamp that does not become them. Fig pinching seems poor preparation
for Amos, and Amaziah may view him with scorn. Micaiah was the odd
number after four hundred false prophets bade Ahab and Jehoshaphat go
up against Ramoth-gilead and prosper. The world hates the
four-hundred-and-first prophets, as Joseph Parker said long ago. God’s
hand often passes up the wise, mighty and noble for a Moody or a Billy
Sunday . . . without benefit of theological training.”5

Jowett said of Moody, “His excellency was in an earthen vessel, and
many doctors of divinity have wondered at the strange association.
There were thousands of speakers more eloquent than Moody, but the
treasure was not there in overwhelming glory. Moody may have been
uneducated, untutored, and unskilled in public speaking, but when he
spoke, the power of an unseen world seemed to fall upon the audience.”6

Foster wrote in somewhat similar vein: “We think the position
guarantees the power. Give someone a Ph.D., a professorship, and then
he or she will be able to teach! But we all know people with Ph.D.’s
and professorships who cannot teach worth a lick. The position does not
guarantee that the power is there . . . . To the eye of faith,
positions in the human order themselves are really powerless, ignorant
of the way of God and the life of spiritual power. Throughout the Book
of Acts, we see repeatedly the clash between powerless officials and
official-less power. The authority of Peter, John, and the others was
shocking to everyone because they had no human credentials of
authority. They had no degrees, no titles of distinctions, no human
authorization. Since their ability (power) came from God, human
authorization was irrelevant.”7

A. T. Robertson adds his
testimony: “It must not be forgotten that Jesus chose His apostles from
the unschooled fishermen and artisans of Galilee save Judas the Judean.
He passed by the rabbinical theological seminaries where religious
impulse had died and thought had crystallized.”8

before his death, A. W. Tozer wrote of the threat to the evangelical
world from men who pose as scholars: “In the Western world the enemy
has forsworn violence. No more does he come at us with sword or stick,
but he now comes smiling, bearing gifts. He raises his eyes to heaven
and swears that he too believes in the faith of our fathers, but his
real purpose is to destroy that faith, or at least modify it to such an
extent that it is no longer the supernatural thing it once was. He
comes in the name of philosophy or psychology or anthropology, and with
sweet reasonableness urges us to rethink our historic position and be
less rigid, more tolerant, and more broadly understanding.

speaks in the sacred jargon of academia, and many half-educated
evangelicals run to fawn on him. He tosses scholarly degrees to the
scrambling sons of the prophets, much like Rockefeller used to toss
dimes to the children of peasants. The evangelicals, who with some
justification have been accused of lacking true scholarship, now grab
for such status symbols with shining eyes. When they get them they are
scarcely able to believe their eyes. They walk about in a kind of
ecstatic disbelief, as might the soloist of the neighborhood church
choir if she were invited to sing at La Scala.”9

True scholars
do not glory in their attainments or call attention to their academic
degrees. Rather they lay all these things adoringly at the feet of the
Saviour. And they gladly acknowledge, as godly saints have always done,
that they are nothing but bondslaves of Jesus Christ who know nothing
except as they ought.


1 TIME Magazine, Nov. 19, 1984, p. 69.

2 Daniel’s Seventy Weeks, Denver: Wilson Foundation, n.d., p. 13.

3 Isaiah, Oak Park, IL.: Bible Truth Publishers, 1978, p. 210.

4 Hearts Aflame, Westwood, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1952, p. 69.

5 Lord of What’s Left, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1982, p. 19.

6 Quoted in Herald of His Coming, Feb. 1989, p.1.

7 Money, Sex and Power, San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985, pp. 215-216.

8 The Glory of the Ministry, N.Y.: Fleming H.Revell Co., 1911, p. 153.

9 Quoted in MASTERPIECE Magazine, Nov./Dec. 1990, p. 23./Dec. 1990, p. 23.