Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Can Divinity Be Mastered?

"The minister," writes D.G. Hart,
"... does not hold authority because of special gifts... nor does the minister speak with power because he is telegenic and winsome. Rather, authority resides in the ministry because of the office of the pastor itself. The office, no matter who holds it, is authoratative." (Recovering Mother Kirk: The Case for Liturgy in the Reformed Tradition, 113.)
Crucial to a confessionalist view of the Christian faith (over against a pietist one) is the importance of the ordained ministry of Word and sacrament. The blatantly anti-egalitarian and anti-democratic nature of the confessionalist position makes it seem utterly foreign and even backward when compared to all the stuff that makes America tick (a dissimilarity that, when coupled with a healthy sense of the separation between church and state, shouldn't be a problem).

In our day, however, the idea that anyone's opinions about what God thinks about a particular issue are more trustworthy than another's is ludicrous, especially "when every Tom, Dick, and Sadie with a strong D average in high school has the right to express an opinion" (Ibid., quoting John M. Timmerman). But when we're grappling with something that's really important like, say, cancer, then all of a sudden the expert's opinion actually matters.

Is the fact that the instruction of M.D.s in white coats carries more weight than that of M.Div.s in black gowns a possible indication of where our priorities lie?

Or to put in more simply: Are our souls so much less important than our bodies that the spiritual health of the former can be diagnosed by anybody with a Bible, while the physical health of the latter requires some actual expertise?

And just what does "Master of Divinity" mean anyway?