Friday, August 08, 2008

Response to Sandlin's De-Intellectualization Part 3

Part 1
Part 2

Sandlin response part 3

Another important thing to notice in Andrew Sandlin’s article is the latent episcopacy in his thought. Sandlin is in effect arguing for bishops despite the objection to such leaders on the surface. His article starts off commenting on a response to a book written by Carl Trueman. Trueman makes the following criticism of the book Young Restless and Reformed and the movement associated with that title.

First, there is the absence of the church at key points. Now, this criticism needs to be nuanced. All of those mentioned above are churchmen, and none would wish to see their conferences or their personalities becoming in some way substitutes for the institutional church. Yet the danger is always there whereby people become attached to the man rather than to the message or to the church. We are commanded to love the body of Christ; and our leaders are useful only to the extent that they are instrumental to that end.

Sandlin seems to agree with this attack, but feels it does not go far enough. This is when he launches into the his idea about the need for intellectuals and the lack of them in the list of people in this movement. Again note the criticism is that the leaders of this movement may draw a cult of personality rather than draw people into the body of Christ despite the fact that most of the leaders named by Trueman are by his own admission churchmen and pastors.

Sandlin gives a list of people that were leaders of the Reformed ‘Movement’ when he came into it, who were all intellectuals.

Greg Bahnsen, Donald Bloesch, Gordon Clark, John Frame, John Gerstner, J. I. Packer, R. J. Rushdoony, Francis Schaeffer, Cornelius Van Til.

Note these leaders: Bahnsen was ordained, but never a pastor a church as far as I can see. Bloesch taught at a school for his entire career (E&R and UCC if you are interested). Clark was a professor at Wheaton and Butler for most of his career. Frame is a professor for Westminster for most of his career and is currently at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando. Gerstner was a professor at Pittsburgh Theological and Knox Theological Seminaries. J. I. Packer is a professor most recently of Regent College in Canada, and never appears to have pastored a church. Francis Schaeffer was a pastor for about 10 years, but is most famous for his work at L’Abri, not his work in a pastorate. Cornelius Van Til was yet another life long professor. He taught at Princeton and Westminster Seminaries. R. J. Rushdoony is an exception as he served as a pastor and a missionary; however, he is again best known for his work as a philosopher and writer.

The point here is this. The very objection made by Trueman and expanded upon by Sandlin can be applied to Sandlin himself. Trueman warns against a cult of personality that will end up with follower of man and not followers of Christ implanted into his church. Trueman makes this critique of men who currently pastor churches like John Piper, Ligon Duncan, and Mark Driscoll. Sandlin feels the critique does not apply to the men of his generation like Bahnsen and Van Til, but why? The reason is because they are the intellectuals, and the current crop of men are not. The critique of having a personality cult does not apply to Van Til, Bahnsen, Clark, and Schaeffer because they taught other people ideas and intellectual innovative ideas (according to Sandlin), and they did not ‘shepherd’ (we have seen what Sandlin thinks of that)

I am not saying that Sandlin is against pastors or against the local church. By no means. But, I am saying that Sandlin clearly believes that the leaders of church as a whole ought to be above that. His argumentation appears that way. Here he is in his own words:

We now have in their [see the above list] stead Mark Driscoll, Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, Joshua Harris, Tim Keller, C. J. Mahaney, Albert Mohler, and R. C Sproul — popularizers and pastors and effective leaders, but not intellectuals.

Sandlin then seems to think the church is only "a virile, creative, living, world-engaging intellectual force" when it is led by intellectuals who are not pastors. What other way is there to describe this than episcopacy? He may not want the actual church hierarchy to go with it, but effectively he wants a bishopric of the Teacher of the Theology. Only under their guidance and leadership can the church then become effective. Sandlin is actively arguing that the church needs Intellectual Bishops to led the church in a direction that will make it an effective force in the world.

This is neither the time nor the place to argue presbyterian from of church government, but it is the time to point out what Sandlin argues for. He is not really against personality cults. He is just against them if the personalities are pastor popularizers.


Bud said...

Yes, I think Bahnsen was a pastor in the OPC for time in Southern California. Enjoy your articles.

C. W. Powell
New Geneva Theological Seminary

John Lofton, Recovering Republican said...

Never forget that Sandlin once wrote a long piece advocating the election as President of --- George W. Bush! Need I say more?

John Lofton, Editor,

Recovering Republican

Former columnist, "Chalcedon
Report," for 11 years.

Lee said...

Clearly I have had problems with Ssandlin's support of Compassionate Conservatism, his blind adherence to a two-party system, and his view of Muscular Liberalism or whatever he calls it. However, I do think some more needs to be said. The roots of why he does such things need to be examined so no one builds upon this faulty foundation.

Thanks for your comments!
Former reader of the Chalcedon report (now recovered)