The difference between church and academy

My seminary classmate Andy Byers interviewed Jason Byasee on his blog, which you should subscribe to by the way. You can read the full interview here.

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There’s a gem of a quote here that’s a good reminder for those of us whose life and ministry straddles church and academy. In the end, there’s more at stake in preaching than in academic discussion of Scripture. Granted, academic discussion often influences preachers and so the two are not totally unrelated. However, in the end there is a significant difference between the worship of the church and the work of the academy…

HR: How does your process of sermon-writing differ from the research and writing you have done for more academic purposes?

More is at stake. A sermon declares the word of God in a specific time and place, a word that judges and saves, contradicts and makes whole. Academic work also has its place in God’s purposes, but less is up for grabs. It’s second-order discourse (borrowing from Robert Jenson here): it offers reflection on scripture or church at a remove, potentially correcting or encouraging things being said in first-order discourse like sermon or church teaching. But if an academic piece gets things wrong, who cares?

One of the focuses of Andy’s writing is the pastor as a local theologian or, put differently, the pastor-theologian. I think this is critical and, by God’s grace, I hope I am able to be something like that. At the end of the day, a constituent part of valuing the idea of a local theologian will be a recovery of the congregation and the church as a locus of theological reflection.

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