Scholars on Fire

Friday, September 4th, 2009

Have you ever read something that you knew the minute you read it, you would never forget it.  I had that experience almost thirty years ago.  I read a statement in Christianity Today which I have never forgotten.  It was a letter to the editor.  Apparently, in a previous edition of Christianity Today, an article had appeared concerning some of the liberal scholars’ latest doubts about the authority of the N.T. and the historical Jesus.  The statement which riveted my attention was found the following month on the editorial page.  Some dear saint had written in a reply to Christianity Today. He was clearly upset with all of these so-called “findings” of enlightened liberal scholarship.  In his letter to the editor he shared that he was just a simple believer.  He remarked, I don’t know any Greek or any Hebrew or any of that stuff, he exclaimed, but I know these liberal scholars are dead wrong.  And it was then that he made his riveting statement which I’ve never forgotten.  He said, and I quote, “To these scholars, I’m probably just a simple-minded fool, but I’d rather be a fool on fire, than a scholar on ice“!  I’d rather be a fool on fire for Jesus than a scholar on ice!  I think many of us can appreciate and feel his angst.  But his choice is a tough one isn’t it… a fool on fire, or a scholar on ice… it’s like being given the choice to live in Hiroshima in Aug. of 1945,  or on the Titanic’s maiden voyage in 1912.

But his statement reveals an assumption that is all too often made in Christian circles.  The idea is that devotion to God often leads to a warm heart and an empty head.  The life of the mind is suspect and we should avoid scholarship in the interest of devotion to Christ and personal salvation:   Better to be a fool on fire, than a scholar on ice.  We forget that God has called us to something greater, something which transcends these kinds of classic divides and tensions.

Brothers and sisters, welcome to Asbury Theological Seminary – where scholarship is on fire… where the life of the mind enlarges the heart… and the devoted heart helps us capture the mind of Christ.   Welcome to Asbury Theological Seminary where the phrase “the mind and heart go hand in hand” is not just a slogan, but a description of who we are.  Welcome to the world of John Wesley where sound learning and vital piety are wedded in a nuptial embrace.  Welcome to scholarship on fire!

Someday, if you earn the privilege of earning a graduate degree from Asbury, you will be a thinking, thoughtful reflective Christian, with a heart on fire for Jesus Christ!   Indeed, this rare, but blessed bond of head and heart is precisely what God has called you and me to be.  You are not being called at Asbury seminary to check your brain at the door… you are not being called to give up your devotion to Jesus.. your love of Jesus… your desire to spread the good news….  To spread scriptural holiness throughout the world….  To be educated…   You’re not being called to keep the two in balance….  We’ re not talking about balance… but a  marriage… that was Wesley’s genius… the marriage of heart of head… Having, to use his words, “hearts aflame with the love of God” and a having “the mind of Christ.”  Your intellect and your affections are knit together in a holy matrimony with Jesus Christ.  Any man who gets up and reads Thomas a Kempis’ Imitation of Christ in the morning and the Greek New Testament in the afternoon and still be at the brickyards to preach at dusk is my kind of man, how about you?

This is an excerpt from a message given by Dr. Tennent at the Fall ’09 New Student Orientation.  Click here to listen to the entire message.

Comments

  • That was such a memorable sermon! Thank you for sharing with us your memorable insights. I look forward to learning more from you and others at Asbury. My prayer for me and others at seminary now is that we will each be a scholar “with a heart on fire for Christ.”

  • Ann Lewis says:

    How true! I often find myself thinking differently than the rest of the world. On fire for Jesus means to have a different outlook on life. Asbury has helped shape my ministry giving me the permission to look outside myself to realize the needs of others. For this, I am thankful. Thank you Dr. Tennent for these fine words!

    Blessings.

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