OPINION: Students should put biblical education, training to use

 

In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers wrote on the topic of obedience and used the 1 Samuel account of Samuel and Eli to illustrate his point. In the story, God ordered Samuel to tell some things to Eli that Samuel thought wouldn’t sit too well, but he told Eli anyway because it was the command of the Lord and he desired to be nothing but obedient.

Chambers writes, “God’s call to you may hurt your ‘Eli;’ but if you try to prevent the suffering in another life, it will prove an obstruction between your soul and God. It is at your own peril that you prevent the cutting off of the right hand or the plucking out of the eye.”

If we are commanded to rebuke or correct our brothers and sisters, yet we refuse to, that is being disobedient, it won’t advance the Kingdom of God and it will become a roadblock in our own spiritual lives. That said, this piece is an attempt to be as obedient as Samuel and to deliver some not-so-wonderful words to my Eli.

Angela Mahoney is a senior psychology major and a contributing writer for The Aviso AVW.

Over the past year and a half I have been taking in and processing the words and actions of my fellow students and I have been quite disillusioned — particularly with Bible and theology and ministry students. (Please be aware that this is not directed to all of the students in this department. There are many wonderful examples of Christ among them). Having a Bible minor means that I spend a substantial amount of time with these students and I witness their interactions with each other, with their professors and with students in other disciplines. Suffice it to say, I have been less than impressed.

When I look around my Bible classes, I should see people to look up to, not people who look down on others. Bible/theology and ministry majors are more equipped with outreach and Scriptural interpretation skills than I, as a psychology major, could hope to have upon graduation. This is not to say that I can’t cultivate those skills on my own and with a church, but students in that department are well-educated in those areas … they go to school for at least four years to be trained in ministry and theology!

Yet when I spend time with these students in our classes, I am forced to wonder if we are of the same Spirit at all. Never in four years have I seen class discussion degrade to such extremes of disrespect as I saw in a recent Bible class. What kind of example is that to someone who may not know God? What spirit are you showing? It’s certainly not in unity with the Spirit that moves in me.

In the class mentioned, a professor was addressing Paul’s command in Colossians to abstain from using obscene language. The discussion started out friendly enough, but very soon the tone escalated and many of my classmates were trying to get the professor to approve of their swearing habits. It was appalling to me that Bible and theology and ministry majors were trying to have their sin justified and rationalized. Again, please note that swearing is not the issue here; I know people fall all over the spectrum with their views on that. In this class, though, it was emphasized that it was Paul’s view that obscene and cutting language is sinful. My classmates didn’t like that one of their practices was deemed sin.

I have sin in my life, too, but you know what I call it? I call it ugly, I call it dark, I call it sin. There is no way that I would ever try to say that my sin is acceptable in the sight of God or any man. When the professor would not bend on the issue, my classmates began calling him on what they perceived to be his sin. How very “pulling the speck out of someone else’s eye” of them. At the same time, I am not surprised that my classmates assumed this position because it has become evident that they are set apart from other students on campus and even from their own professors … unfortunately, they are not set apart in a holy and Christ-reflective way as servants to this campus, but in a self-edifying and isolationist way.

“As far as attendance rates go at on-campus events, Bible/theology and ministry majors are some of the least involved people,” Bible and theology major and Student Body President Bob Book said when I asked about student participation.

He went on: “Trying to persuade these groups can be especially hard, even though I feel that simply going to events to support other students is one of the best ministries on campus, one that speaks volumes to the recipients.”

Bible/theology and ministry majors, why are you not reaching out to the people that surround you daily? Why aren’t you embracing the opportunity to share the faith that you call your own with those on campus who may not know it at all?

I urge you, fellow students, to use in all areas of your life the training you have been blessed to receive and to put your faith into action.

I have focused on Bible/theology and ministry majors here because if there is one department to which a nonbeliever, new Christian or spiritual seeker would likely look for examples of the faith, it would be the theology department. For that reason, I think it is especially necessary for those students to see what I’ve seen.

However, the argument could be made that not all Bible and theology majors are necessarily Christians, so I’ll broaden this call to all Christians at Malone. Please take these thoughts and ask yourself whether the behaviors you demonstrate in your classes (and life) line up with the fruits of the Spirit and the principles clearly outlined in Scripture, or if your behavior has become merely a routine that must change. Actively test your own thoughts, words and actions against Scripture.

If you step back and examine your daily interactions, would you say you are acting in accordance with the gentleness, self-control, patience and Christ-like love that you should be? Are you forgiving and respectful? If not, take these things to God. It is your responsibility to determine what roadblocks are keeping you from experiencing life to the fullest in the Spirit because of the redeeming nature of Christ.

I urge you, fellow students, to use in all areas of your life the training you have been blessed to receive and to put your faith into action. I urge you to check your attitudes toward your professors and toward other students on campus. And I urge you to consider with humble hearts the things that I have observed and written to you. Even though Samuel’s message to Eli was disheartening, Eli ended up accepting God’s message, saying: “It is the Lord. Let him do what seems good to him.” Please consider the things that God has put on my heart.

Angela Mahoney is a contributing writer for The Aviso AVW.

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6 Responses to “OPINION: Students should put biblical education, training to use”

  1. Angela Mahoney #

    Dr. Hollon, this piece is not intended to suggest that I expect perfection, but rather to encourage a constant checking and re-checking of attitudes, words, and actions. While I did emphasize the importance of this to the Bible and theology students, I did broaden its direction to all Christians at Malone. It is my perception that Bible/theology and ministry majors are more under a microscope than other students on campus, therefore increasing the importance to consider what fruits are being produced. James 3 addresses this, saying that those who teach (in this case, those in training to be pastors, youth pastors, worship leaders, etc.) will be judged with greater strictness than others. However the notion of leaders being called to a higher standard in no way diminishes the importance for all Christians at Malone to evaluate the outflow of our hearts and minds. Moreover, in my piece I did clarify that there are many wonderful examples of Christ among Bible/theology and ministry students. This was not meant as an attack on the department in any way, but as a firm reminder to all Christians on campus that we need to keep an eye on what we’re doing.

    It troubles me that you interpreted my tone as self-righteous, rather than pleading. Writing these thoughts down and revising them to say precisely what I meant took a lot of prayer and was a humbling experience for me. I, too, had to examine my attitudes and the fruits that my life has brought forth. I had to determine whether I have justified my sin and I had to evaluate whether I am striving to live a blemish-free life. In this reflection, I found a need for accountability and reminder of what my purpose is as a lover of Christ. In writing this piece, I was seeking to do the same for my brothers and sisters at Malone. I truly think that God put these words on my heart, and it was my responsibility to communicate them to the body of believers on campus.

    March 11, 2012 at 4:22 pm
  2. Bryan Hollon #

    Below is a slightly altered excerpt from an email message that I wrote to David Dixon regarding this opinion piece:

    I have never seen anything quite like this in terms of its sweeping generalizations about the student body of an entire department. I have no doubt that, since we have college kids in the Bible and theology major who also happen to be in the unfortunate position of being human, some of them are knuckleheads. However, the claims in this article are absolutely false regarding the majority of our students, most of whom are great kids—some of the best and most active on campus (I’ve removed names). I, for one, am honored to teach and mentor department of theology students—all of them. In my mind, this particular piece needs to be followed by an apology or at the very least some serious qualifications in light of such sweeping generalizations.

    Also the self-righteous tone of this opinion piece is surprising.
     
    Sorry to rant. I know you do good work, and I have genuine respect for you and your profession. I am just truly offended on behalf of students in the department of theology.
     

    March 3, 2012 at 12:39 pm
  3. Richard Lembke #

    I too along with Brad agree that the lively conversations such as you witnessed in class the other day happen on a pretty regular basis and for that reason, it teaches us communication skills to equip us for ministry in the future for which we are to become involved with. However, in regards to your concern for our lack of attendance in campus events, have you considered the fact that there are some of us who are already involved in full-time ministry positions which require significant time away from campus events, full time jobs for that matter? The conversations that I’ve had with most of my collegiate peers have all noted their busy schedules– some even have classes that interfere with on-campus events. It doesn’t seem that you pointed that out in your article or even attempted to survey students for that matter. Some students are also rather busy with their academic classes that they cannot budget campus events into their schedules. On that same note, some have experience with campus events, and were highly turned away from such events or are simply not comfortable being in such settings. And you also have the “married/engaged” crowd as well, with children to look out for. Please don’t be offended by my rebuttal in response to your article as I agree with most of it, but wanted to shed some light onto other aspects that were not touched up on.

    February 29, 2012 at 3:29 pm
  4. Angela Mahoney #

    Brad, I appreciate your feedback, especially from someone else who is in the class I referenced. Our point of disagreement comes from the fact that I perceived the classroom discussion in a very different light than you did. Where you saw fun and liveliness, I saw disrespect. I totally agree with you that controversial topics should not be avoided; discussing them is an important step in spiritual maturation. I do, however, believe that there are better ways to handle conversations about controversy than what happened in class. Even in that class we have had well-run and respectful discussions about other controversial topics, but several of our discussions have been characterized by disrespect.

    I didn’t intend to sound judgmental, but I very much meant this to be a form of accountability for anyone who is not living up to the call placed on his or her life. I am very passionate about this issue. Ministry and outreach should be our greatest concerns as Christians, and in order to be most effective, we need to live in a way that no one can call our words and actions into question, living holy, blameless, and above reproach.

    February 28, 2012 at 7:50 pm
  5. Stephen Nzishura #

    Angela, this article was provoking and true on all accounts. I believe our generation as a whole needs to learn how to honor our leaders.

    I was in the school of theology and I noticed the same things. I hope there is change soon.

    Thanks for sharing and I will definitely heed the call to watch that I’m bearing good fruits. A good call to Christians to step up.

    February 28, 2012 at 7:44 pm
  6. Brad Gee #

    I 100% agree that Bible and Theo majors need to start living out their faith and actually ministering to people at Malone. I am always saddened by the fact that almost no Bible Theo people attend campus events. However, being in the class described, I have to disagree with your evaluation of the class. Rather than an attempt at trying to have our “sin justified and rationalized”, we were having a lively, fun conversation with our professor about it. I think that the Bible and Theology department should be a safe place to have lively conversation about areas of controversy in the Bible and in our lives. However, it apparently is not that safe of a place, if we will be judged for our conversation with a professor in an academic setting. Controversy is bound to happen in the church, and rather than shying away from it, we should embrace it and openly discuss our differences. With no communication, we are left with frustration towards one another.

    So, having disagreed in your example, I wholly endorse your message to the Bible and Theology and Ministry majors. As I said before, I am saddened by the lack of interest in the Theology Department’s students as far as campus matters go. We ought to be a light to the campus, bringing the gospel to all corners of campus. I really hope that this article is widespread in said department. It is a good reminder of the sin of pride.

    February 28, 2012 at 3:53 pm