Question: My church seems to believe that one must be a “scholar” or a “theologian” to be a pastor or a credible Christian author or Bible teacher. It even seems to be implied that those without such degrees are not competent to question what those holding theological (and now even psychological) degrees teach from the Bible. That sounds to me like elitism. What is your opinion?
Response: I must agree with you. No degree in and of itself spiritually qualifies the one to whose name it is attached. Yet that is the mentality today, to such an extent that some pastors, authors, and conference speakers are going to diploma mills to purchase (with little study) a “Dr.” to put in front of their names. Just those two letters (almost no one ever asks how or where acquired) seem to elevate the individual to a new level of biblical understanding and spiritual authority.
The Bereans certainly had no theological degrees. Yet they checked out the great Apostle Paul’s preaching against Scripture and were commended for doing so (Acts:17:11). Every Christian is both qualified and obligated to do the same with every Bible teacher and preacher, no matter how highly regarded or academically certified. No one is immune from error or correction, and that includes this writer.
Nor were the disciples “theologians” or “scholars.” Among them were fishermen, a tax gatherer, etc. The idea that those who have academic degrees from theological seminaries have thereby a monopoly on interpreting the Bible is both illogical and unscriptural. Such elitism is simply the Protestant version of Roman Catholicism’s claim that its hierarchy of bishops, cardinals and popes alone can interpret Scripture.
Christian leaders should be respected and honored. This regard, however, should not be based on degrees they may have acquired, but on the extent to which they demonstrate godly lives, biblically qualified and consistent leadership, and the teaching of sound doctrine based on their study of the Word.