L O A D I N G

The Theological Educator as Sherpa

In 1943, C. S. Lewis gave three lectures in Durham later published in one volume as The Abolition of Man. The first of these lectures he titled “Men Without Chests,” aimed as a critique of a recent volume that argued for the subjective nature of meaning in a book for school children.The authors of that book, Lewis summarized, likely were attempting to “fortify the minds of young people against emotion.”

However, Lewis countered, the challenge of the day for young people is not restraining or starving them of emotion, but rather awakening it and directing it toward what is just and true. The authors of the children’s book, Lewis concludes, are trying to build the intellect, but carve out the heart. In the end, what they create are men with minds but no heart. Men with intellect, but without chests, and yet we “expect of them virtue and enterprise.” Herein Lewis posits his corrective, “The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts.”

For the theological educator, the task is no different. In the twenty-first century there are jungles of competing worldviews, arguments, and approaches to theological education. In as much as the theological educator attempts only to cut these down as an intellectual exercise apart from understanding how theological instruction is a matter of the heart, he is only cutting that which will grow back. The question to ask, rather, is how should the theological educator irrigate the dry hearts of his students and stir their affections to that which is just and true?

In a recent article published in Permanent Things, I give a long-form presentation on the two ways I think theological educators can answer this question: that is by serving as shepherds and sherpas. What follows is the second half of that essay.

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