At the christening of Andover Seminary in 1808, Timothy Dwight spoke of how Americans, “insisted that their property…be managed by skillful agents, their judicial causes directed by learned advocates, and their children, when sick, attended by able physicians,” yet were “satisfied to place their Religion, their souls, and their salvation, under the guidance of quackery.” (Paul Gutjahr, Charles Hodge: Guardian of American Othodoxy, p. 95)
Fast forward 200 years later and it seems like things haven’t changed too much in this area:
Quite simply, no one believes in our day that an inadequately trained priest might damage their salvation; but people do believe an inadequately trained doctor can hurt them. Thus people are much more concerned about who their doctor may be than who is their priest. That such is the case, of course, indicates that no matter how seriously we may think of ourselves as Christians we may well be living lives that betray our conviction that God matters. (Stanley Hauerwas, The State of the University: Academic Knowledges and the Knowledge of God, p. 45, HT: Edward Klink)
We rightly demand men are trained and equipped to do important work we entrust to them. Our doctors need to be qualified to diagnose and remedy our sicknesses. Our lawyers need years of schooling to rightly handle our assets and defend our rights. But do we have the same standards for our pastors? The men we entrust with the care of our own and our family’s souls? Do we see it important for our pastors to be as qualified, trained, and able to do their work as a doctor is for his?
The men who wield the scalpel for your body are important and the men who wield the sword of God’s Word for your soul (Hebrews 4:12-13) are too. Demand credentials. Quacks are dangerous.