An Open Letter to Dr. Brian Mattson

Dear Dr. Mattson,

I want to challenge you on something you have written. First, let me say that I am not your enemy. I have a deep respect for anyone who can manage to graduate from Aberdeen with a PhD. Also, I found your critique of the Noah film most compelling. I myself wrote a critique of the film. I also follow a great number of Christian leaders on social media and no one found the connection between the film and Kabbalah except you.

I was entranced as I read your unfolding argument. I found myself agreeing, nodding, and ‘yes, this is it!’ out loud.

Then I read these lines:

We are dupes and fools. Would Christendom awake, please?…Henceforth, not a single seminary degree is granted unless the student demonstrates that he has read, digested, and understood Irenaeus of Lyon’s Against Heresies…I’ve got a whole different standard for Christian leaders: college and seminary professors, pastors, and Ph.Ds. If a serpent skin wrapped around the arm of a godly Bible character doesn’t set off any alarms… I don’t know what to say.

I agree that Christian leaders ought to show great discernment when endorsing films. Though I went to see it, I did not endorse it. I think it was obvious to any discerning leader that this was not going to be a Biblically accurate film.

I also agree that professional theologians, such as yourself, should have made this connection.

The troubling part was your inclusion of pastors and other Christian leaders in your rebuke.

As Christian leaders we have a basic theological education. We’ve taken intro to Greek, Hebrew, and probably two semesters of systematic theology. As pastors, theology is certainly part of our job, but we are overwhelmed with a flood of other issues about which we have not been trained.

For instance,

The legal and administrative burdens continue to grow. We spend significant time just trying to comply with new rules and regulations spewed out by our government each year. There is even a legal battle about whether or not we will get to keep our housing allowance.

We face a constant onslaught of pastoral ministry issues from having to call CPS to marital counseling. A few years ago I personally had to minister to a rape victim, a victim of adultery, a separate crumbling marriage, and the loss of a prominent church family—all in one week and we were a small church.

As pastors we found ourselves desperately fighting a great multiplicity of many needs and challenges from many different angles—most of which are not directly related to theology.

I do read theology books. I just finished reading Vanhoozer’s The Drama of Doctrine, which is heavy reading. But what I more often read—because they have direct implications to my ministry—are books on leadership, administrative and legal issues, pastoral ministry, and church growth.

Are you aware of the burnout rate of pastors? I’ve read from various sources that one half of the pastors in ministry are so discouraged that if they could afford to abandon their posts they would.

In the middle of this epic struggle, I read this:

We need to do more
We need to read more obscure theological books
Our seminary degrees are inadequate because they did not include Irenaeus’ Against Heresies.

Please understand what I am NOT saying. I am NOT saying the Christian leaders are above theological accountability. I am NOT saying that Pastors should endorse films they haven’t examined. I am NOT saying that pastors don’t have to read.

What I am arguing is that it is unfair, unrealistic, and unkind to call out pastors because they have not read the Kabbalah or Irenaeus’ Against Heresies.

Please reconsider your inclusion of ministry leaders being duped because they did not see the gnostic connections in Noah.

Thank you for insightful critique of the Noah film,

–Nathan C. Morales, Calvary BC Merced / gospelgeeks.net

 

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