The Challenge of Teaching the Faith Today

A penetrating excerpt from Adam Neder’s excellent little book, Theology as a Way of Life:

“If am right about that, then theological education is not something teachers can give students, nor is it something students can buy.  What students pay for is entrance into a context in which they might be educated, and that happens only for those courageous, assiduous, and vulnerable enough to enter the perilous process of continual reawakening that Barth describes.  But real education is as demanding for teachers as it is for students.  Responsible teaching requires honesty.  It requires teachers to clarify the dangers inherent in Christian existence and to cultivate classroom environments that suggest those difficulties.  But the costs associated with such teaching are rapidly increasing.  As educational institutions compete for students like businesses compete for customers, as university campuses are transformed into “retirement spreads for the young,” as student evaluations factor heavily in assessment and promotion decisions, and as the very idea of liberal education rapidly loses ground to utilitarian strategies for career training, teachers face extraordinary pressure to pander to students and downplay the requirements of serious education.1  And what is true in academia is likewise true in the church.  Pastors and teachers are pressed on all sides to make “everything as convenient, as comfortable and as inexpensive as possible.” 2  The pressure to sell Christianity at discount prices is intense, and Christian leaders who refuse to adjust to these conditions create very real problems for themselves.”

  • Adam Neder, Theology as a Way of Life: On Teaching and Learning the Christian Faith (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2019),110-11.
  1. Mark Edmundson, Why Teach? In Defense of a Real Education (New York: Bloomsbury, 2013), ix.
  2. Søren Kierkegaard , The Moment and Late Writings, ed. Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton: Princeton Univeristy Press, 1985) 109.

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