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About jonbirch

animator, illustrator, character designer, graphic designer. music producer/recording musician. co-owner of PROOST. proost.co.uk
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51 Responses to 640

  1. jody says:

    do i get to be the first commenter, do i, do i?

    fab – good cartoon jon, i really really hope i’m not like this. but y’know, i’ve often had it the other way around too – the idea that theological education is somehow a bit ‘dirty’ and probably has ruined my faith is quite prolific in some circles……..
    :-) jody

  2. jonbirch says:

    jody… i’ve never thought of you like this… you’re right, the inverted snobbery is equally alive and well. i love theological debate… i hope that comes over. :-)

  3. Gene says:

    My pastor and I refer to it as “seminarian’s disease”. It’s common in still wet-behind-the-ears, fresh-from-seminary types, but alas, they don’t always grow out of it.

  4. becky says:

    Gene – said disease turns into a bloody epidemic thanks to the traveling author/speaker roadshow where the dude is on display for all to partake of his wisdom.

    I also experienced that anti-seminary feeling — I even had fellow grad students at yale ask me why I didn’t go to a “Christian” divinity school. i kid you not.

  5. Mike says:

    Hi there Jon,

    Long time reader, first time poster. I can appreciate the sentiment of this cartoon. I’m a third year student at a seminary in New Zealand, completing my Bachelor of Theology at the end of this year, all going well. I’ve found that i sometimes have erred in a way that is very similar to the person in your cartoon, and i never like it when i have.

    However, as some have already observed, the opposite is a very real problem also. Especially in New Zealand. For those who live in the UK you are very lucky to have, from what i’ve observed, at least in part, a culture that values learning and intellection. You have prestigious universities like Cambridge and Oxford, and even within Christian circles you have such figures like N. T. Wright. In my New Zealand culture it is not so normal. Within the church scene here it is not so readily accepted to approach your faith in an intellectual way.

    I’m lucky enough to attend a church where the teaching pastor is also the dean of my college, and so it less of an issue.

    Anyway, thank you for the many chuckles you have given me over the years. Hope there is more to come.

  6. Pat says:

    Jody – me too :(

  7. TyTe says:

    he he – as a clergy person, I get to go to installations of new vicars around the place. On such occasions it is the custom that visiting clergy wear their academic hoods. On one occasion, a rather haughty clergyman asked me why I wasn’t wearing my academic hood. I feigned a sigh and replied that I had degrees coming out of my ears and wouldn’t know which one to wear. You should have seen his face! LOL

  8. robert says:

    this is great and spot on.

  9. Pingback: Robert’s Blog » Blog Archive » i think i know this guy

  10. Caroline Too says:

    hmm, I better be careful here; last time we travelled round the ‘telling people what I know’
    routine, I lost you a reader, Jon…

    I love scholarship. If TV saved your life (#631), Jon, then scholarship, research and academic
    reading has added such a richness to my life. Yes, it’s hard work at times wrestling with difficult
    writing (and that’s just my own!) :-) but

    I’ve just found in some of these difficult books ideas of such richness that they’ve got me
    exploring new ways of being and hoping and living. so, so exciting

    Now, my academic area is not theology and there are sometimes when I find it so frustrating that
    I can’t bring to my biblical studies the same rich sophistication that I have in my
    own field of study.

    So, vive le theoogical college, may God bless her and all who ‘sail’ in her.

    Now, about the need to talk about it all……..

  11. Pingback: Beware the seminary graduate : Sic et Non

  12. Pat says:

    Caroline Too – me too :D

  13. Pat says:

    btw Jon, theological education doesn’t automatically lead to a loss of the lower teeth :lol:

  14. i know so many of these people that I it’s not even funny to me… I just wanna punch that guy in the face.

  15. wezlo says:

    Yes, I’ve met people who like being THE PASTOR – so I understand the cartoon.

    Frankly, that’s not the major issue among Christians in the West. The major issue is a fundamentalist poison that tells people theological learning (or higher learning in general) is somehow “bad.” This makes a lot of otherwise intelligent pastors act stupid, elevates stupid pastors into positions where they act like the guy in the cartoon, and leaves uninformed people feeling like they can pass judgment on informed people (of any calling) without putting in an effort to become informed themselves.

    So, while I’ve even experienced the cartoon pictured above – it’s misses the nuance of what’s actually going on.

  16. jonbirch says:

    pat @ 13… maybe a theological education removes all your teeth if christine gill @ 14 gets anywhere near him. :lol:

    wezlo… so, i’ve got the point and missed the point? how very like me. :-) you’re right, the cartoon presents less than half of the story i’m sure. but much like many others of my cartoons, as soon as i read the comments a fuller picture emerges… there’s no end to how many cartoons can be done. ;-) your point re. fundamentalist poison is one i agree with. i’ve done cartoons on that before… must do some more. :-)

  17. dennis says:

    I suppose you can take the cartoon as you like but as someone who didn’t mix well with education I think its all a load of ____ really.

    As long as you have learned stuff and put it into practice then education is POWERFUL but if you learn stuff and do nothing with it then equally as dangerous to your head and you end up looking like a div!

    I find it difficult when those who put letters after their names, I mean I know you spent years working towards it but its not really necessary is it.

    I got so pissed off once in a meeting where we were discussing this very subject I blurted out “I have F.A after my name” and everyone fell about laughing? It took me while to realise, the FA I was referring to was not f___K all but First Aid!

  18. Kim says:

    My immediate reaction to him is “yeah yeah, get out of the classroom and do it and then we’ll see”.

  19. Robb says:

    Do I still stand accused if I didn’t go to the ceremony or have my photo taken or own an academic hood*?

    *Although now I think I should having read through this…

  20. Carole says:

    Nice one, Dennis! :lol:
    One of the best things about ASBO is that we have a lot of well-educated people who comment here and I learn lots of stuff I didn’t know before. And they have humour and sensitivity into the bargain. What I equally love is that there are a lot of people like me, who keep up the whole thing grounded.

    But really, I wouldn’t condemn people who go on about their specialism…these things are often all-consuming and difficult to put down. It shows a certain passion and I like to see people who are passionate, whether it is about Byzantine art, philosophy, food, football, steam engines or whatever…so much better than a complete lack of interest. I have, absolutely, felt that kind of passion on occasions. I just think it is sad when you get to the stage where you lose the capacity to listen to someone else’s point of view, particularly when what they have to say is a valid perspective on the ‘problem’.

  21. darrin says:

    Nice one, Carole!

    I too love people who have an intimate knowledge of their subject. I espcecially love people who can distill that information in an understandable/learnable/passionate way (think something like Dead Poets Society)

    Asbo has taken me on some flights of fancy (like that hippo)…a google here a google there after someone has commented on something

  22. Eric says:

    I’m often feeling like telling people (in the Christian world) lots about my favourite topics, even though I haven’t had theological education. There’s a time for sharing your knowledge and a time for shutting up and listening and I usually need others to tell me what time it is!

    Eric Love – B.Sc. (Ma. & Comp.Sc.) :)

  23. Rockingrev says:

    There is so much to this cartoon. It is a grat one Jon. There is the anti-intellectual lobby who keep harping on about the simple gospel and who do not like to be challenged in any way and then there are those who spend so much time in their studies that they are detached from where people really are. The trouble with ministers such as the one in the cartoon is that they often get called to the presitgious churches where their preaching could have smoe real effect on society but they get called there because the people are so pompous they think someone must be good because they don’t understand them. They go laong week in/week out, get nothing out of the sermon but it was very good because they could not understand it! I remember a bit of graiffiti that was in New College which had Jesus asking his disciples who they were and they replied:- You are the eschatological ground of our being in which we find the true meaning of our interpersonal relationships!” And Jesus said, “What?”

  24. subo says:

    just love this one, it catches all those moments of ear-bashing.

    am working really hard at the moment to connect, as I find it easy to loose myself in abstract stuff. Morning Bell’s proved a great little number, you get something interesting to reflect on every weekday. ian@maybe.org.uk

    and, spot on Carol: “when you get to the stage where you lose the capacity to listen to someone else’s point of view,”, have to admit i do it sometimes

  25. ED... says:

    Yeah – a lot of people know just enough to make them dangerous. Thank goodness *we’re* not like that.

  26. Robb says:

    I’ll get all yorkshire for a minute…

    There’s them that know and then that don’t know and them that don’t know that they don’t know…

  27. subo says:


    unknown incompetence – a smug cosy place to be

    known incompetence – an uncomfortable place

    unknown competence – and unsettling place

    known competence – a plain scary, and bounteously fruitful place

  28. jonbirch says:

    west country.
    tharz them wot knowz and them wot doesn’t knowz and them wot doesn’t knowz they doesn’t knowz. :-)

    “You are the eschatological ground of our being in which we find the true meaning of our interpersonal relationships!”… brilliant rockingrev… shame it’s been done… would have made a great asbo. :-)

  29. Caroline Too says:

    I wonder if the trouble is with the word ‘know’

    If I know something then that’s that really, nothing else to be said,

    and the trouble is

    that currently we really only value that kind of learning that
    results in someone knowing about something.

    now, what might a learning (or we could call it discipleship) that
    wasn’t centred on knowing about look like?

    Paul’s letter to the Colossians might be an interesting place to
    start that kind of learning…

  30. Will says:

    thank you

  31. becky says:

    There’s also the intellectual disconnect between what happens in the academy and on the ground – I’m thinking of a few emergent church leaders with PhDs whose presentations during their author/speaking tours often bear little resemblance to what’s going on in the ground. My favorite are those who talk about love, inclusion etc. and then form this clique to keep others out.

  32. Caroline Too says:

    hmmm, becky

    I fear I’m about to step on some bruises, I’ll try not to…

    but are you implying that these guys intend to create
    exclusive cligues?

    I very much doubt it

    that being the case, then we have an altogether different problem,
    ie that our ongoing celebration of ‘talk’ as being a dominant mode
    of learning, will almost always result in the exclusion of some
    people who don’t share identical values and ways or talking.

  33. rebecca says:

    Subo (#27) if this is intended to be a progression, I’m not sure that order always applies. Unknown competence often comes after known competence — if, for example, you’re learning to drive a car, you eventually learn to drive by instinct so you don’t have to think all the time about which foot to press down etc — that is the unknown competence stage. And it can be scary.

  34. PatrickO says:

    Jon et al,

    As I’m sure you know, the word important comes from the Latin importare, which means “to matter”. The need for education (Gk. παιδαγωγέω, literally “to lead a child”) is instilled by such verses as Paul’s autobiographical note in Acts 22:1ff. Yet, those who are pushed to education on one side, feel the postmodern contempt for metanarratives on the other side, such as that there can be a supposed higher learning at all, from which others must learn.

    So, such people are caught in the Freudian trap of id and superego, their passions to matter subdued by their seeking to adhere to societal standards results in ego driven balance of unsolicited intellectualism that, more often than not, deepens the alienation rather than brings the subject into the community he so deeply desires.

    Fortunately, I got through seminary without becoming afflicted by this pernicious habitus.

  35. Caroline Too says:

    Phew, thank goodness for that Patrick

  36. jody says:

    #34 :lol :lol:

  37. Kim says:

    I think that may well be the final word on the matter…….?? :lol:

  38. subo says:

    hi rebecca, (33) “to drive by instinct”, lets do it, it’s the freedom of engaging with your bodily experience of driving, which is driving – out there, for which the books of scary stories were a taster

    who knows what might happen, guess the more trust you have the more driving you can do?

    (“Ruthless Trust” by Brennan Manning)

  39. becky says:

    32. Carole – not bruised one bit.

    Here’s an example of what I am referencing – I admit I went a bit too snarky here but this is a “worship” conference and yet what I’m seeing is all head and no heart.

    I leave judging one’s intentions up to God, as I have no clue what’s in one’s heart. All I can do is look at the fruit knowing full well that sometimes my own fruit is a bit wormy.

  40. beatthedrum says:

    I dont have a problem with someone bringing their knowledge to bear providing –

    1. Its to help and instruct
    2. Is not belittling someone else
    3. Is not being rammed down your thoat
    4. Is practical and has a point.

    Otherwise shut up!!

    I have also noted that often theolgical degree people, lose their ‘spark’ for Jesus and are more interested in the Word that the person the word is about.

    Strange but true

  41. Robb says:

    Aha – Father Son and Holy Scripture!

  42. beatthedrum says:

    Your point being Robb?

    I have found that there are few Scripture and Spirit people, but that is starting to change now.

    There are many people who are now both, the issue is when one neglected and the other is raised up too high.

    Scripture is the word of God but is often missued, The Holy Spirit is God and is often miss interpreted or substitued for experiences

    I hope that makes sence, sometimes i do but often i dont!


  43. Robb says:

    My point being “that often theolgical degree people, lose their ’spark’ for Jesus and are more interested in the Word that the person the word is about.”

  44. beatthedrum says:

    Ah ok Robb, sorry if i sounded a bit abrupt

  45. Robb says:

    No problemo ;)

  46. becky says:

    Robb – I definitely can relate. What I found frustrating out of the material that I found at the conference I related is that I presume that these academics had some connection to the divine but I wonder about their relationship to Jesus.

    Brevard Childs was my Old Testament Professor and it was clear in how he presented the material that even though he was an internationally known scholar, he lived and breathed this material.

    Henri Nouwen is another example of an academic who conveyed that spark.

  47. Robb says:

    I think sometimes we confuse academic with “ivory tower”. We also sometimes confuse “real life” as having no academic basis.

    I personally prefer my OT lecturer who always said “that is a question” when someone flew round in circles and up their own bum. His other well used question was “so what?”. Which would usually elicit a blank stare and then be followed up with “. So what? Why is it important? What are you going to tell people in parish about this and why would you bother? How are you going to live your life differently?…… Or is it just a nice story to tell people on a Sunday morning?”

  48. Robb says:

    WordPress pinched my brackets!! it should read:

    “[some long winded and very academic way of summing up what the pretencious person had said only with longer words]. So what? Why is it important? What are you going to tell people in parish about this and why would you bother? How are you going to live your life differently?…… Or is it just a nice story to tell people on a Sunday morning

  49. becky says:

    Rob – agreed. I am often dismissed by academics because I only have an MDiv/MSW despite the fact that I am pretty well read.

    One thing that’s interesting to note is the amount of crap Jesus took from the Pharisees because he chose to speak in common Aramaic instead of the more scholarly Hebrew – being the Son of God, he possessed all knowledge. But he knew how to disseminate what he knew so that it could be comprehended by those with ears to hear.

  50. Liz says:

    Am I the only person that get ‘Eh? What’s theology?’ when I tell people what I studied at university?

    I then have to spend some time explaining what it is, what I studied and how I came about to be studying in a secular college… so don’t get to tell people that a lot of money was spent on my education!

    My lecturers were wonderful… maybe, just maybe, I didn’t spend enough time listening to them…

    You’ve definitely got to watch out for sociologists… they’ve got a high opinion of their education ;)

  51. rebecca says:

    I heard a Bible reading at the weekend which made me think of this cartoon: “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” 1 Corinthians 8 verse 1.

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