OK, I’ll admit I had a hidden agenda in writing today’s commentary, “The Moral Education of Physicians–Why it Matters to All of Us.” My main agenda was the column itself. The practice of medicine requires a moral education that is lost when the training of physicians is reduced to scientific knowledge. This should concern all of us — physicians and non-physicians — because doctors play such a big part in our lives, and in the culture. When doctors lose a moral compass (remember the Nazi medical experiments), human dignity is endangered.
But I also had another agenda, and that is rooted in my role as a seminary president. There are clear analogies between the training of physicians and the training of ministers. Physicians of the soul can also fall victim to training that is overly scientific in its own way. We will never apologize for demanding the very finest scholarship of both faculty and students, but we must not reduce the calling of the Christian minister to a body of cognitive knowledge.
As in the training of doctors, a solid and exemplary knowledge of the appropriate academic fields of study is absolutely necessary — just not sufficient. Ministers should also be taught by ministers, pastors by pastors, so that the congregational context of the calling is not lost in the glory of acquiring knowledge. Dr. Philip Overby is concerned that physicians who lack moral education will be found “naked on the wards.” I’m concerned that ministers who lack spiritual health and practical knowledge will be found naked in the church.