Tuesday, September 06, 2005

fear God and do what he tells you

I started back to seminary today. I love to learn. I love to read. I love to write. I can spend hours dialoguing with people about politics, theology, sociology, philosophy and the likes. I need all the help I can get at bringing every thought captive to Christ and loving God with my mind.

BUT... sometimes it gets the best of me. I think that if I just read one more book and understood one more layer of theological intricacies of Trinitarian theology or learn Greek and Hebrew then I will really know God, be free from err and gosh darnit people will like me. I am a product of the modern western enlightenment world view which made a sacred cow out of education and knowledge. Knowledge and understanding are achieved through rigorous study, evaluation and testing. Once we obtain greater knowledge and insight then we will be able to master our subject, our work and our world. What do you achieve after graduate school? - a "Masters" degree. You have now mastered the subject be it the industrial engineering or the human body or teaching or music or whatever. The church has bought this idol hook line and sinker.

Like our original representatives we have perpetuated the lie that knowledge will make us like God. We believe that we can build a tower to the sky and understand God through knowledge and rigorous study of exact exegetical interpretation, historical criticism, hermenutical precession and systematic theology. Do you hear the scientific language? We believe that education will protect us from heretical teaching when the entire scripture was written by uneducated but Spirit infused men and women. We believe that knowledgeable and educated people will improve our churches, society and rule the world with justice while God chose a rural farm hand to rule of his chosen people. We believe that pastors need to be educated when Jesus chose blue-collar fisherman to plant the first church. We seem to insist that our brothers and sisters in the developing world need to be theologically trained while their church experience exponential growth and ours exponential decline. We have made the entire salvation story about the understanding of certain propositional truth statements when Jesus said follow me - I am the Truth. Paul prays for the church at Ephesus that they would know the LOVE of Christ that surpasses knowledge. Maybe our rabid insistence on education and more knowledge has become a stumbling block to an authentic encounter with the Truth and the Love that surpasses knowledge? And maybe that is impeding the mission of the church in a post: modern, western enlightenment culture? I dun't know?

As I start back to seminary I am meditating on what Solomon wrote at the end of his book, Ecclesiastes (12:11-13), this is from a non-academic translation - The Message, The words of the wise prod us to live well. They're like nails hammered home, holding life together. They are given by God, the one Shepherd. But regarding anything beyond this, dear friend, go easy. There's no end to the publishing of books, and constant study wears you out so you're no good for anything else. The last and final word is this:
Fear God.
Do what he tells you.


John said...

The Eastern Orthodox Church does not beleive theology can be done outside of the church, or even outside of worship. They see no need for classrooms and professors who teach theology, rather theology is something to be experienced through the repetition of the liturgy. And their theology is the deepest and richest out there. The only problem is that I learned this through books and in a seminary theology class!

bj woodworth said...

Which is part of our community and life expereince right now. I know God has me here for a reason I just have a deep dissatisfaction with the way things are some days and long for a fuller, more whlistic and integrated curriculum and pedigogical expereince.

terrytimm said...

i spent 3 hours at the "schoolhouse" yesterday, bj; a bit jarring to my soul. and yet i'm looking forward to walking together with you over the next year as we learn together in the context of our local communities of faith.

marlaena said...

first of all bj - i like you a lot no matter how much knowledge and education you have. you continue to fascinate me.

second, i appreciated your comments here. God calls us to know Him - but what kind of knowledge of God are we really seeking and why? i want to know God relationally and not just rationally. and this is coming from a person who loves to learn information and can store and retrieve it well (and i have an advanced degree that sits nicely in my closet).

how about we all passionately pursue a life of reckless abandonment (i've been accused of both those words and not in a good way) to following Jesus.