I am deeply touched by the following message. This attitude of blatant honesty, humility and willingness to do the hard work is unspeakably encouraging. It’s such a temptation when one has broken new ground to rest on their laurels and pontificate when in fact they’ve reached a type of new beginning, where an even greater sense of awe and childlikeness should prevail.
“I have a pretty high tolerance for silliness that occurs in the name of Christianity. Everyday I let a million and one things pass by that, while vapid, vacuous, and just downright annoying, are really not worth the energy they would take to address.
What irks me, however, and what I want to strongly caution you against engaging in, is pontificating about matters you have not given sufficient thought to as though God himself has told you that your opinion is the only one that matters. Sadly, as one who served as a pastor for 11 plus years, I did much of this myself. Each time I’d catch wind of an idea being discussed that made me uncomfortable, or that (GASP) contradicted what I believed at the time, I would feel the need to publicly rail against this idea in an arrogant and dogmatic way, so as to say, “Now that’s enough of that nonsense”. The problem was that I was woefully under equipped to speak on most of the things that I did, and, 11 times out of 10, was in no position to bring correction, as I was simply reacting to things that I had taken little to no time to study up on, and when I did, it was simply for the purpose of strengthening my case against what I had already decided was a bad idea.
When I hear, for instance, pastors and teachers seek to bring correction to those who disbelieve in the eternal conscious torment model of hell, I can often tell within a matter of seconds whether or not the individual speaking has given a second’s thought or study to the issue. If they say something like, “Jesus spoke twice as much about hell as he did about heaven”, I instantly know that the actual scholarly works they have consulted on the matter equal probably somewhere right around none, and that they are simply speaking out of their emotions. If you do not care enough about such an important subject to give years to studying it out, please, don’t speak publicly about it.
The same goes for issues like biblical inerrancy, eschatology, atonement theories, etc. If you do not care enough to do the hard work of study, even if it is only independent study, please do not presume to be an expert in these areas. I will readily admit to being an absolute novice who, while I care deeply, read extensively, and consult those with brains much larger and fuller than my own on a regular basis, still have far more questions than I do answers. And the truth is, the more one cares about an issue, and the more time they give to understanding it, it is usually the case that the “question marks” in their brains outnumber the dogmatic “periods”.
Become a student again, my friends. May we all resign the position of know-it-all, and reactionary rhetorician, and return to being those with big enough b…rains to simply say, “I don’t know” when we don’t know, and to not pretend to be in possession of knowledge we have not taken the time to seek out. If an idea offends, let’s be adult enough to consider that maybe, just maybe, our personal offense is not, in any way, connected to God’s opinion, and then respect ourselves and our audiences enough to inform ourselves. May our desire to learn and grow be larger than our desire to be right, or to be admired as a “champion of truth”.
May our thoughts and our questions be numerous, and our declarative statements and dogmatic answers be few.
December 30, 2015 ·