I Resolve to Know Nothing…

So Paul says to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 2:2) as he defends his work among them.

Spending a few days with some incredibly intelligent people is a useful humbling experience.  I have thus far met a doctoral student whose thesis has to do with Old English medical treatments in flux after the Norman Conquest and reintroduction of Greek writings vis-a-vis the Muslims in the 10th & 11th centuries.  The gentleman next to me is from the north of England and has several advanced degrees in music and theology.  Behind me is a pastor from Jamaica.  I’ve met a lawyer from Kuala Lumpur.  There are a few college students and a seminarian and a sprinkling of lay people along with other pastors and educators.

Understandably there is much active talk and discussion.  In the best sense I know there is iron sharpening iron. The danger is that sometimes it sounds like people tooting their own horns because, in side conversations, I don’t hear any discussions about the Bible.  About parables or passages.  I don’t hear people eagerly diving into Scripture in order to sort through what it says and hopefully come to a better understanding of it.  What I often hear is people talking about other people.  Theologians, scholars, heretics.  They talk about ideas and understandings pro and con.  These can all be helpful but only insofar as they direct us again to what do you say about Jesus?  Who do you say He is?  Do you trust him with your life or not?

The focus of this academy is the defense of the Christian faith via intellectual support.  Being a Christian is not equivalent to believing in Zeus or leprechauns because Christianity is based in human history and geography.  Its claims can be validated to a certain extent through methodologies and sciences already employed in other areas. All of this is useful.   Inasmuch as many of these people are preachers or teachers or influential members of congregations, it’s important to be able to engage intellectually.

But it’s a reminder to me that in my conversations and teachings I need to be careful to, as Paul said, focus on what matters.  Always to come back to it.  What matters isn’t necessarily what this Lutheran theologian or that one said, but what St. Paul says.  What Sts. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John say.  Ultimately, what Jesus not only says but does.  Dying and rising.  Forgiving sins.  Conquering death.  These are the things people need to hear because they convey life, salvation, hope, eternity.  Towards better talking about this core message of Christ crucified a lot of other very intelligent and gifted people can be studied and referenced and referred to.

Perhaps God is just reminding me that I’m not an academic.  That my continual wondering about doctoral work probably really isn’t a good direction for me.  That it’s OK to be able to say that, and to seek alternative ways to sharpen myself so that I can be of better use to my congregation and family and friends.

So long as at the end of the day, Christ crucified is proclaimed.  Is the center of our goals and hopes and the source of our pride and boasting.  I need to remember this particularly in my preaching.  And I hope those of you who are subjected to my preaching regularly will help me to remember this when I leave the ivory towers again and head back to the pulpit.


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