Thursday, 7 May 2009

A proverb for students (and teachers)

Ever left a lecture or a sermon thinking how brilliant the speaker was, but still not entirely clear what it was all about, perhaps even more confused than before? Or have you been in a Q&A in which the questions were really a chance for people to show off how much they knew.

Proverbs 18:2 rings too true in the world of academia. “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing personal opinion.” (NRSV). Understanding takes humility and patience. You have to be ready to learn from the object of study and let it set the terms; and also be ready to learn from others. None of that appeals to the fool,.

One of my pet peeves is how quickly people (and I’m talking about orthodox evangelicals here) make sweeping dismissals of classical expressions of theology, without making the effort to actually understand what was said and why. But I didn't write this post to air that "peeve", I read Proverbs 18:2 and saw that it warned me. Maybe its a warning you need as well.

Pursuing understanding is a challenge in all study and teaching, but specially in theology. How awful to turn theology – the study of God – into self-expression rather than quiet, humble, disciplined attention to God himself. Some theological approaches collapse theology into anthropology or into clever word games. However even when we say theology is the "science of God" and that theological statements have a genuine reference to a God we can still be fools. (I'll leave the discussion of how theological statements refer to another day).

Is reading, thinking, writing,and teaching all about you or about what (and who) you are studying?

1 comment:

Dave said...

Hi John! In response to your question, "Is reading, thinking, writing, and teaching all about you or what (and who) you are studying?" I remember finding the first year of Bible College very dry and frustrating (as I had been warned it would be!). In second year I worked out that I had to apply what I was learning to me and my life. Of course this did not mean it was all about me...but as one visiting lecturerer once said, if your study of theology is not to improve your relationship with God, then it is a waste of time.

Darn, I just realised I was probably supposed to listen and not express my opinion...!