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August 06, 2014

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I don't have a problem with people not knowing certain things. We're all works in progress in that regard. That's true in the church and in life in general.

My frustration comes in when people (especially in the church) have the attitude that they don't want to learn something. Or when you make your case on whatever issue using facts and they continue to tell you, "Oh, that's just your opinion." They don't make the case for why you are wrong and they are right. They've just adopted the secular world's view that everything is a matter of opinion, and one opinion is just as valid and correct as the next one.

Don't even get me started on how Christians these days form their theology based on "feelings" and on experiences, even when the experiences don't align with God's Word.

I had an experience like that recently. A friend was relating an experience they had, where a certain physical problem was assumed to be a spiritual attack.

Now, this is a person who always has this reaction to everything. Everything is assumed to be a spiritual attack. Usually I just listen and don't comment one way or the other. But this time, the reaction to this very small thing seemed extreme. When I gently tried to point out that we can't always assume that every little thing that happens is the direct result of demonic activity, I got shouted down. They were very angry, they accused me of not believing their experience, and I was even accused of not believing that God works in the world through supernatural means. They kept asking something to the effect of, "Don't you believe that God works in supernatural ways in the world, and that He answers prayers?" They kept demanding that I answer that question, even though I can't see what it has directly to do with the situation.

I kept my voice deliberately low and kept trying to gently reason with them, but they would not even let me speak. This is the type of person who does not let you get a word in edgewise. All you can do is say, "Okay" to whatever they say, and try to extricate yourself from the conversation. They constantly interrupt and refuse to hear anything you're trying to say.

Now THAT is frustrating.

While the main message of the article is a good one - humility even when possessing additional knowledge - the way it's expressed is flawed.

First, knowledge on a particular subject, be it theology, apologetics, engineering, music theory, or whatever is not included in any of the lists of spiritual gifts. All of the gift lists that do exist reference ability. This is reflected in the first quoted sentence from "Life in the Father's House." It specifically refers to abilities and skills. The ability to obtain knowledge, and obtained knowledge, are not the same thing. It may be accurate to say that not everyone obtains knowledge of things as quickly, or with as much depth, because of variation in spiritual gifts, but ignorance does not fit with this. (There's also an issue of equating natural ability with spiritual gifts.)

Second, the claim that is supposed to counter this issue "It’s given to you so you can get down in the trenches below the people you’re trying to help and lift them up, not so you can look down on them from above." ends up exacerbating the issue of pride. You're still superior. Not only are you superior, but you're superior by the will of God; and by the will of God it's your responsibility to lift up those lesser than you.

Finally, it removes personal responsibility. If others are ignorant by God's design so that they can be brought to enlightenment by those with superior knowledge, then those with pride and issues of superiority are such by God's design so that they can be brought to righteousness by those with superior humility. The person who doesn't gain additional knowledge, or additional humility, simply wasn't meant to so that someone further down the road can accomplish God's purpose.

"All of the gift lists that do exist reference ability." is over stated. It should have read something more like "The gift lifts found in the Bible." I'm not sure that would have been clear from context.

"There’s a temptation to look down on them with a scornful attitude of “they should know what I know!”"

So, we should want everyone else should know what we know, right? I mean, that's the whole point of that passage in Ephesians, where we are all moving toward the same point. The key point, though, with Amy's quote is the "scornful attitude" part: just as Amy indicated, are we using our gifts in service to help our fellow believers be equipped to be more like Christ, or are we using our gifts to belittle others in some kind of pretentious demonstration that we're somehow "better"?

1 Peter 4:10 (NASB) As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

I've used this verse as part of my online signature for many years. I need the reminder and I like to share the message.

Good article and comments so far, particularly:

Mo: "My frustration comes in when people (especially in the church) have the attitude that they don't want to learn something."

I'm with you. Combating the attitude of intellectual arrogance should never be used to justify the strains of anti-intellectualism we have running rampant in the Western Church.

Robert: "You're still superior."

Recognizing a gift from God is not arrogance in and of itself. It can be expressed arrogantly, but it's also arrogant on the part of people who would dismiss as arrogant someone gifted with remarkable knowledge, intelligence, or wisdom for no other reason. Plenty of people confess to being good at something. Usually we don't think twice to a leader saying "I'm good at leadership" or a musician saying "I'm good at playing the piano". Generally, we also expect them to deliver on their claims. But one who claims to be gifted in knowledge or intellect, even when demonstrating good teaching or advice, can expect the products of that gift to be met with derision.

Also: "Finally, it removes personal responsibility.

The gift was meant to be used in the Body of Christ according to the law of love and grace and it is incumbent on the strong to assist the weak, not to beat them with it, in whatever area they are strong. Good call.

My own observations of the article:

1) I often observe that people expect others to know and understand as they do. Just watch people in traffic. Opportunistic speeders deride people who drive slower than they do as being idiots while people who drive safely deride opportunistic speeders as being idiots. People who don't have the ability to understand some of the deeper things often think it's arrogant when someone who does understand deeper things actually claims to understand them. We too often think that no one can understand more than we can or that if we can't understand something, it's not important for anyone to understand it. So it goes both ways.

2) I too often hear people, regarding the conclusions of a field of study, deride those who disagree with them as not having thought the thing through. While this may or may not be the case, it's far more helpful to walk someone through their own thinking. As you hear their answer you may either learn that they actually have thought the thing through and really do have a consistent system of thought. If they haven't thought the thing through, this practice is more likely to result in a humble assent to a better way of thinking than simply saying, "Well, you simply haven't thought the thing through [like I have]."

I'd like to point out that obedience is more important than knowledge. You can be an expert in apologetic and scripture, but it matters little if you have not been transformed. The key to being a Christian is not knowledge, but obedience. Jesus disciples were not knowledgeable or learned men, but they had been transformed by the power of Jesus.

JBerr,

That's true, but it begs the question(s): Who are you being obedient to and how do you know you are being obedient to them?

While knowledge is less important with regard to having a right relationship with God, it is nevertheless necessary to know who God is in order to be obedient to him. Otherwise, you can end up being obedient to any old false god.

Being the Pharisee that I am, I find a great tendency in myself to employ His Word as a sort of hammer with which to “dialogue” with those who are in fact part of His Body and/or with those who are on the outside looking in. However, as I spy ever more of the contours of His Grace I find His uncanny and eerie love of All-Men ever more exquisite, ever more incalculable. Self/Other finds all that is my Self's need to come out on top ever fading and all that is the weight and value of Other in both God and Neighbor ever pressing upon me, ever demanding something of me, ever increasing. “"But I never knew before. I never dreamed..." I suppose it was at such a moment that Thomas Aquinas said of all his own theology, "It reminds me of straw."” (CS Lewis)

I wouldn't expect everyone to have the same gifting (and enthusiasm) as I do about Christian apologetics and theology, but I would hope they appreciate the gifting and service, rather than despise it. And, the anti-intellectual infection of the church (as discussed above) does just that.

I don't have the same gifting as some in terms of other areas like counseling, prayer, administration, mercy, etc. but I also don't say these things are not necessary within the body, or that while they aren't my primary gifting, that I shouldn't try to learn from these people as well.

Everyone is a theologian, and all Christians are called to be apologists. So, while some might have higher capacities, they don't seem any more optional than prayer, discernment, or Christian living.

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