Friday, February 09, 2007

Warning Those Who Teach

I recently read a post expressing the writer's confusing search for a God of meaning and purpose typical of the postmodern, emerging "conversations" taking place among younger evangelicals. Whether or not conversations that:
  1. express doubt over the sufficiency of language to express real truth about divine mystery;
  2. overstate the impact of cultural context on our understanding and interpretation of God (although we clearly underestimate this fact at times in Christian orthodoxy);
  3. exaggerate the subtle similarities of all religions and minimize the key differences between world religions and Christianity, leading one to universalistic tendencies;
  4. question our ability to know anything with any certainty, thus nullifying any absolute, universal claims to truth;

...are an engaging, healthy and fruitful debate within the evangelical church is a topic for another blog. And the truth is, it's not that questioning is inherently wrong, but doubt-filled searches certainly become problematic when there is never: a) any attempt to sufficiently answer the questions because one is anti-propositional; or b) any attempt to answer the questions on the basis of any objective authority (meaning relativism and subjectivity is the new virtue for our day).

You see, the emerging evangelicals say that the pursuit of God is really in the journey. But they miss the point. The redemptive story, the over-arching narrative unfolding in this world, has both a beginning and an end, and the purpose of the journey is to discover the God who reigns over it all. To make too much of the journey is to make an idol out of the journey and forsake the God who is the reason for the journey of faith in the first place.

But what really grabbed my attention in this post was not the honest transparency of the author, but a response to the author's words. After commending the muddled quest for answers and meaning, the response closed with these words: "'s really fun to teach and start to mess other people up as well; there's nothing like seeing a light click on in someone's head." This coming from a graduate student at a flagship university for a major Christian denomination in the United States.

I found this to be a frightening statement, not because all teachers of God's Word have all the answers, but because of the cavalier attitude of the one who thinks it is "fun" to "mess other people up as well", as if having a melting pot theology riddled with doubt and confusion, void of any concrete meaning or certainty or propostional foundations, is a confesssion of faith to be admired.

God's Word has some sobering words for teachers, and it does not come close to affirming the deceptive joy apparently found in tainted the pursuit of pure, sound doctrine (which Scripture says is something to be valued; Job 11:4; Rom 16:17; 1Tim 1:10; 4:6; 6:3; Titus 1:9; 2:1; 2:10).

"Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness" (James 3:1).

"But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine" (Titus 2:1).

"Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers" (1Tim 4:16).

"Obey your leaders and submit to themm, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account" (Hebrews 13:17).

I don't know the young man who posted the comment above. I don't know his motives for doing so, and his comments surely may have unwisely been spoken in jest as he considers the reality that the more he thinks he knows about God, the less in fact he does know. But I would submit that while there is a profound mystery to God, He has revealed Himself fully in Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:15cf), and there is more to know about God than the postmodern mind is willing to concede. Yes, we need not lose sight of the glorious mystery of the Divine because we are only inching along in our knowledge of Him, and therefore we shouldn't "box" God into too rigid propositions about Him, leaving room for the veiled splendor and glory that God is. But God has revealed and given us all that we need in Jesus (2Peter 1:3cf) for life and godliness. God has revealed Himself to us through language (the Word; John 1:1cf), and these revealed things are what we are to focus on in the Scriptures (Deuteronomy29:29), and not only should we draw near to these things, but they also belong to our children.

And we, as those called to teach, are to teach these things, not with some misguided glee in screwing up people's thoughts about God, but for the purpose of building up God's people in Jesus (1Cor 14:12; 2Cor 13:10; Eph 4:12) and teaching sound doctrine intended to strengthen, not weaken, their faith. There should no joy in potentially being an accomplace to apostasy - which is precisely what teachers who lead people away from God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture - will become.


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