Recent articles have suggested that technology has created a culture of ignorance. We live on gadgets and thus make less contact with people. That is the way things work. There is just so much time in each day and each minute spent texting, tweeting, blogging, etc., is one less minute studying or interacting with other human beings. Tyler Durden puts it this way:
“The youth of the country consume themselves in techno-narcissistic triviality, barely looking up from their iGadgets long enough to make eye contact with other human beings.”
But it is not just the youth who suffer here. While working in Washington, D.C., each day began and ended with an hour-long ride on the metro and train. Few people talked. Businessmen and women largely engaged on their digital devices. Some were still doing office work, or so it appeared. Others, based on the looks on their faces, were interacting with friends and family. At least it was communication, yet it was all digital.
It is generally accepted that ignorance in relationships yields ignorance of people. The less we interact with people the less we understand them. The same goes for our general intelligence. But here I ask if the problem is not about digital information but available information.
To those reading this and who consider themselves having some level of scholarship, stop for a minute and look at your study section. How many commentaries do you have? How many translations? How many original language tools do you own? Now the next question: Have you read them all? Have you read even most of them? Why not?
I suspect that the answer to that last question is the same for all of us: These are reference books. We need not be scholars in order to look up the material when doing study or preparing to teach. It is not, it seems, necessary to be a scholar in order to teach.
When you read a commentary, do you know if it is right or wrong? If you were to read the theology of Buswell, Chafer, or Boettner, to which one would you be closest? Why? Do you know why? Honestly, if you were to read the material of all three most would find a great deal of each which they enjoy greatly and a few sections with which they disagree strongly. But I’m not going to tell you why. It’s up to you to find out.
This past few years has been a challenge for me personally. I had the pleasure of completing my seminary work and at the same time pursuing the study of a field which I knew only a little about. It began with a mistake: I engaged some people in a discussion of a controversial topic though my knowledge of that topic was only cursory. The humiliation came quite quickly. So I began reading their material. As much as I can. And the reason is simple: Never go into a gunfight with a knife. It is just not worth it.
Where I live there is an excellent seminary extension program (TEDS). I challenge people who are engaged in teaching to consider auditing courses. Even if they never want to get a Master’s degree at least they might engage their minds to read some books thoroughly, perhaps write the papers, and interact with some fine profs from the seminary.
We live in a world of contradictions. Getting someone to audit a seminary course is not easy. But all of us are willing to go to a week-long training class to improve our professional positions. We buy our books, subscribe to our magazines, and take online classes. We understand the need for professionalism in our careers. It seems a reasonable challenge that we apply the same diligence to our Biblical studies.
If you are engaged in apologetics, are you an expert in your field or do you parrot what you heard in class and read in a book? I read and hear many apologists with Master’s degrees in the field doing little more than quoting statistics. Anybody can do that. (Perhaps their money was wasted on that degree.) Few it seems have developed an expertise in ancient documents or evolutionary theory or historical analysis. But go out to a local university and the profs who are experts will persuade many that the Christian faith is false, that it is the worst thing to ever happen to the world, and that it ought to be destroyed. What’s our answer? Is parroting some textbook enough?
If you are engaged in teaching it seems important that you know what you are talking about to your class. Whatever your theological persuasion may be, most have not read it deeply. I suspect that even most with seminary Master’s degrees have not read their respective areas very intently.
When the Mormons come to your door do you know how to challenge them? Do you understand the contradiction when they say they believe in “grace and works” or do you let it slide because you do not have an answer?
The task ahead of us is not easy. It would be good if we had a lengthy crusade and saw a thousand per day come to Christ. But what would we do with them after that? We can continue to do church as we have been. Where are we if nothing changes and nothing improves? Expecting people to enter the door of the church to find the ultimate answers worked in the past. How often do unbelievers enter our doors these days? The target audience outside our four walls is educated in a way that we do not understand.
Almost every church has people in it who are capable of expertise in the necessary fields for church work. They need not be pastors but they need be engaged and outfitted in a way that allows further expansion of our ministry.
Nietzsche suggested that students make use of books in order to find a quote that fits the task of the moment. I wonder if that applies to how we prepare to teach on Sunday, how we prepare sermons, how we write books, or maybe even how I wrote this paragraph. But the principle remains: Real scholarship is uncommon.