The Lord has seen fit to make some adjustments to my schedule this past week that will result in a little more time between posts over the next month or so. Despite my busyness I finally had a chance to sit down this evening after bible study and do a little bit of reading. I picked up John Piper’s book Brothers, We are NOT Professionals. I am planning to post a review of the book in the near future once I finish it but while reading this evening I came across a statement that I thought was worth sharing.
I do not always agree with John Piper on every issue but there are many that I do and one of Piper’s goals which I share is to encourage people to think carefully about their faith and about God’s Word. One of Piper’s chapters is an encouragement to pastors to “show your people why God inspired hard texts”. We usually do not think carefully about something unless there is a difficulty. It is when there is some problem to be solved in our bible study that we tend to pay the kind of attention to the text and the theology that it really always deserves. Highlighting this truth Piper made the following statement:
If God has inspired a book as the foundation of the Christian faith, there is a massive impulse unleashed in the world to teach people how to read. And if God ordained for some of that precious, sacred, God-breathed book to be hard to understand, then God unleashed in the world not only an impulse to teach people how to read but also how to think about what they read- how to read hard things and understand them and how to use the mind in a rigorous way.
Paul said to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2, ‘What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.’ Impart understanding to others, Timothy, in a way that will enable them to teach others also. In other words, the writings of the apostles- especially the hard ones- unleash generation after generation of education. Education is helping people understand something that they don’t already understand. Or, more accurately, education is helping people (young or old) learn how to get an understanding that they didn’t already have. Education is cultivating the life of the mind so that it knows how to grow in true understanding. That impulse was unleashed by God’s inspiring a book with complex demanding paragraphs in it.”
Piper makes a great point here. To encounter the Word of God and to study it is an education. If you are not educated but you commit yourself to reading the Word of God carefully you will, over time, become a very educated person. You may not speak the queens English or be able to do multivariable calculus but your critical thinking skills will be honed to a point that is rare to find in many college graduates. Not only will understanding increase (in multiple subjects) but also humility. This isn’t just a theory that I happen to agree with. I have witnessed it in the lives of real people.
We live in a culture that is rejecting the notions of truth and objectivity. The disciplines of education will continue to crumble in that kind of environment. As people who believe in an objective and unchanging Truth revealed in the propositions contained in a book given to us by God we cannot avoid those disciplines. If the bible is God’s truth then it is a single message and each part relates in some way to the others. I believe that one of the great opportunities for the Church in our age is to once again be a haven in the culture for those who are trained to read and think critically.
I pray that whether you are a teacher or a student that you would not avoid the difficult places in scripture. Meditate on them and think about them hard depending upon God to grant you understanding. If you do so God will stretch you and bless you. If you want a deeper relationship with God then spend time pondering the riches and depths of His Word. May God bless your study of the difficult passages!