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Growing through Change

One of the things that I have been accused of in the past little while is sort of an anti-intellectualism. My ability to say ‘I don’t know’ in almost every situation bothers people. Sometimes the fact that I can argue both sides of an argument (ask my intro to religion tutorial students) fairly convincing bothers people. I’ve been told that if I’m going to be in church leadership I need to know answers and be able to give answers. I’ve been told that it is harmful to ask questions and not find answers and that questions leave people in a place of unreliability and weakness. I’ve been told that people are going to come to me looking for concrete answers and that my position on many issues won’t be acceptable.

There are a few things that I don’t understand about it all. I don’t understand why a ‘leader’ needs to have all the answers. I don’t think that is the pre-requisite. Most of the leaders (ones that I wouldn’t consider the most amazing ones in the world) that I have ran into usually give me chauchy answers to begin with. They usually beat around the bush, tell me to take it by faith or ramble about how God is in control or something like that. I refuse to be like that. If I don’t understand an argument, or I don’t have a concrete answer I have no problem at all directing people to where they can study it and understand it more on their own. I refuse to tell them the ‘right answer’ and then tell them where to learn more about how that answer is right. I don’t think that’s the way a leader works. A leader is like a teacher in this regard. It is not their job to give them the answer, but to teach them how to learn. As a leader I want to inspire people to learn more and not settle for half-sought answers. I don’t want them to think like me, I want them to think.

I don’t think you can just direct everyone back to the bible either. I don’t think the bible has all the answers to life. The bible is not an answer book. I don’t think that you can just ask someone older than you, or someone over authority over you and that automatically gets the right answer or it can’t be opposed. I guess a time is coming where I’m going to have to make some serious decisions on what I think, but I never want to be so na├»ve to think that my conclusions are the absolute right ones. They can and hopefully always will be challenged, growing in wisdom and understanding and stretched. Even Paul throughout his letters grew to understandings on issues, and other writers of the bible. Yes, writers of the bible CHANGED THEIR MINDS. Ask Peter what his thoughts were on Gentiles coming to salvation? It seems that even Jesus was challenged and grew in his ability to understand things and come to conclusions (Matthew 15). Of course we like to pass it off as God testing the women or something like that, but most scholars believe that this was a time in Jesus’ life where he was challenged to look to even Israel’s enemies (the nation which she is from) to offer them salvation.

So I figure if Jesus, Paul and most other leaders I look up to grow in their understandings and still acknowledge the mystery of God then I can too. If someone wants to ridicule me for that, I guess I won’t be their leader?

For the most part this blog is me working out my understanding of God and theology. For those that think I’m a reed blowing in the wind, read through the many posts that I’ve written in the past year and see that I’m struggling hard through issues trying to come to grips with the truth that is out there but is so easily disguised by our own selfishness.

4 Comments

  • Nathan
    Love it. I would love a leader to tell me you should look into it over this is the only way. I am more concerned with people learning in general than the only way.

  • “The bible is not an answer book”

    If only more Christians believed that.

    “Im struggling hard through issues trying to come to grips with the truth that is out there but is so easily disguised by our own selfishness.”

    Thank God for that struggle.

    Really love reading your blog Nathan. Come stop by at http://www.network54.com/Forum/443089/ sometime if you have some free time on your hands. Take care man.

  • Growing in Christ
    Nathan you write here in fairly general terms, which means it opens it up for some pretty cool debate or at least some other perspectives, which is good and what I think youre all about anyway. So heres just a perspective, from your old school friend. My frame of reference is that God is my creator and redeemer, and I feel it would make the most sense to go to the holy scripture to discover what His frame of reference is so that I can be a better disciple of Jesus. I can learn from Jesus words and I can learn from the first twelve disciples He worked with. Personally, I believe in the complete sufficiency of scripture to teach me how to live life. I added that in to our Annex statement of faith because for me I strongly believe it it’s part of me. Yes, that means I can go to the bible to find all the answers I seek in life. I believe it is an answer book. 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 says, All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
    Mind you, if Im sick and need some diagnosis, Im going to go to my doctor first. Or if my van wont start, Ill call my buddy Rick at Bluewater Mechanical and he will fix me up (mind you sometimes I just wait for a few minutes and then it starts, eh Ron!). But then there are times when the doc cant do much for me so what do I do? Man, I have to trust God because who else can I turn too? For a bit of comfort (and instruction/answers) I can go to Psalms 103:3, 4 and read what David said, a man after Gods own heart, He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He ransoms me from death and surrounds me with love and tender mercies.
    When I read from one of Jesus first disciples (Peter) who said, in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect (1Peter 3:15), I think this is pretty self-explanatory and from the standpoint of knowing the hope I have in Christ, I am challenged here to have some concrete answers. I may not have all the answers, but like the guy who first becomes a Christians if all he can say is hey, God just did something in me and I just know Im forgiven then that is a good starting answer for him.
    God instituted teachers in the church with special giftings to help us understand things. They are usually the type that never stop learning themselves and we should be the same way. My bottom line is that I believe the bible to be the answer book. It speaks to me, God speaks through it to me, His Spirit illuminates it for me. Where else can I go? Every time I screw up, I can go to the bible and get some answers and some principles I can apply to help me do better next time. If its okay to not have all the answers, I think its also quite okay to accept some things by simple faith. I mean, why do we think we have to have all the answers anyway? I will have an eternity to find out all the answers and if God is infinite and He is then Ill never stop learning the answers! Jesus is the only way. I know this refers generally to salvation, but as Creator it all comes back to Him as the ultimate information source. Keep tapping into it Nate!

  • Nathan, I urge you to hold on to the ability to say “I don’t know.” There is enormous pressure on Christian leaders, particularly preachers, to have a simple answer to every question about God, humanity, and the relationship between the two. Many Christians, in fact, judge the quality of their ministers on their ability to give simple, comforting answers to every questions. That means that ministers who refuse to do so may find their jobs in danger. Thus even those Christians who at 25 admit that they don’t know the answers to many, many questions find themselves at 45 giving the kind of answers that the Christians they are leading want to hear. The members are satisfied, the minister is secure in his job, and everyone is happy (except, perhaps, God).

    The problem with answering every question is that many peripheral questions have more than one biblically supportable answer. Whole denominations and groups of denominations are thus built around taking sides on issues for which honest Christians may disagree, and for which we don’t need an answer to be Christians. Unfortunately, far too many Christians spend their time focusing on these peripheral issues while ignoring the truth that will set men free.

    We need to be rock-solid in answering basic questions. We need to be able to state confidently that human beings are sinners destined for eternal destruction and that our only hope for being saved is through the blood of Jesus Christ. There are a few more, of course. We do well to keep our eyes on this “mere Christianity” while being willing to say “I don’t know” for peripheral issues that serve mainly to divide.

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