important things 3: beginning to respond

Now, in truth, the question of what I have learned is not for me to answer. It is for someone else to answer—notably God. ~ Jack Crabtree

Introducing his article and talk, The Two Most Important Things I Have Learned, Dr. Crabtree humbly shares the above-quoted insightful recognition. Jack sees that those things best proclaiming a person’s understanding are what he or she does and who he or she is. I applaud and can attest to this man's commitment to studying the Bible so as to conform himself to its true understanding. This truly appears to be the focus of his intellectual life. Such commitment and focus have been, as long as I've known Jack, what he does and who he is.

In his introduction Jack lists four things about which his perspective has dramatically changed, the first of which is the Christian religion and its origins. I'll address this topic next post. In Section I he discusses the power of culture. The following are my observations on that.

Regarding culture, I basically agree with Jack. One’s culture is an enormous influence, and this influence is very difficult to recognize.

During the five years I’ve spent away from the Gutenberg community I have gained a perspective of myself that I simply couldn’t see while within the group. I now recognize my strong desire to be accepted by intellectual people. Academic minds are highly valued in our culture and throughout the world. As far as it goes, this isn’t a bad thing. People with PhD.s are often a real treat to talk with. Plus, the great minds of science, theology, literature, and the arts make contributions of inestimable value to society.

I don’t wish to criticize Jack’s insight regarding culture. I wish merely to point out the perspective I’ve gained regarding Gutenberg’s academic, intellectual culture in which Jack has worked on biblical interpretation and in which he received insights regarding historical Christianity. His insight, showing him the fact of people throughout history reading the Bible through lenses provided to them by a culture they are tempted to fear, might also apply to people reading the Bible who, like me, are tempted to fear what people of academic and/or intellectual giftedness think of them. This problem might lead to a somewhat blind acceptance of one’s teacher’s insights regarding Christianity.

I’ll take my point a step further. Within his remarks about Christianity and culture, Jack asserts that the follower of Jesus “must learn to trust his reason when it has been cut loose from its tether to other men. He must give heed to his intelligence as it receives counsel from the Bible and the Spirit of Truth.” My experience in the Orthodox Church provides me with another caveat, one that I believe comes down from the apostles. Before trusting his reason and intellect (with or without cultural influence), the apostolic understanding implores a man to recognize his need for transformation, for the renewing of his mind (nous in the Greek; see Romans 7 and 12, and elsewhere).

Absolutely, the man who follows Christ must receive counsel from the Spirit of Truth in order to interpret the Bible, but, as writers throughout the scriptures warn, he needs to “test the spirits” and make sure God is the Spirit informing his fallen, darkened intellectual understanding and guiding it along the true process toward healing. Without doing this, a man on his own is at great risk of descending into folly and self-deception. How often have people in many cultures seen this happen?

This series now continues with Christianity's Origins.