“Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.” 1 Corinthians 8:1 – NAS
The purpose of this post is to alert the Christian Dad to the potential dangers that come from a sort of idolatry that originates in academic circles, why I believe this happens, and what you can do to guard yourself from it.
What is ‘nerding’? I would define ‘nerding’ as having an inordinate concern for a topic… any topic, for that matter, which results in an idolatrous regard for minutiae. ‘Nerding’ is the modern day equivalent to the consideration of “how many angels can fit on the head of a pin” and is contrasted with a legitimate declaration of the good and bad aspects of any argument in particular.
‘Quasi-Theology’ I define to be that sort of teaching that has an atmosphere of believability and soundness, but which is ultimately not able to affect one’s life for any positive value at all which would result in further sanctification or holiness. It usually trends toward an emphasis on certain aspects of faith or practice to the exclusion of others.
‘Apostasy’ I understand to be when a person leaves the faith… that person who was not ever converted – truly born again – proves he is an apostate by way of leaving the faith and taking on characteristics of an unbeliever.
So, let’s get started…
The big picture Category is Post-Christian America…, and here is where I would like to start addressing the tendency that Academic pride trends toward philosophies and theories that, when applied, result in a life that looks more like an apostate than one who is truly free in Christ at best and at worst, not even a Christian.
The basic gist of the topic is that within the larger subset of the Academic Milieu of ‘Publish or Perish’, in a theological context, there is a danger in developing theories that may sound and look good, internally consistent and the like, but when applied ‘where the rubber meets the road…’ – daily life, the theories fall short and prove to be just that – theories. One can look at the ‘barren wasteland’ of the lives of many pastors’ children and see that the focus on the theoretical without the implementation practically of what the word of God actually says results in harm to the hearer.
One of the ways the idea manifests itself is this: since an elder must have believing children in order to actually be considered an elder, there must be a way to literally observe the lives of the children prior to a person being appointed an elder. This observation is impossible while the family is still young, the children are still young and the parents are still young. So, if one must wait until one’s children can be judged to be believing or not by way of their being old enough to demonstrate a life that is submissive to God’s will (…say, in their mid thirties, perhaps…) , being a ‘young’ elder is impossible. However, if the seminary re-interprets God’s word to mean something else (elder doesn’t mean older), then it’s O.K. for people who are chronologically younger to be considered an ‘elder’. The redefinition of ‘elder’ now doesn’t mean ‘older’, instead it means more spiritually qualified.
The argument in favor of an ‘elder’ being younger is: in Titus 1, Titus was given authority by Paul to appoint elders. The only way Titus could have this authority is if he was also an elder. Titus wasn’t an older man. Since Titus wasn’t an older man, chronological age isn’t an actual requirement to be an elder.
However, it seems as though the mistake being made here is found in the common saying I heard as a child, “It takes one to know one”. The mistaken assumption is that you have to be an elder in order to recognize and appoint an elder. The first component of ‘recognition’ is easily dismissed, because we are told the qualifications for an elder, and are told to aspire to being an elder. If the qualifications weren’t immediately obvious and possible to be considered by anyone and everyone to be either present or lacking in an individual, then the recognition factor becomes moot. Recognition is something that any person can do if they are aware of the categories and they know the person’s life. The second component of appointing is easily answered by the authority that Paul had. Paul could tell Titus what to do, and by the Authority that Jesus Christ gave to Paul in matters concerning the church, his authority was binding. If he chose to delegate the authority to Titus, then it was sufficient for God’s will to be done in that specific circumstance.
Titus 2:1 is translated as ‘Older’ and as ‘Elder’. Titus 2:6 is translated as ‘Younger’. These are two different words, with different admonitions.
Not minimizing the need for more Godly individuals and to be certain, it may be that a given church doesn’t have enough Godly older people in order to have elders that are truly qualified to be elders.
Also, this isn’t a complaint against a specific individual, as much as it is a realization that we have, nationwide, young men serving in positions that it would be more helpful if older people were in those same positions. This also isn’t a complaint against them because they are young. The complaint rests in the fact that the people aren’t following the clear meaning of scripture.
He serves in the church and his family may or may not make it through to the other side. Just because there is a seeming latitude in the text doesn’t mean we can take it and run with it to make it mean whatever we want it to.
The solution is to recognize that Timothy wasn’t called an Elder. He was called a workman (ἐργάτης). Neither was Titus called an Elder. These guys weren’t elders, because they didn’t meet the minimum age requirement.
Another example is, let’s say a pastor writes a famous book or series of books on a parenting topic. His actual parenting results in familial rift that results in court orders and children essentially being at war with their parents and vice versa. In this example, his teaching may have a degree of internal consistency and may sound excellent on face value, but when actually implemented, it results in harm to those it was intended to help minister to.
To speak with authority to any topic, one must be able to demonstrate by one’s life that the things that one is teaching are true (in addition to it being soundly interpreted). It is too easy to be able to write something without having the life to back it up. It is also really easy to be unclear in the things one writes and thereby mislead people… all of this not withstanding the fact that people may misinterpret the things one writes.
A third example is in the ‘Biblical Counseling’ movement, where there is an evident rightful desire to conform everything to a proper understanding of scripture, but at some point the people lose their way and prudence, sensible living, understanding and wisdom fly out the door. They become known, not for what they stand for, as much as what they stand against, resulting in a quasi nominal orthodoxy in place of a positive living for Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. There is so much of a focus on the ‘theory’ surrounding Biblical Counseling that the practice doesn’t look much like the Bible being practiced.
There is something about the behaviors pictured in the Bible as good, healthy and trending toward life that the misapplied theology often negates, resulting in harm coming to the hearers. Examples of this range anywhere from Tattoos to the Holy Spirit.
Why I would like to raise this issue is: haven’t we had enough of living fruitless lives that have an atmosphere more like pre-conversion gentiles than Christians whose lives have been radically altered for the Kingdom of God? What do you think? Have you ever seen or heard of an example of Academic Pride resulting in damage and life behaviors in Christians that cause them to look more like pagans than Christians?
So, at the heart of the issue is one’s desire… is the desire toward an exaltation of self via the puffery stemming from knowledge divorced from understanding and action, or is it the acquisition of knowledge with the purpose of living a more Godly life?