Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Importance of Knowledge and the Holy Spirit

Mastered By the Book from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

This video of a discussion between D.A. Carson and John Piper has been spreading through the biblical studies blogosphere, and the discussion is an important one. The blogs I've seen featuring this exchange are all written by well-educated Bible students or by established scholars. As one who has been mostly self-educated I feel a bit out the loop and am in a position that naturally makes me want to argue the other side. If it's not possible for preachers to preach a solid sermon without cultural and historical study, is it possible for the saints to have a solid understanding of scripture without cultural and historical study? The points raised in this video are vital because they transcend the context of the discussion. I do not see a great gap of difference between what a pastor needs in order to preach and what a saint needs in order to live. It is the same Father who has already given us everything pertaining to life and godliness in Christ (2 Peter 1:3).

There is pursuit of a balanced perspective, but the dialogue comes within a context that majors on scholarship and education. All of the voices present have spent major amounts of their time and life pursuing knowledge regarding cultural and historical context, learning the things deemed necessary to aptly interpret scripture and perhaps even becoming professional interpreters of scripture. Marc Cortez of Scientia et Sapientia acknowledges the possibility of bias within the debate and further acknowledges the supernatural character of scripture:

But, on the other hand, it’s easy for us academics to become elitist with our claims that you really can’t understand the Bible without our advanced degrees, thick books, complex theories, and countless hours of uninterrupted study. At that point, we lose sight of the fact that the Bible is not just another ancient text requiring for its proper interpretation the acquisition of academic arcanity. It’s also a divine text through which the Spirit has always worked powerfully, even among poorly educated people or those who just lacked an adequate understanding of its original socio-historical context.
This perspective seems to be a waning afterthought as we become more and more engrossed in biblical studies, advanced knowledge and professional scripture interpretation.

We often forget that all of this information and knowledge is fairly new. The heroes of church history had little to no access to the information that so many are claiming is vital today. Did Charles Spurgeon, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield and so many others err in their work? Were they hampered in evangelism, soul-winning, discipleship or the Christian life because of their lack of scholarly study? Did they preach volumes of bad hermeneutics and inaccurate interpretations because they had no access to the socio-historical context of the scriptures? Perhaps some scholars will say they did. They were conquerors for Christ who turned their world upside down with the gospel and they did so without the professionalism or scholarship that we have today. The average westerner has access to far more than they did via the internet. It is obvious that the success of their life and preaching was not socio-historical accuracy. They had a far better resource in the Holy Spirit. We seem to spend far less time wondering why the Holy Spirit isn't bearing witness to Jesus in our ministries than we do wondering how educated we should be. The amount of time and money spent on education shows how much faith we have in seminary, Bible college and extra-biblical knowledge. How much faith do we have in the Holy Spirit?

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