Growing in Maturity
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
A few years back, I was having a conversation with a new Christian acquaintance who was obviously intelligent and educated, at least in terms of the usual academic education. He was absolutely convinced that Sept 11 was an inside job. I was flabbergasted. How is it possible that an intelligent man could think that way? And I am sure that you have often heard things from supposedly mature Christians which can leave you dumbfounded and make you wonder, “Where did that come from?”
Education remains crucial if we are to understand the world that God has made and how it changes with time and the movements of culture. Good education is a systematic, layer upon layer discipline. We have a hotchpotch mix of ideas from books, conferences, info off the Net and deducing stuff on our own. We have knowledge and information but they are not ordered nor template-forming in shaping the way we understand the world, within (self-knowledge) and without (sociology, philosophy, history and science). We know enough, or we think we do, to manage immediate issues but we are poorly prepared for life and all it entails in space and time. The focus on technical education (as opposed to the humanities) is also not helpful. The same ignorance can affect the way we interpret Scriptures, approaching it with the same “technical angle.”
With the fast movements and fusions of culture in this globalised world, we can easily be caught flat-footed. Spiritually, with these rapid changes, some Christians can
be caught up in a sense of ennui and lose a sense of direction. Unable to adapt or appreciate the “new” things which God is doing, we long for the more familiar experiences from yesteryears.
And being poorly equipped philosophically, many Christians feel they are intellectually on the defensive. Their faith will be crushed if truth is truly confronted and if they read too widely. Is our God and His world that small and fragile?
What I am writing here needs to be read alongside with last weekend’s Vicar Writes. At the end of the day the heart is more important than anything else. After all, the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. We need to be clear on this. As C.S. Lewis once said, “Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.” But for those of us in a position of influence (i.e leadership), it is beholden on us not just to be good in heart, but to be wise in mind too. The rapid changes in our society mean that the Church cannot afford to remain silo-ed in the way she learns and thinks.
I end with recounting an experience I had with a conservative Anglican leader while I was doing my sabbatical in Toronto in 2014. He is highly respected and one of the leaders of the more conservative part of the Anglican Church which has broken away from the official one due to differences in doctrines. With sadness on his face, he told me that he made the mistake of not being properly educated theologically when he was younger. It meant that he could not provide the leadership needed when liberal ideas were swarming the Church.
Good reading and attending good Courses are good avenues for maturity. Surround yourselves with deep and dialectical friendships with great minds who can challenge your opinions and assumptions about life. Adopt an attitude of truth-searching. Know for the sake of knowing, not to impress. And don’t be driven by the fear of the need to please others. Be true to yourself. And at the same time, be open to learn from others especially gifted teachers in the Church. Learn to be a lover of God and indeed the Spirit will guide you into all truth.