In graduate school, I read a short, small book that was of immense value. In it, the author encouraged theological students to respect the Christians in their churches and not to demean them by looking down on their “lack of knowledge.” His exhortation resonated with me because I felt that very temptation: to set myself up as more mature, more spiritual because of my superior grasp of all things biblical and godly.
With true maturity, however, I have come to realize that biblical/theological literacy is not an accurate barometer of spiritual maturity. Rather, it can in a very hideous way hide or mask spiritual IMmaturity.
The Pastoral Epistles are ripe with wonderful, practical advice that the apostle gives to Timothy and Titus. In my estimation, the most excellent counsel he offers is this:
“Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.” — 2 Timothy 2:23
“But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.” — Titus 3:9
In inexperienced teachers/preachers (regardless of their physical age), there is the (often well-intentioned) temptation to share EVERYTHING they have learned with their students without ever pausing to ask an important question: “This is true, but is it necessary and helpful?”
I am not a believer that every truth needs to be said, let alone taught. Some things aren’t worth the discussion. Some questions aren’t worth asking. I don’t think this is an absolute but rather depends on the audience. I have been guilty of (if I’m honest) trying to show off my intellectual brilliance by discussing an issue that, quite simply, my students were not ready to handle, and I continue to be frustrated when I see others do the same. I don’t think it’s a sin, but it’s poor teaching practice, and certainly goes against Paul’s advice.
Perhaps a good question to ask would be this: “Would someone who disagreed with me on this topic believe the debate/conversation is worth it?” If the answer is no, that’s a good sign you should keep your thoughts on a topic to yourself. If I disagree with you, but don’t see the point of talking about a subject because, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter to a hill of beans, maybe take the hint. This isn’t a fool-proof guardrail, but it has served me well.
And at the risk of igniting a debate on this issue (which I absolutely will NOT tolerate and will delete comments that seek to do so), I want to give just ONE of MANY examples of what I mean.
Some of my friends, brothers whom I love and believe they love the Lord, the Word, and the Church, are proponents of the “Heaven will be a restored Earth” theory. I understand where they come from. I will admit that certain Scriptures seem to suggest such. I also will admit that, in some ways, our concept of heaven is more shaped by medieval theology than it is the Scriptures. But I am not of that camp. As a very wise preacher put it to me once, “Who cares?” As in, “Who cares where heaven is? I just want to be there.” Wise words. Is heaven a restored earth? I don’t know, nor do I see the point of trying to figure it all out, one way or another. My reasons for wanting to go to heaven have more to do with WHO is there vs. WHERE it is.
I don’t want this post, nor any discussion about it, to center on the “Heaven is a restored Earth” theory. Not in the least. Rather, I want us to take a collective breath and ask: “Why do we discuss certain topics; why do we entertain certain questions; why do we dabble in certain controversial issues?” Because we love the truth? That’s admirable.
But that almost be coupled with a love for our brethren, and to that we must add a recognition that not everyone can handle such conversations properly. It is one thing to, with another inquisitive mind, privately debate an issue for the joy of intellectual stimulation and allowing iron to sharpen iron. But it is altogether something else to stand before an audience and try to show off by chattering on about the latest thing you’ve learned, when (for all you know) you just know enough to be dangerous, and the conversation will just ignite unnecessary controversy.
One approach is holy. One is not. May God give us the discernment to know which is which, the humility to admit our wrong, and the desire to retain a little awe and wonder in our lives. Maybe we weren’t supposed to figure EVERYTHING out in this life.
One last thing. This post wasn’t written in response to any recent event, etc. If you think, “I bet he’s writing about so-and-so,” you’re completely wrong. I’ve thought these things for many years and finally decided to come clean on it. I pray these words are taken in the spirit intended, and that they help you and I both glorify Christ to the ends of the earth.