Dangerous Dogma

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Throughout my life, I have always leaned toward the contemplative Christianity stream. I love knowledge. I see it as a door to open my relationship with Christ to new and deeper levels. To understand more is to be able to apply more to my walk with Him and to please Him more.

I was born into and minister in a fellowship in which some tend to think that having much knowledge destroys the Spirit’s ability to use a person. I have always struggled against this idea, even as a younger person.

Should there even be a separation between knowledge and love? This idea generally comes from some of Paul’s writings, especially where Paul tells us that knowledge puffs up but love builds up (1 Cor 8:1; 13:4).

The idea of being puffed up speaks of an attitude of arrogance, and believe me, in the education profession there is plenty arrogance to go around. I have loved learning in my education. But I have noticed this false separation placed on education by others in my fellowship.

Some suggest that knowledge ruins your ministry, that it makes it harder for God to use you. When I was going to Bible college and Seminary, I was constantly on guard against allowing myself to become so academically entangled to ideas that I would develop an arrogance about things that I thought had no effectiveness in the Christian mind.

As a case in point, I have found that God’s Spirit will command us to do things that don’t make any logical sense to us. This does not mean that they are not logical, for later we often find why God had asked us to do them.

Sometimes God commanded me to worship Him in a dillfferent way, to step out for Him in a group of academic peers and look like a fool. The point was to help me realize that I’m there for God, not for others. And I discovered that my disobedience was not about my “higher understanding” but my fear of what people would think.

“My disobedience was not about my “higher understanding” but my fear of what people would think.”

Jonathan Srock

The hardest lesson I learned in academia was to hone my critical thinking skills without forming a critical spirit. I would sit in chapels with my Greek New Testament and frown upon mispronounced Greek words, turn my mind off to whatever the speaker was saying, and not get anything out of the service.

I began to realize that I get out of a service what I put into it. When I check out because of one little thing, I miss what God has for me. But that had very little to do with the knowledge I possessed. It had everything to do with my attitude.

“When I check out because of one little thing, I miss what God has for me.”

Jonathan Srock

I believe this is the point that Paul makes, especially in the Love Chapter of 1 Corinthians 13 where he states that “If I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, but have not love…I am nothing (1 Cor 13:2).

Part of being a disciple is using our minds to glorify God (Matt 22:37). If you look at Jesus’ quote of the Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4, you would find that He added “mind.” One of the ways that we can love God is by using the brains He gave us and meditating on Him and His Word.

“Part of being a disciple is using our minds to glorify God (Matt 23:37).”

Jonathan Srock

But knowledge has this way of creeping into our psyche, of inflaming our ego. When we know something and share it, and people tell us how smart we are, it gets us into trouble. Instead of serving others by sharing what we have learned, we think we’re more than we are.

We develop a complex, and that causes arrogance and pride to rear their ugly heads. This truly comes out in discussions of theology and the Bible. Some people want to start a discussion, but not for mutual growth.

They want to show off their knowledge, to shut others down. This is not acting in love. The Love Chapter teaches us that love will outlive knowledge (1 Cor 13:8-10). Dogma becomes dangerous when it is not thought out and discussed in love.

When I became the pastor of New Life Assembly, one visitor during our Wednesday night Bible studies shared his views from time to time. The church had been in between pastors and were interested in what he shared.

He was a King James Only believer who had a thorough interest in Bible translations. He was quite knowledgeable. I wanted the current teacher to finish his series before I took over. I sat in the audience and contributed from time to time.

This person knew I was the new pastor. He wanted to talk to me as a “young pup” about which translation was the best to use in my ministry. I agreed to sit down with him and discuss the issues he wanted to present.

What he didn’t know is that I have a BA in Biblical Languages, and I’m not held to an English translation. I can dig deeper, and do every day. I don’t dig deeper to get one up on my opponents. I dig deeper because I want to grow in my understanding and relationship with God.

This man spent an hour and a half discussing his views with me. I listened intently, thinking about what he said, and held up my side of the conversation. I could see some holes in his arguments because of my critical thinking. These skills kept me from accepting some strange moments in our conversation.

I finally told this person that I would be using the translation I was familiar with. I stated my concerns with his favorite translation and outlined my position. I did it in love. I didn’t resent him then, and I don’t now. I believe that we can have discussions that bring clarity to our understanding. God can use knowledge to help others understand better.

God wants us to use our minds. He wants us to search the Scriptures and understand Him better. His Spirit can use us in greater ways when we know Him more deeply. And yet, as we hone our knowledge, we must also keep our pride in tow, not allowing that pride to have a foothold.

We must lovingly serve in knowledge. It is not about whether we can have knowledge or love. It’s about how to lovingly use our knowledge. It’s about our attitude in the gaining and dispensing of knowledge.

No matter what we discuss, we must do it in a way that glorifies God. You can be right about something but wrong in the way that you share it. The attitude that we speak our knowledge in is just as important as the information we pass along.

“You can be right about something but wrong in the way that you share it.”

Jonathan Srock

For God to use us in our knowledge, we must be humble and loving, kind and well-mannered. That is what it means to have the mind of Christ.

If God can keep our attitude in check, knowledge benefits is greatly. Knowledge is part of godly wisdom. And wisdom promises us life and favor from the Lord. Make sure that you know how to think critically without developing a critical spirit.

“Know how to think critically without developing a critical spirit.”

Jonathan Srock

Be open to God’s wisdom and knowledge, but always use these tools in humble and God-honoring ways, and surely knowledge and contemplation will take you deeper in your walk and love for God and His people!

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