Matt's blog

The story of me, an American in Edinburgh, Scotland finding my place as a musician, a husband, a father and a Christian.

Something I've Been Thinking About

I've discovered something recently that I've known all along. I surround myself almost exclusively with liberal, educated, Christian people. If you're reading this right now, chances are you fit that mold. Now I know some of you who read this don't, I'm just making a general statement. For the moment I'm not too concerned about the political leanings of the people I surround myself with, but rather the education level. I think that one way you can divide up society which transcends race, religion, or gender is by level of education, or more simply the educated and the uneducated. I want to point out that I've met several people who never had much if any formal education beyond high school who I think of as educated people and many more who are in or have completed college who I think of as uneducated. I think of the uneducated as the masses, the general public who are content with being entertained and amused. The educated always wants more, not more material things, but another idea, another concept, another notch to carve into the handle of their intellectual six-shooter.

Anyway, I think I am surrounded for the most part by educated people. Educated Christians, more accurately. The educated Christian wants more God, more understanding, more theology. How does the original Greek read? What was the social context? What’s the deeper meaning? The individual educated Christian’s faith is only as strong as his intellectual pursuit of God. Do you feel disconnected with God? Get into scripture. But don’t just read it, for goodness’ sake! To ‘just read’ the Holy Scriptures is a waste of the gift God has given us in His revealed word! Don’t meditate. Study. You want to be closer to God, you want a more authentic faith? Study your way there. The final’s coming up soon and you can’t use notes.

I don’t buy it.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to reduce anyone’s faith to only one dimension. But I do believe that this model of intellectual Christianity is the most defining dimension of many people’s faith. It’s been mine every now and then. Not only that, but the educated Christians in the church often try to force this style of spirituality onto the uneducated. This post by Anastasia points out an example of the intellectual expectations a priest has of his congregation.

Isn’t this handy? What, you don’t see it? Isn’t it handy that the way educated Christians feel is best to deal with God is the way educated people deal with everything? Pick it apart, really get into it, understand it, get to know its basic essence. Educated people relate to the world in this way, and they relate to God in this way. Isn’t that handy? You get a notch on your six-shooter and salvation all wrapped up in one.

Jesus came to the masses. He did not reason his way into people’s hearts, neither did he demand intellectual calisthenics from them. “Go and sin no more.” Doesn’t take a rocket scientist. Sure, it’s hard. No one is denying that. Christianity is hard, but it’s not over anyone’s head. Let people love God. Let them be Christians without bulking up their brains. Besides, what’s the real use in articulating a sound explanation of the Trinity? God’s nature is so cloaked in mystery, to hold up any conception we have of Him as authoritative would be pure arrogance. Does your idea of the Trinity benefit your relationship with your Creator? Excellent, keep it then. I won’t make you quit theology cold turkey, but I will ask you to restrain yourself from forcing theology onto your fellow Christians under the pretense that their salvation is directly tied to their level of understanding.

Ok, I’ll take a breather for a minute. The snow is melting. There’s a big storm headed in tomorrow night, should last for a few days at least. The luthier who is building my new guitar lives way out in the boondocks in Idaho, and I’m worried that I won’t be able to get there to pick up the guitar when it’s done in a week or two. Ok, breather over.

Do your ideas really help you relate to your creator? I realize that this blog has had a somewhat accusatory tone up until this point, so in the interest of fairness I’ll point the inquiry at myself. After all, I think I fall more or less into the educated Christian category myself. Do my ideas help me relate to my Creator?

I recently read some of Soren Kierkegaard’s writing for a class. He wrote,

“If I am able to apprehend God objectively, I do not have faith; because I cannot do this I must have faith.”

Faith and understanding. Faith and understanding. Two things I long for. Faith on one side of the scale, understanding on the other. I want to understand God, I want to get God, I want to know God intellectually. I want to be able to quantify God, both for my own benefit and because maybe one I have a true grasp on God I can evangelize with no fear of rejection. Look! I get God! Here you go, here’s God. I’ve done all the work for you, now you can get God, too.

Faith is necessary because I can’t understand God. When I come to the point where I completely understand God, or at least feel that I do, I render my faith impotent.

Grace by faith. Not only that, but grace by faith alone.

Does my understanding compromise my faith? Could the power of God’s grace in my life be diminished by my intelligence-strangled faith? I don’t know the answers to the questions, but I know they scare me.

Ok, just one last thing. I was thinking about writing more, but instead I’ll end with this. Pharisees were educated. Peter was a fisherman. Who was the rock on which the church was built?

Acts 15:5-11

Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses."

The apostles and elders met to consider this question. After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: "Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are."

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