Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The Dialectic of Being a Disciple

Part of my frustration (expressed in yesterday's post) derives from a troubling trend. There seems to be an inverse proportion of theological education and anti-intellectualism in Baptist life. In other words, the more educated some of us become the less interested many of us are in the intellectual pursuit of our faith. The gap between clergy and laity widens despite our current age of "global information." Or, to put it bluntly, lay people seem satisfied with stupid answers (I realize such a statement is crass, elitist, arrogant, and perhaps downright unChristian).

Then I read today on Scot McKnight's blog a similar sentiment, as he reviews a new book by Mark Noll:

The premise? A free church tradition that celebrates "the bible is our creed" invites (even celebrates?) anti-intellectualism.

Then, I sift through these sentiments as I think about how Jesus thanked God that eggheads in his day didn't get what he was trying to do. Rather, he celebrated the fact that the simple, the "babes", the commoners were drawn to him and his kingdom work.

But, they still had to "learn" (the root idea in the word "disciple"). So, I guess I'm wondering: are these ideas mutually exclusive, learning and simplicity?


Joey V. said...

It seems to me like it is just the opposite. The Pharisees may have been learned, but they could not fathom new information. Likewise, I don't know if I see the followers of Jesus as being simple-minded. "Babes" are not simply unintelligent, they are sponges of knowledge.

But this is coming from a college drop-out, so take it with a grain of salt.

Darryl Schafer said...

I don't have a good answer. Or any answer, for that matter...

Anonymous said...

The Baptists I pastor aren't anti-intellectual (or a-intellectual) because they are Baptists, they are so because they are poorly educated. I didn't say stupid, though. Many are naive, and do not know how to find a proper answer. This is a matter of broader culture, not simply a denominational issue.

On the other hand, I don't think that as a Church, we stimulate the mind. We are satisfied with bad answers, and this is to our shame.

Rodney Reeves said...

Good point, Joey. Perhaps Jesus was speaking of his disciples as "babes" because they had much to learn (and knew it), contrasted with the way he described the religious leaders: "wise and intelligent."

But, it still bothers me. I wonder if I would have been among the Pharisees, since I am supposed to be "intelligent."

So, Aaron, are you saying that being "naive" would be synonymous with being "babes." And, if so, is that a good thing?

Matt Kimbrough said...

If we look at probably the two most important Apostolic Fathers, Peter and Paul, we see that one is an "unschooled, ordinary" man and the other is a Pharisee of Pharisees trained under one of the most important teachers of the time, Gamaliel. Now, Paul considered all of that as loss compared to knowing Christ, but he certainly did not become "stupid for Jesus."

So, no, intellectualism and simplicity are not mutually exclusive. God gives different gifts to benefit his body in different ways, and I'm determined to use my mind and my passion for learning to benefit the Kingdom as much as possible.

Rodney Reeves said...


I appreciate your pneumatological/ecclesiological answer.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps, some of Paul's critiques in 1 Corinthians may be appropriate. But my basic point was that the ethic of the "simple country folk" is much broader than just the theological gap between the clergy and the laity.

There is a distinct distrust of people with "booksmarts" who don't know nothin about nothin.

Rodney Reeves said...


I wonder how such a rural ethic played out in 1st c. world.