Who can you trust?

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Greg Boyd (author of The Myth of a Christian Nation) espouses open theism. John Stott (author of The Cross of Christ) has written in support of annihilationism (which denies an eternal hell). Ergun Caner (author of Unveiling Islam) lied about the extent of his Muslim upbringing.

It seems I can’t read anyone without uncovering a theological skeleton in their closet.

What’s an armchair theologian like myself supposed to do? Who can I trust?

Should I take Beth Moore’s tack?

“She does not show much interest in theology or tradition, distrusting the way the academy has, at times, handled the Bible.”

“Moore is primarily self-taught. She uses commentaries and concordances when writing her studies, but she relies primarily on her own intuition when interpreting and applying Scripture.”

Maybe I should just throw out the academics, throw out theology, throw out tradition, throw out the scholars. I can be my own scholar.

I don’t really like the hubris of this approach. I’m not a Greek or Hebrew scholar–and it doesn’t matter how many times I look up the Greek or Hebrew word that the scholars translated as such, I don’t have the intimate knowledge of the language that allows me to determine which of the many translations of the word is the best. What’s more, I’d be foolish to suggest that I don’t have blind-spots in my theology–underlying assumptions that may or may not be based on Scripture which inform my interpretation of Scripture. Reading a variety of scholars can help me to identify and correct those blind spots.

So maybe I just need to find the perfect teacher. I can read all of his books and become a groupie. Let’s see. I could choose John Piper–he’s a favorite among the young Reformed, and I like him quite a bit. The middle-aged Reformed folk of my acquaintance really like John MacArthur–he’d be an option. N.T. Wright is a popular fellow among my book-club friends. Or I could do the really hip Reformed thing and find myself a good Puritan pastor to go ga-ga over. And then there’s always Beth Moore :-P

The problem with this approach?

There’s no such thing as a perfect teacher (except Christ Himself). Each of these men (or women) have something useful to say, certainly–but they also have blind spots, things they overemphasize, things they underemphasize. They’re humans, they’re fallible, and so is their understanding of Scripture.

I’ve said I can’t trust myself to do theology alone. I can’t trust an individual to do my theology for me. So who can I trust?

I don’t really have an answer. Instead, I have a reminder.

Remember the Bereans.

They were said to be fair-minded because they a) “received the word with all readiness”, and b) “searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.”

I urge all armchair theologians (and if you’re not one yet, you should become one!) to do the same. Gladly hear what the scholars have to say–and then search the Scriptures daily to see if what they say is so.

Some bloggers I’ve enjoyed for quite a while have recently started a new blog called Southern Baptist Girl, which encourages women to critically evaluate what they hear and read in light of Scripture. Those who want to know what critical analysis of teaching looks like might want to follow along to see how Lisa, Melissa, and Leslie do it.

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Reader Comments (1):

  1. Cassandra says:

    I think it’s good that we can’t “trust” people’s preachings and instead must constantly go back to the Bible. It would be too easy to get caught up in a preacher’s charisma or a persuasive argument and miss the subtleties that may not be Biblical.

    The Southern Baptist Girl blog looks interesting. Thanks for sharing the link!

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