A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Are You Afraid Scholarship Will Ruin Your Faith?

divinity-libraryfrom Jared Oliphint:
Academic books filled with silver-dollar words can come across as literary bullies, taunting you, sitting there perched on your desk, nightstand, and bookshelves. These books wear a costume, posing in the same square form as your favorite reads—the novels, the uplifting devotionals, the Pulitzer biographies. They share the outward look and texture as a can't-put-it-down story, but they are not the same. If some books are a stroll in the park wrapped in a summery cool breeze, academic treatises can be a ponderous trudge through a bog, uphill, at night, in the rain, alone.

But the trudge is an illusion, a feeling, an attitude, and a state of mind. You created it, and you can exercise a surprising amount of control over it in the long run. The skills that built and stacked internal walls meant to protect your own ego against the barrage of heavy, theological terms are the same skills that can sack those walls and command those technical terms for your spiritual benefit.

Tackle the Tomes

It takes a fresh look at theology and an intentional shift in your reading style to tackle thick tomes. For the shift to be effective, you'll need to put your favorite novels on Mars and your academic, theological books on Venus. They're not the same thing, though their similar appearance tries to tell you otherwise.

Your Choice

Most of us are under no official orders to read. Reading is voluntary, chosen with either helpful motives or less-than-helpful motives. Picking up a book because you think you should won't fill up your motivation tank. Duty alone rarely spurs us on. At times dutiful reading is necessary, but for non-students the choice of which book to pick up is yours and yours alone. You can opt in any time and opt out just as quickly, and a big part of your mind knows this as you sit—judge, jury, and at times executioner for your current read.

Wet Blankets?

There is a persistent, parasitic myth buzzing around that academic theological books are wet blankets for your devotional life, or your relationship with Jesus, or something. The source of these myths is typically those who out of principle do not lift books that require cerebral weight training. You won't hear the same anti-theology myth coming from someone who has popped out on the other side of a dense library. If I'm looking for advice on whether a particular mountain is worth the climb, I'll ask someone who has already been there, not someone who has never packed for the hike, whose opinion rests on hearsay and speculation. The same principle applies to just about anything that requires effort, including dense theological works.
The entire post, "Mortifying the Fear of Academic Books," can be found here. HT: Betty Newman

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