Beginning seminary students are often flush with excitement of the prospect of learning the deep things of God. With a legitimate hunger for God’s word, we tackle our language and theology study with great rigor, and begin having conversations with our fellow students, challenging each other’s understanding of the scriptures.
A little knowledge, however, is a dangerous thing. “Knowledge puffs up.”
I remember having a conversation about scriptural interpretation with some fellow students during my first semester of seminary. The topic of our conversation was a very respected and godly older leader in our denomination whom I had heard speak at a recent conference. He told of how God had spoken to him through a particular passage of scripture, and led him to make a major, life-changing decision.
The only problem was that according to all we’d been learning in hermeneutics class, he’d interpreted the scripture incorrectly. My buddies and I discussed it thoroughly and agreed that the poor silly man was wrong. He’d misinterpreted the scripture and someone should show him the error of his ways.
I shudder now to think of my hubris and judgment. Even if I was right about the scripture, my sin was far more grievous than his mistake.
Seminary is a season of time where you’re gaining knowledge at a faster rate than you’re gaining wisdom. We have to be careful how we use what we’re learning.
A former student recently told me that at the conclusion of his first semester of Hebrew class, his professor gave the class a very stern lecture: “Don’t you dare go back to your home churches and tell your pastor all the things he’s doing wrong. Don’t you dare! You’re not as smart as you think you are.”
You’re not as smart as you think you are.
Some questions to ask yourself before you spout off your newfound knowledge:
- Am I being wise or just smart?
- Would Christ speak to someone in this way?
- Is my conviction genuine or is it a cloak for my pride?
- Is my motivation to love others or feel better about myself?
- Are my words useful for edification, giving grace to those who hear (Eph. 4:29)?
- Has gaining this knowledge made me more the man or woman God wants me to be?
- Can I say this with true humility?
If in doubt, it’s probably wiser to say nothing.
About the AuthorMark Warnock is the founder and General Editor of Seminary Survival Guide.com. He serves as Associate Pastor of First Baptist Church of Columbia, Illinois, and is a Ph.D student in Christian Philosophy at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is working with Ed Eubanks on a book on how to survive seminary.
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