We’ve all seen examples of people who, when the scene plays out, we know that we do not want to be “that guy.” For example, when you see the guy who has just barely learned a new theological term throwing it around among people who know what that term means so as to make people think he knows what it means, we remember that we don’t want to be that guy. When we see a guy wearing enough Christian paraphernalia that we actually wonder if he might not have simply fallen into a display at a Family Christian Store, we generally grasp that we don’t want to be that guy. Honestly, when we watch the Left Behind movie (I was forced) and see the main character walking everywhere with a larger-than-life Bible in his hands the whole time after his conversion, even at times when it made no sense to be carrying one, we are tempted not to want to be that guy either.
But let me assure you, especially you new seminarians, that there is another guy you do not want to be. In the fine tradition of the “Real Men of Genius” radio commercials that salute such men as “Mr. Giant Taco Salad Inventor”, “Mr. Bathroom Toilet Paper Roll Changer”, and “Mr. Scoreboard Marriage Proposal Guy”, I give to you this guy not to be: “Mr. Ask a Question in Class to Try to Look Smarter Guy.”
Allow me to illustrate. While sitting through my first semester of Introduction to the New Testament, I can recall that, almost every day, a particular student would pose at least one question in class. This event was always special, because, whenever this gentlemen would raise his hand, the sound of other students’ pencils (think pre-laptop saturation) dropping to their desks made it sound as though a tiny little wooden rain storm had somehow begun inside the room. Undeterred, this student would ask a question that usually began with the phrase “Don’t you think. . . ” and would continue through at least five minutes of him expounding his particular view of some topic for the professor to approve. Honestly, I never recall this man asking a question that he did not think he already knew the answer to. All of his questions-all of them-were intended to make sure that the professor would say, “Yes, that’s right.”
Not being Mr. Ask a Question in Class to Try to Look Smarter Guy will aid your survival at seminary. Why? First, you will have fewer students plotting your untimely demise (or, in Christian terms, plotting your predetermined entry to glory). Second, you will actually have time to hear what your professor actually does think about the topic that he actually intends to teach. Third, you will have a far smaller chance of expounding heresy in a classroom only to have to be publicly corrected by the professor who has so patiently allowed you to jam all ten toes into your mouth. And fourth, it could be that another student in the class has a question that will be helpful to the entire class, a question that brings forth from the professor greater explanation of the topic at hand.
Now, don’t get me wrong, we all want to participate appropriately in class. If the professor is asking for your opinion, feel free to give him what he seeks. If it is a group discussion, join in and have a blast (within limits of courtesy and decency). But please, for your own ability to learn and for the sake of the sanity of those who sit in class around you, do not ever become Mr. Ask a Question in Class to Try to Look Smarter Guy.