A Little Seminary Is A Dangerous Thing

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.


Knowledge is not Life

Learn to Submit to Authority

5 Replies to “A Little Seminary Is A Dangerous Thing”

  1. I have often found it really is better to be silent and though a fool than speak and prove it. Too bad wisdom cannot be taught as knowledge is. Too bad listening is not subject to the instructive process as learning is.

    We are not as smart as we think we are; and we are the sinners we think we are not. A bad combination to have to deal with.

    Thanks for the post.

  2. This was a very insightful message, and couldn’t have come at a better time. I was in church this last week, when our pastor was speaking on the “Fear of God.” Let me first say, Praise God that there are people who aren’t afraid to preach on such stern subjects. But anyway he said something that hit my heart, the Greek for fear could be translated into word reverence. So he challenged me in not only fearing the Just and Holiness of the Lord, but he also challenged me to revere the Lord, as the Author and Perfector of our faith. So when it comes to knowledge, a passage comes to mind, “The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of understanding. Psalms 110:10.” So when we approach others with our knowledge of the scriptures, are we doing it because we Revere the Lord, or are we doing for our own praise? I rather choose to be quite then to allow one of His sheep stumble because of my arrogance. Have a Blessed day.

  3. Well said.

    The whole of 1 Cor. 8:1-3 seems to tell more of the story, as “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (v. 1b), and “If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.” (v. 2). But the real kicker seems to be verse three, “But if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.”

    The right kind of knowing has its root in GOD, not us, for God’s intimate knowledge of us is the whole basis of our knowing, let alone breathing.

    Right kind of knowing, which John and James (and Paul) love to write about, comes with the power of love in action, God transforming us in truth to live it out in all humility. Still learning how to cooperate with that.

    Thanks for the reminder, Mark.

  4. I love the quote “Seminary is a season of time where you’re gaining knowledge at a faster rate than you’re gaining wisdom.”

    As a first year Seminary student I wholeheartedly agree! Words of wisdom indeed.

    I’ve been convicted by James 1:5-6 and James 1:19, great verses.

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