On not growing in faith and knowledge

November 17, 2010

In recent conversations with my seminary classmates, we've
been lamenting the state of Christian education. In many churches it is evident
that the average member hasn't grown in religious or biblical knowledge since he
or she heard moralistic tales of Noah, Esther or Daniel as a child. Some even resist
pastoral attempts to expand their Christian knowledge, and they simply refuse
to learn about other
religions
. As seminarians, we are struggling with how to respond to this.

It's a significant problem because it affects not only the
faith of the communal body of Christ but also how we live in a pluralistic
society. Religious identity matters, now more than ever. Our globalized age has
seen increased secularization and indifference to the particularities of
religion-but this doesn't lead to a society where religion doesn't matter. It
leads to misunderstanding about the other, with sometimes dire consequences.

A poor understanding of our religious self fails both the
body of Christ and the needs of our global society. For society to be healthy
we must do the hard work of understanding ourselves as religious creatures as
well as opening ourselves up to learning about the religious other. I
appreciate this comment from Tom Greggs:

Far from being a distant (and
perhaps unimportant) figure, the religious other has become in recent times a
real person who affects the communities and the world to which each of us
belong.

We are interconnected with people of all religions whether
we like it or not. A lack of understanding places us in a position of judgment
of other faith systems' validity. It also fuels the paranoia of fundamentalist
factions within them. When the interconnected world asserts that
fundamentalists' faith is too irrelevant to be understood, this confirms their
worst fears--and fear can spur violent reaction.

Living in a pluralistic world requires respect, which in
turn requires knowledge and understanding. The question for current and future
clergy is this: how can we initiate and shepherd this process in our churches?

Comments

Christian Education

Great post. I have been doing a huge amount of thinking about how to help with adult Christian education. In short, I think we need to shift from "education" to "faith formation" as our model, and we need to think about everything we do in the life of the church as an act of shaping and forming and educated disciples.

I just finished a whole series on the topic (with lots more ideas) that starts here: http://forthesomedaybook.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/what-to-do-about-adult...

Thanks for the post.

It's about perspective

In college and seminary I noticed that every teacher thinks his or her subject is the most important topic in the world.
The economist thinks that economics is the most important think in the world and everything, history, the present, and even family problems are interpreted from an economic perspective.
Mathmaticians, historians etc all think that the world revovled around their disipline. They have a hard time understanding why eveyone else does not understand the central driving force of the universe.
Bible students are the same way. These are people who have discovered the value of Bible study and striving to know God better. What else could be more important and why doesn't everyone else understand that this is the central driving force of the universe? Especially people who claim to be Christians, how can they be so comfortable in their ignorance?
Economics, mathmatics, history all matter when they impact my life.
I will learn the Bible when it impacts my life. When it becomes part of my perspective.
How do we get people to study the Bible more? To seek spiritual growth more? When we stop beating people over the head with pious words about what they should do and demonstrate as Bible Students that it is relevant, impactful, and powerful in daily living by how we live our lives.
Stop preaching and start being so that people can start seeing what a life lived according to His Word should look like.