I know a bit about some things and close to nothing about other things. Despite that, I’ll concede that I’m a bit of a know-it-all when it comes to those particular topics about which I perceive I am somewhat knowledgeable. In my weaker moments, I’m a know-it-all about things I really don’t know much of anything about purely based on logical thought progressions and questioning strategies.
When I don’t know anything about a subject, I am either A) content with not knowing about it and will openly admit my lack of knowledge (e.g. photography, the Cuban missile crisis, super packs, and fantasy football) or B) read and ask questions about whatever until I feel as though I have gained suitable knowledge on the subject. Recent events led me to see that I knew close to nothing about Calvinism/Reformed theology. Because we have recently started attending a new church, I wanted to understand more about this particular theology.
Let’s just say this has sort of rocked my world. I’ve spent hours over the past few weeks praying and meditating, reading theology books and my Bible, e-mailing several people whose opinions I respect regarding theology, and searching for the end of the internet regarding this topic. I haven’t come to a firm conclusion on all of that, but that’s not the point of this post. I’m just providing background knowledge on how I came to be reading J. I. Packer’s Knowing God this week.
I’ve only read the first few chapters, but a particular quote from the first chapter really convicted me. While I openly acknowledge the ways my core sin of pride manifests itself in my life, Packer seems to have summed it up in a brief paragraph.
Here’s his original text:
“If we pursue theological knowledge for its own sake, it is bound to go bad on us. It will make us proud and conceited. The very greatness of the subject matter will intoxicate us, and we shall come to think of ourselves as a cut above other Christians because of our interest in it and grasp of it; and we shall look down on those whose theological ideas seem to us crude and inadequate and dismiss them as very poor specimens.”–from Knowing God by J. I. Packer
Now Packer’s point here actually does not really apply to me in this particular instance. This current process of studying theology has actually been very humbling. I feel sifted, molded, shaped, challenged and generally small and weak in light of High greatness.
HOWEVER, make some very minor changes in this quote, and you get a window directly to the core of my deepest sin struggles.
If we pursue
theologicalknowledge for its own sake, it is bound to go bad on us. It will make us proud and conceited. The very greatness of the subject matter will intoxicate us, and we shall come to think of ourselves as a cut above others Christiansbecause of our interest in it and grasp of it; and we shall look down on those whose theologicalideas seem to us crude and inadequate and dismiss them as very poor specimens.–adapted from Knowing God by J. I. Packer
I fully believe that the other side of our greatest strength is our greatest weakness. God blessed me with a thirst to learn and a drive for knowledge. I enjoy reading, learning, and discussing. I’m in grad school because God created me for this and enabled me to go. Not everyone is privileged with being in this place, and I know I am here because He has a purpose for which I am blessed to be a part. However, this is a summary of exactly what I look like when I allow my flesh to rule rather than submitting to the work of the Holy Spirit within me.
This past year I’ve really learned a lot about myself and how this ugliness rears its head. God is shaping me in a way that moves farther away from instances like this to moments when I am instead able to learn from others, listen thoughtfully and carefully, and, when appropriate, help others to learn as I have learned. The process is obviously not complete. We’re all lifelong projects of refinement, but I’m thankful for the evidence I can see of His work in this area of my life this year.