Proverbs 25:2 (ESV) It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.
There is a very real need to inquire that seems essential for each one of us. Need simply refers to that which is essential for life. We are strongly encouraged in scripture to seek that we might find, to search out that which is hidden with the assurance that as we seek and search we will find, in Christ Jesus. We are commanded to seek first the kingdom of God that all we seek after in and of God’s Kingdom may then be added to us. The problem is that there are far too many who want to do it all for us, simply because they see us as just too ignorant or lazy to do it for ourselves. Then having created this dependency, us on them, they turn around and criticize us for not doing or learning to do for ourselves.
Where I am headed here is part of an ongoing season of pondering, thinking and reflecting upon the issue of “dumbing down” within our culture and especially the church. I see some measure of a supposed need for our making things easier for the church and especially for non-churched people. My concern here is that church congregations all to often feel some kind of need to have all of the work done for them, so that they will not have to do it themselves. I believe that churches have even become so overly expectant towards this end, of all of the work being down for them, and thus are critical when all of the work hasn’t been done for them. I find myself left wondering about what we have created here.
Acts 14:22 (ESV) strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.
I am of the persuasion that struggle is a good thing. I believe the scriptures teach this as well. I liken the whole area of this dumbing down to the chick in the egg. We feel bad for the chick that must fight its way out of the egg. We think it is too young to understand, to ignorant to get it, too weak to overcome, so let us help this little chick out by breaking down the shell for him, thus saving him from the frustration and potential discouragement of having to wage war against this shell of opposition. As we in our wonderful benevolence reach out and do the work for the chick, we actually are harming the chick’s life and taking away from the chick that which is essential for its survival.
In our short sightedness, we harm that which we only sought to help. I believe we are on this same track for far too many within the church. We want to take away the struggle of wrestling with the Word of God, of Kingdom life, of Growing in faith and experiencing the hardship of growing in righteousness, in Christ Jesus! We no longer want people to suffer, struggle, fight the good fight of faith, experience the fires of refinement, etc. We want to take it all away for them, making it oh so much easier. Yet even as the chick, we then only harm them in creating a dependency the Lord never intended and thus building a weak and frail body of believers.
2 Peter 1:5 (ESV) For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, (etc, etc)
My concern is that we are creating a realm within the church of too simple, too easy, too little work having to be done to understand God’s Word, Will and Ways. There seems to be this subtle but very real thinking that people out there are just too dumb or ignorant to study on their own to discover the nuggets of God’s Word and Truths. So we have created a realm in the church of teaching, that Kingdom Life is all about them and their needs. This, what I call hyper dependency, is being created inadvertently by those who know and by those who do not. This is also being strongly encouraged, especially in Christian Marketing. In fact I am extremely concerned that Marketing is indeed taking over far too much in determining what the church is suppose to believe and act. They are also, by the way, making a lot of money along the way as they feed this over reaching dependency.
2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV) Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
My reference in the article above was concerning this desire to make the Bible Translations so clearly interpreted that anyone, regardless of training, education or experience can understand the scriptures. I have very real concerns with this. We seem to want to take out of the process of Bible Study the need to study, wrestle, pray, seek God and the power of the Holy Spirit to understand the scriptures. We don’t want language that is in any way unfamiliar because “they” might not get it. We must actually believe that we can so translate the scriptures that we no longer will need the Holy Spirit to get our understandings and illuminated insights, though no one would admit such a thing.
The value of anything is often found in the cost of that which we would come to value. In other words, I am concerned that in our effort to make the things of God’s Word and its understanding so cost-free that we will, as I believe we already have, make the things of God’s Word of too little value. We want all of the information we can get in our study bibles, so we don’t have to buy books, learn to read and study them or dig out understandings for ourselves. We want it all done for us. In fact we demand it, expect it and are overly critical when it is not done for us. We are creating an unhealthy dependency upon those who have dug out the riches of God’s Word. We are creating and strongly encouraging a brand of laziness that genuinely is counter productive.
If all of the work is done for me, then why should I seek to do the work on my own? If all I have to do is look at my study bible notes for the answers, or even simply believe that, my overly interpreted translation, means what it says without question, then why dig further, why inquire, why fast, pray and seek? Why ask the Lord Jesus to reveal to me what already has been revealed in text, notes or some preachers sermon or blog writers post?
We have come so far that we do not want anyone to have to look up the meaning even of words or to be stretched into learning new words. We want the scriptures to be so user-friendly that we do not have to consider, ponder, inquire, define and or even ask for their meaning. I am concerned. I am very concerned.
I believe that we are creating an ever-widening gap between those who have the skills, knowledge and training to dig out the Word of God truths and insights. We are creating a realm of intimidation by ignorance, not intentionally, I pray, but it is taking place just the same. How do we question those who have the training, skill, knowledge and understanding that we obviously do not?
In fact we read online those many, many voices that decry those who are seen as misinterpreting the scriptures, do not know the original languages, do not know how to do proper exegesis, etc. Yet at the same time we are increasingly creating a dependency upon the knowledge of the increasingly few who do. The gap is ever-widening. Where is the challenge? Where is the need? Where is the point of it all? Where is the challenge to grow, in truth? Why not just simply read your study notes or buy a much simpler translation?
I consider this, what I call dumbing down of the church and scriptures, a travesty of incredible proportions. We want people to step up and become Biblically literate and yet at the same time we believe that they are too ignorant and stupid to do it, so we do all of the work for them creating this dependency upon those, the few, the all-knowing ones. Again, where is the challenge in all of this dumbing down, over simplification, reducing everything to the all too common denominator?
Familiarity breeds contempt, so the saying goes. I believe this is also true of God’s Word. We can read it and assume that because there are these very simple terms that we use everyday, we actually know what they mean. We can read the word love, faith, trust, life, etc. and assume we readily know the meaning of these terms on our own without any need to pursue further depth of understanding. These presumptuous leaps of claiming to know already what the Bible is teaching regarding these truths, only serves to leave us with us a subjective level of knowing without any true depth and little if any real power regarding God’s Word. These presumptuous knowings will always leave us falling short of the depth of knowing that the Lord would have for each one of us. Just the word love in our language, cannot begin to grasp the fullness of the Kingdom of God’s meaning for this word or in the Greek, the variety of words translated love in English. Faith or believe are other words so easily assumed upon and the list could go on and on. Good English is not good Greek or good Hebrew.
We seek to make the scriptures common in language but then get upset because people do not study out the language and meanings of scriptures or seemingly misuse them. We sell the idea of meaning for meaning translation as good and needed but criticize people for not embracing the disciplines of study, hermeneutics, exegesis, etc. I am very concerned about this double standard.
When it is all said and done, when we do all of the work for those whom we have, in our arrogance, determined that they can not learn quickly enough to do for themselves, how then can we complain when they buy into our lie and then not grow in the disciplines of studying God’s Word? We have robbed them of the need to inquire, to seek for themselves the answers, to learn the disciplines of Studying God’s Word and applying it to their lives. After all, just buy a new study bible, a more user-friendly bible translation, or simply asking someone who claims to know, for surely they will tell me. Why would I have to study, learn, pray and pray more, and wrestle through to the point of genuinely growing up in the Word of God and His Holy Spirit, when someone else will do all of the work for me?
We have gained within the church exactly what we have created, a church body of co-dependent leaders and Biblically illiterate undisciplined followers. The leaders who need to know more than the followers so that the followers remain dependent upon them. The followers who need to have leaders who know more than they do so that they don’t have to do the work of learning, of discovering, of becoming trained and equipped, etc. They just need to show up to hear the watered down Word of God or read some watered down text of an all too common and shallow language, so common anyone could supposedly get it, even without any need of the Holy Spirit’s teaching/illumination and they will be just fine. We don’t train them and equip them except to be increasingly dependent upon those who claim to know more than they do. We then bewail them for not growing in the discipline of God’s Word understood and applied.
Where is this path going to take us? I know this will sound all to melodramatic, but aside from the mercy and grace of God, this path will take us down the road to a new dark ages; knowledge in the hands of a few, dependency for our spiritual lives upon those few and all wondering where we went wrong, after all, we made it so very easy for them. We’re creating a lazy and lethargic church. Creating? Have created, and only serving now to reinforce this more and more. We are being led as sheep when we should be rising up as the Royal Priests of the Most High God. Lord have mercy on us all.