My wife and I are homeschoolers and we both deeply value learning.
Most homeschoolers would agree that ‘to be a teacher is truly to be the learner’ (Kierkegaard 1995:461). A part of this involves appreciating how important it is to have a teachable attitude and flexible approach towards education.
This is to say that we study with, as much as we provide teaching for our Children. Learning from one another drives education and we all thrive because of it.
We have quickly learnt that there is no room for academic arrogance in a homeschooled environment. This is because we are always working towards being ‘empathetic, a good listener and solidly present’ (Gerkin 1997:157).
From my observation, the way we engage in this environment is properly informed by a pastoral theology which understands that ‘models of care must be adapted to our changing situation’ (ibid 1997:37).
I have been embedded in the academic world for four and a half years. Throughout that time I found it extremely rare to witness the same kind of academic arrogance that I have seen on display, via some of the social media platforms I utilise. The closest I got to this in my journey through the academic maze was witnessing what happens when an ideology guides the theology of academics.
One example of this was Donald Miller’s consistent posts on twitter this week, which concerned some poorly timed tweets from John Piper. Sadly, Piper’s tweets coincided with the tragedy in Oklahoma. I appreciate both men as Christians and view them as solid contributors to their respective fields within the church (Piper’s tweets have since been deleted).
They just went too far.
The problem is that we are all tempted to impose, by varying degrees, a sense of superiority over others, especially when we disagree.
If Sir Francis Bacon was right and ‘knowledge is power’, then in a world that has wrongly rejected all absolutes, knowledge becomes KING, power becomes EVERYTHING.
The chief concern here is that bulldozing others with our knowledge represents our own insecurities. Worst still, it asserts a false moral superiority because it places us in opposition to grace and above the law.
Our reactions reflect how we feel about our ability to decode what has been communicated to us.
Sure, there are plenty of people who will agree, disagree and be totally indifferent to what you have to say. Fine, I get that.
For me the issue of academic arrogance is very real. It’s a potential compromise for Christians who use social media for mission, proclamation and outreach. The scripture that comes to mind here is Mt.10:16 (you know, the part where Jesus talks about sheep, wolves, serpents, wisdom, doves and innocence).
My point is this: it is necessary for Christians to keep practicing discernment. Knowing when to engage and when to disengage, when to assert ourselves and when to back off.
This means learning when to disagree openly and when to let some comments simply just fall away without incident. When we process this theologically we find a comfortable starting point with Paul’s plea to ‘speak the truth in love, like Christ’ (Eph.4:11-15).
My encouragement to you today is this: if like me, you inadvertently struggle in this area, make sure you return to your post.
Change it, delete it or mould it into something else. Don’t let the sense of inferiority that has guided the reactions of others cause you to give up.
Excellence is about giving the best we have to offer.
If that ‘imperfect offering’ (Cohen) reflects your best, LET IT SHINE. If it represents your 2nd best pull it and revise it. Do so, not because someone didn’t like it. Do it because you acknowledge that you can do better, knowing that in some ‘circumstances where we show hospitality to strangers, we may be entertaining angels without realizing it’ (Heb.13:2, ESV/NLT/MESSAGE)
Act on the truth which a lot of homeschoolers already own, that is ‘to be a teacher is truly to be the learner’ (Kierkegaard 1995:461).
When we do this the church proclaims humility through vulnerability, because we are open to correction and retraction. This shows the world that we are real, and that we are not part of an ‘elite spiritual aristocracy…that claims ‘special gnosis (knowledge)’ (Peterson 2005:61).
Our actions will show the world through word and deed, that we are part of a ‘suffering and sacramental community, on an imminent-incomplete journey towards the completeness promised to us in the event of the resurrected Christ’ (Barth, 2008:29).
This promotes authentic church, where Father, Son and Spirit through the voice of the μαρτύριον (the marturion/matyrs – witnesses) invites the broken, rejected and downtrodden into becoming genuine ‘dialogue partners’ (McGrath, 1992:128) with Him.
Barth, K 2008 Prayers: Karl Barth Westminster John Knox Press London
Gerkin,C. 1997 Introduction to Pastoral Care Abingdon Press Nashville
Hong, H & Hong, E. 1995 The Essential Kierkegaard Princeton University Press
McGrath, A. 1992 Bridge building InterVarsity Press
Peterson, E. 2005 Christ plays in ten thousand places Hodder & Stoughton, London
Song: Entertaining Angels
Album: Step Up To The Microphone (1998)
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