Think wisely. There is much to know in a thousand plus worthy subjects. Make your primary pursuit Scripture. After that, you will have to choose wisely where your efforts go in what you study. Yes, all truth is God’s, but that does not mean it is equally valuable.
Think deeply. For subjects worth studying, push yourself. Most of us can go deeper than we realize.
Think in community. We all need others. We need their perspective and to hear how they process important truths.
But never forget that all this thinking well is pointless if it does not motivate us to love God and others more.
I’ve asked fellow teachers, and certainly wrestled myself with the following question: How much as a teacher of God’s Word do you introduce others to the complexity, debates, and depth of Christianity?
Teachers should seek to edify and equip. American Christians have a decidedly anti-intellectual bent coupled with an allergy to complexity. How much does a teacher push back on those by introducing topics that cause people to be uncomfortable with how flimsy their beliefs may be?
Cautionary tale from the Brookings Institution (HT: Sen. Ben Sasse)
From Professor Jonathan Pennington at Southern Seminary. This is part of the charge Jonathan gives to beginning Ph.D. students at Southern.
“Knowing well entails listening to trusted authorities and doing what they prescribe in order to see what they are showing you.” (Scripture’s Knowing, by Dru Johnson p.16)
There is much insight to be unpacked in this singular and salutary sentence:
It is possible to know lots of things but know them wrongly as opposed to knowing them well.
- Knowing entails listening to another – reminiscent of the Apostle James’ reminder that we should be quick to listen, not quick to be teachers; we may also recall the popular adage many a parent has spoken to a verbose child – “God gave us two ears and one mouth; use them proportionally.”
- Knowing is a process of listening to trusted authorities – there are people who are above us in knowledge, experience, wisdom, position, and authority and only the fool spurns this. Rather, listening to trusted authorities is the way of wisdom and flourishing.
- Knowing entails doing – one can read manuals and watch How To YouTube videos all day long but to truly know and understand something, whether it be boomerang throwing, carburetor repair, having children, or writing a book, requires the experience of doing it before one can be said to truly know.
- Knowing is really about seeing, about seeing the world in a certain way.
Professor Ralph Wood, the gifted writer and teacher, works his craft at Baylor University. Ralph recommended that I read The Demon in Democracy. I’m glad he did, though it was not a comforting read.
Legutko’s big idea is that the liberal democracy of our day shares many of the same features as communism. There are commonalities such as a penchant for utopianism. There is also an undying belief that one’s system of thought is perfect and so should be immune from critique.
Most of us simply accept that everything about liberal democracies is wonderful so questioning any part of it would be un-American. Actually, the opposite is true. Serious questioning of political institutions is at the heart and founding of our history, something most of us have forgotten.
Legutko teaches philosophy in his homeland of Poland. He is not opposed to progress per se, but finds a troubling hubris at the heart of many modern notions of progress.
More than once I put a marginal note of “no dissent allowed” to characterize the lack of scrutiny most Americans give to the modern notion of liberal democracy. And it is the modern notion, not the older versions of liberal democracy, that is in the author’s crosshairs.
If you want to know more about why serious thinking and free speech (on both the left and right) has gone the way of the Dodo bird, this book has much to offer.
Most of us debate poorly. There are a number of factors like not knowing what we believe as well as we should, presenting a caricature of an opposing position, and even if we don’t err with those two, we tend to get testy! My number one resource for making improvement is The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt. I wish every American would read and ponder this seminal book.
Here’s a good example of how to do better:
Our oldest works for Deloitte in Dallas. He recently asked for my recommendations on books that tell about leaders who led even though they had limited resources. Here are my recommendations:
Founding Father: Rediscovering Geo. Washington by Brookhiser
What do you do when your soldiers are hungry, don’t have proper clothing/shoes, and some have already deserted? Washington’s m.o. gives lots of practical help.
Five Days in London: May 1940 by Lukacs
Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness by Shenk
The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey by Millard