Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sword of Scholarship, Shield of Truth?

Ephesians 6:13-17
"Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints . . . ."

I have been thinking about scholarship and its place in the framework of the Church. Many people try to dichotomize the tension, classifying people as those who ask questions and are familiar with church history, usually with issues about certain points therein; and those who simply soak in what they are told. There is a third option: those who are familiar with history but accept it without reservation.

Scholarship and knowledge seem to fit into the armor of God, in truth and preparation, but they are passive defenses. It is the girdle of truth and the shoes of preparation, not the sword and shield. Interestingly, these most active defenses are Faith and the Spirit. This seems to indicate to me that knowledge and scholarship are not to be used as weapons in arguments via "Bible bashing" encounters.

The interesting thing is that the next part of the scripture, Paul entreats the Ephesians to pray for him, not that he might be delivered, but that he would speak boldly. There is something to learn from that.


  1. Scholasticism is dialogue of people holding different view points wanting to establish the truth of the matter using reasoned arguments it is one way to search for truth but doesn't guarantee finding it nor is it more valuable than inspiration or revelation I would argue it is less valuable. I believe the gospel to be stair steps of metaphorical paradigms so what is to be proven? Nothing. The knowledge is within.

  2. A lot of the "scholarship" I've seen seems to be aimed at fault-finding and demeaning of the Church and its leaders. No, our leaders have not been perfect (they're human, after all), but what good does it do the Kingdom to carp at and criticize those the Lord chose to lead His Church and insist that worldly political/social philosophies are of more worth than that which our leaders are guided by God to do?

  3. --The below comment is from Ardis (sorry about Blogger problems, posting comments!)

    C.S. Lewis has a wonderful essay, "On Learning in War-time," about the values of scholarship in a world that has so many more pressing concerns. He writes,

    "The intellectual life is not the only road to God, nor the safest, but we find it to be a road, and it may be the appointed road for us. ... To be ignorant and simple now — not to be able to meet the enemies on their own ground — would be to throw down our weapons, and to betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defense but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen. Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered."

    This clip taken out of context may sound patronizing toward "our uneducated brethren" -- the full essay is not patronizing at all. Instead, it points out that an intellectual life, a cultural life, will exist inside the church and out, regardless of the conditions of the world, and unless we engage in a higher plane of scholarship that is indeed a "shield of truth," all there will be is a lower form that is destructive of truth.

    In Lewis's view, scholarship is not passive. It isn't neutral, and it doesn't wait for permission to engage. It is active, it projects truth and honesty into the world, it is the very essence of the boldness Paul calls for.

  4. That is a good point, Ardis, and lets me think a little more deeply about this.

    I think there is a reason that the use of truth and preparation were likened to things that really can't be used as weapons (unlike shields which, although primarily defensive, can be weapons at times.)
    As much as I love C.S. Lewis, I have to disagree with him here to a point. The best weapons to use against the philosophies of man are not "good philosophies." Rather those good philosophies should be used to help our fellow saints prepare themselves in the gospel, and to gird themselves with truth. When engaging with those who would attack us with philosophy, our best weapons are faith in Christ and the fire of the Spirit.

    That doesn't mean to bear weak testimony and avoid reasoning out counter philosophies to the sophistry of the masses, but I mean not to expect that your philosophies will win out in their minds over their own.

    The tricky thing about reason is that she is a fickle ally. She will always seem to be on the side of the one speaking. You can twist reason to mean almost anything. But reason is not truth, and the only thing I know that can cut through reason to the truth underneath is the Spirit.

    But, as in all things in the gospel, there is a balance. The Spirit works best when you give it material to work with. That is where knowledge comes in, I believe.

  5. FelixAndAva—I agree fully, and that was what sparked my thinking along these lines.

    Howard—I think reason and inspiration work hand in hand to achieve revelation.


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