A little while back I tacked some of these same concepts that I am writing about here from the view point of Jesus in “Are We Unaware That We Are Disagreeing with Jesus?”. In this post I am tackling this same idea from the perspective of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and I will be talking about church history in America.
In 2004, I read “The Divine Conspiracy” by Dallas Willard, and it had a profound impact on me. Here is one of the lines in the book that I will never forget.
“What is truly profound is thought to be stupid and trivial, or worse, boring, while what is actually stupid and trivial is thought to be profound. That is what it means to fly upside down.”
Our current president, during the last election, played off of discrediting and mocking experts, because they are well… experts. We live in a time where experts in a field are seen as less qualified then the average person’s opinion and ability to use google. We are flying upside down!
I have been working in churches full-time for about nine years. We have recently seen a wave of trendy pastors that hang out with celebrities, wear designer cloths, preach using mostly rhyming tweetable phrases, and they are seen as “brilliant” by a demographic of emerging ministry leaders. We are flying upside down!
The latest way that I have personally felt that our church culture is flying upside down is in how much our churches devalue historic theology. Many pastors that I know have even told me that they do not focus on theology.
What really got me thinking was a conversation that I had with an old family friend. In a disagreement when facts were presented to him, it seemed as if I was discredited in his mind for presenting a well researched case. This was the reaction back to me…
“Wisdom and knowledge are two very different things. One comes from books etc and the other a gift from God.”
It is if wisdom and knowledge are against each other, and to seek knowledge is wrong. This is a false dichotomy. It is two good and godly things pinned up against each other as if they are at odds with one another. This is a common misunderstanding in current Christianity!
When I look at the spiritual gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12, I see this in verse 8:
“To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit”.
Wisdom doesn’t just come from age or experience, and it is not greater than knowledge. Both come from the spirit of God, and both are used for the edification of the body of Christ!
To understand where some of this fear of knowledge comes from, we need to understand a little church history in America. Up into the 1800’s, theological institutions were mostly on the east coast. To the church leaders in the movements that are now the mainstream in evangelicalism, these institutions were teaching mostly a liberal/social gospel (a gospel view that was big on doing good things, but not on preaching Christ).
Many farm communities were popping up in middle America. Small towns and country churches were meeting to worship, but the pastors that were leading these churches had little to no education. This is when Moody Press stepped in and began to resource these churches with materials. Over time, with the new conservative theological bent that was growing in popularity into the early 1900’s, thanks to Moody for much of this, Bible colleges began to pop up to train country pastors and then send them back to their churches and towns. I attended one of these types of universities myself in Omaha Nebraska.
What wound up happening was that there was a split between the new churches and universities (conservative leaning) that were becoming the majority in America the churches and universities that have existed for a while on the east coast (more liberal leaning). The conservative ones were teaching mostly new views of theology called “dispensationalism” and a lot of practical ministry principles, but not much academic/classical/historical theology, while the liberal east coast schools were teaching primarily only a more academic/classic/historical theology.
What I believe that this contributed to in the emerging conservative evangelical circles was focusing on the practical parts of ministry, simplified parts of ministry, and it down played the academic theological parts. Here is how this plays out… if you bring ideas to the table that have been held for years or are rooted in historical research, but are different than the majority of evangelicals, you are often looked at as “liberal”. We also no longer seek after trained experts to help us understand the Bible, the way that I feel that we need to, because that kind of education is valued less.
We are flying upside down. We live in a nation that downplays knowledge, experts, and facts. We are functioning in an Americanized conservative Christian faith system that tends to downplay these as well. A symptom of this is that ministry leaders eat up practical ministry books, church growth books, high level leadership books, but don’t seek to wrestle with concepts about God and the Bible in new and fresh ways. We hire pastors that look like CEOs, and they hardly ever preach a sermon that is more than pop psychology with Bible verses peppered in here and there.
I am not trying to downplay the practical side of ministry, but knowledge and practically go hand in hand!
Let us seek knowledge and thirst for it! May the Holy Spirit grant His gifts as He desires, and may God’s people seek to grow in these gifts (including both wisdom and knowledge)!
If you are interested in learning more about theology from quality universities and sources, I have compiled a list of free online resources. Check them out here: