Avoid mental laziness

JP: Darrell C. Dow on mental laziness! Image is the lazy man’s Rubik’s cube.

American Christianity: Mentally Lazy?

When I hear someone who talks about being afraid to study theology or who claims just not to be smart enough to understand it, I tend think of that person as mentally lazy. Some find the charge of laziness to be overly harsh but I think it applies. “It’s too hard” is the same excuse made by students of long division and is met with much the same response. It doesn’t matter how hard you thinks it is, it’s required that you learn it. I’m even more likely to make the accusation of laziness when the claim that theology is too hard is made by educated professional people, accountants, businessmen, teachers — people who obviously have disciplined themselves to study other topics well enough to make a living at them.

A moment of disclosure: my opinion of the mental faculties of the average American in general is pretty low. As a group, we’re conditioned to respond to images and emotional stimuli without much logical thought. Our public education system is deeply flawed. Many kids (not all!) make it through without even the rudiments of being able to read and write on a college level much less being able intelligently discuss what they’ve read. I have tutored such kids. I’m not just imagining that they exist.

Translate that into the church and my observation is that we have a lot of people who fill a pew, like to be told what to feel about a particular topic (grace=happy!, sin=sad!, abortion=angry!) but don’t really spend a lot of time digging into the nuts and bolts of how all the pieces fit together and why we think what we think.

There are commands in Scripture to study and commendations for those who do. But there seems to be a real lack of study in the church setting. Even many so-called Bible studies amount to hearing a lot of cool illustrations that illustrate bits of moral wisdom from Scripture without really taking a hard look at the cultural and historical contexts, the meanings of words, the perspective of the author, etc. etc. ad infitum.

I strive in my personal life to keep my mind awake. Over the last year I’ve been listening to seminary classes on my commutes. I have learned more in the hour a day that I listen in my car than I have learned in years of sitting in Sunday School and chapel hearing the same tired moralist messages dressed up with hip (read that 20 years out of date instead of 70 years out of date) illustrations.

Is the charge that our churches are full of mental laziness an unjust one? Should we be content to see our members “just” love God and feel grace and not desire to provoke them to a greater understanding of His works, His character, and His revealed Word?”

Can we truly love and appreciate what we do not make any attempt to understand? Do we truly love anything that we make only cursory efforts to discipline ourselves to? At some point we have to demonstrate our love of God with out minds not just with our heart and soul. To do otherwise is to have an incomplete devotion.

I’m not talking about every person in the church getting a seminary degree. I don’t have one and I likely never will. But every person should be concerned with an organized effort to learn more than they already know not just rearranging their jingos and truisms.

I would also hasten to add this caveat: Spiritual infancy is a legitimate condition and it’s addressed in Scripture. However, it has been my experience that new Christians are usually very interested in learning as much about Scripture as they can. They may be a little intimidated but most of them are willing to work at it because they have a drive to learn about their new-found faith.

It’s the long time pew-sitters who are still on a milk diet that cause me to wonder.

On Being “Fed”

A common complaint among Christians is that they’re not being “fed” at church. To be honest, I’m not really one to expect the pastor to do much feeding.

I pretty much expect them to ring the dinner bell and make general pointing motions to where the food is. The feeding part is up to me and the Holy Spirit via whatever resources are available to me (including the larger community of the saints).

Darrell C. Dow has B.S. in Computer Science from Pensacola Christian College

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