An African proverb that contains a lot of depth and wisdom, once you have given it a thought or three, says the following: ‘a wise man never knows all; only a fool knows everything.’ I like this proverb for it confirms that which educators already know: the less you know, the smaller your reference box is, thus the more likely you are to connect the complex and huge issues of life to a rather narrow view. Your reference box will increase with life experience, dialogue but most certainly knowledge gained from books. It was Ellen G. White who – in her lifetime – continuously encouraged Seventh-day Adventists to keep reading the Bible, but also to keep learning. In fact, the topic of education was so important to her, that by the time she had written much about it, her councils went through a metamorphic procedure turning the strokes of her pen into the book Education. One of my favourite statements of hers comes from a lengthy sermon-like speach in which she also corrects the idea that you just ‘say things straight the way they are,’ which is actually a weakness disguised as a strength (see my blog about this by clicking here):
‘…But another says: “I am very frank; I say just what I feel, I talk just as I think.” Is that the best way to do?—No; God wants us to educate ourselves so that we shall speak right words,—words that will be a blessing to others, that will shed rays of light upon their souls.’
(Quoted from: ‘Have Light in Yourselves,’ presented during the Morning talk at Minneapolis, Minn., October 19, 1888.)
Unfortunately, after White’s death and with a skyrocket growth of the global Church Body, came other influences. The most deathly influence to Ellen White’s council to keep educating yourself, was the influence that flew in from some (not all!) Charismatic churches that will tell you the exact opposite: ‘you don’t need knowledge, all you need is the Holy Spirit. Look at the disciples, they were uneducated fisherman.’
Though this may sound very attractive to the lazy and the crazy, it is most certainly not true. While it is certainly true that only through the Spirit we can learn the truths concerning matters of faith, it is never true that we just sit in our living room and don’t have to move a muscle and do our part in the process. It is never true that we just ask in 3 or 4 words for the Spirit to zap us with knowledge, in the same way we zap our TV to a different channel, and that we then suddenly become brain surgeons, or wise councillors or prophets. It doesn’t work that way. When it comes to the disciples being uneducated, we are in danger of dumbing them down. First of all, disciples were tradesmen, and as tradesmen they have to speak more than one language of which (Koine) Greek was the Lingua Franca of its time. How else will you sell if you can’t speak the dominant language? Second, they would have to possess commercial skills since they were probably not the only ones offering their product. Third, they must have had managing skills since some of them were actually from rich families (I’m going to write a blog on that soon). But most important of all: they NEVER STAYED UNEDUCATED if they even were in the first place.
When we take over unbiblical claims that the disciples were uneducated, we never read the whole story for ourselves. For they went into a three-year theological education at the ‘Jesus University,’ which the Lord himself teaching them. Perhaps we would do well to take into consideration that the disciples addressed Jesus as ‘teacher’ frequently.
This is absolutely not to say that education is solely gained from schools or books alone. We can perfectly educated ourselves by applying the Jesus method of raising questions during our lifetime. Of all I’ve ever learned, the one thing I value most, is the practice of raising questions instead of giving answers. What pushed me in this direction was a book by Martin B. Copenhaver, entitled Jesus Is the Question: The 307 Questions Jesus Asked and the 3 He Answered. In this book, Copenhaver brings the questions surrounding Jesus as written in the Gospels. After a lengthy and exhaustive analyse, he came to the conclusion that Jesus raised 307 questions, and that he was asked 183 of which he only answered 3. That shocked me at first. So Jesus would ask about 100 times more questions, than he would give answers (300 to 3). But after giving it a thought, I can see why He did so. Questions are raised when you respect the other: you give them the chance to rethink and reflect to that which they say, giving them the opportunity to tell you their side of the story. Raising questions also gives you the possibility to dialogue: a two-way communication, while just simply stating answers is more of a monologue: one-way communication. Also, (and this will not have applied to Jesus) raising questions may increase our own understanding, forcing us to learn from the other person. This brings me back to the African proverb with which I started this blog. Perhaps we can educate ourselves by raising a 100 times more questions than simply giving answers.