Saturday, June 2, 2007

Teaching vs. De-evolution

By the way - this is what I look like.

Now, with that out of the way (hee hee hee, now I can save my youthful picture from a few years ago when I had more hair and less stress) - how about a thought or two.

As a student of history I find the idea of Evolution to be utterly insane. At no point in recorded history do we see spontaneous, random advancement of anything. In fact, most everything in history decays and falls apart.

This includes the state of theology in the Church. Adam and Eve, though they sinned, believed. By the time of Noah, only 1 family was left. God leads the children of Israel out of Egypt - whole generations see His mighty works - and they continually fall away. And this is a New Testament thing as well - People fall away in John 6, the Epistles are pretty much all written to keep folks from falling into heresy, or at least to not go along with those who have.

And there are moment where that slide is halted. Nicea is one -- of course, if you ask Athanasius he's tell you the next 50 years after Nicea were rough - really rough (reminder - note that winning at vote at a convention does not equal theological victory) as Arians still ran havoc for centuries to come.

The slide was halted again at the Reformation. But years passed, and we slid into pietism and rationalism (ah, what joys we Lutherans bring to the theological world!) and slid and slid. We can see the effects of slippage for the Church in America, as we abandoned much of our heritage to fit in with the American culture (there was a logical reason why Missouri used to insist on all German all the time).

So, what is to be done about it? People cannot be left to their own devices while we simply expect them to improve. Things don't work that way. We can't expect people to Spiritually evolve into better Lutherans.

We have to teach - and we have to continue to teach. And what is the primary goal of teaching? To communicate and instruct, not one's own self, but others. The focus of teaching is teaching students. Here is the danger for us as Pastors. To teach, we must learn and we must study. Simple fact - if you don't know it, you won't teach. If you don't continue to learn yourself, you will not be able to effectively help other people learn (and don't try to duck behind some semi-schweimerii "but the Holy Spirit has to do it or else. . ." defense for your laziness and lacksidasical efforts - God uses means, and he has established the pastoral office as the means for preaching and teaching. You're a tool - do not let your stupidity get in God's way).

For this, a balance is called for. What we learn, we will try to teach. What we are excited about, we will more easily try to get other people excited about. So then, what ought we to study? What happens, I fear, is that too often theologians will get so specialized that what they themselves focus on, what they themselves learn, becomes stuff that they cannot teach to their people.

Look at the writings of Ignatius of Antioch (#2 all time on my Greatest Theologians post-Apostles list) - in his 80s, still claiming to be a student learning - and what is he learning? Nothing bizarre, but the same things which his people need to learn. He learns how to more and more appreciate the Supper. He learns more and more to submit to God. He learns more and more how to face fears in Christ. These are all things which everyone needs to know, and so he can teach them well.

Look at your own discussions, o Theologian! How does this help your sheep? Remember, you are not a pastor for your own sake or edification, you are in the office to serve - and everything that you do as relates to that office is to be for the sake of your people - and everything you study, every discussion you have ought to apply to the betterment of your people. If not, they'll probably fall into some heresy - either one that you ignored because you were too busy to deal with it, or worse yet, the one that your idle speculation gave birth to.


Anonymous said...

As a student of history I find the idea of Evolution to be utterly insane. At no point in recorded history do we see spontaneous, random advancement of anything. In fact, most everything in history decays and falls apart.

This phrase in particular, and the rest of your post in general, sure do suggest you have no idea what you are talking about when you use the word "evolution".

I find this particularly interesting as the rest of your post is insightful and interesting. It just has little to nothing to do with evolution. Heck, even the idea that evolution=improvement necessarily is misguided. Weird.

oh, this is socratic_me. I followed the link and am debating whether I am actually going to get a password, etc. or just post anonymously with my name.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Evolution - especially as it has impacted the social sciences and in the climate of the late 19th and early 20th century had a profoundly "positive" attitude and approach - the theory was used to rationalize the idea of a natural, continual improvement in man. Moreover - this attitude does exist to this day. Does the word "Primative" have a positive connotation or a negative one? Or the Geikco campaign - so easy a caveman can do it - plays off of this idea.

It is in particular with this thrust of evolutionary thought (which may or may not coincide with what current scientists claim but is part of evolution's cultural and historical baggage) that I was speaking to.

Hence, how it led into the thoughts on teaching. People do not improve on accident - nor do they just get better if we leave them alone (or what if we let students work at their own pace - do you hear that at the school). Rather, teaching needs to occur.

Brett said...

Ah. I can see where you are coming from. I think that living and loving a scientist has made me more sensitive to the myriad ways in which people screw this up.

For instance, what we have seen is that organisms become "better" over very large scales of time when left to themselves. However, what is meant by "better" here is simply "suited to their environment more closely". However, I think you would be willing to agree with me that this isn't what is meant by you or most others when they use the term "better" with respect to man, in which case we have no quarrel.

Well, we have one little quarrel. I think you shouldn't be so willing to let wrongheaded know-nothings inform your understanding of the world, even if they only inform you insofar as you use them as foils.