Thoughts on the Meaning of Life… Todd Helmkamp

Faith Like A Child

Posted by Vogeler on December 20, 2006

“Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 18:2-4)

I have often been taught that becoming “as little children” involved blind acceptance, a blind faith.

I do not believe this.

God gave us minds for a reason. I believe that this passage refers not to ignorance, but to innocence.

I think that willful ignorance is a big problem in the Church today.

Erwin Mcmanus was recently quoted as saying, “Studying the Bible doesn’t change people. Just look at seminaries.”

While I respect Mr. Mcmanus’ work, I would say that this statement is misleading, because studying the Bible and a changed life share a correlational relationship, not a causal relationship.

Let me put it this way: studying the Bible does not change people. I agree with that statement. But, studying the Bible doesn’t not change people. In other words, while Bible study in and of itself doesn’t change people, it is not detrimental, as that statement seems to imply.

I believe that daily, serious study of the Bible is vital to a healthy Christian life, in addition to daily prayer.

Now, I know that not everyone is gonna jump for joy because they just bought an 824-page book called Historical Geography of the Biblical Lands. (which, by the way, is excellent so far!)

Not everyone has a burning desire to know anything and everything they can.

But that does not relieve us of the responsibility to learn, and grow, to expand our knowledge about God (which does not, of course, replace actually knowing God).

Faith like a child involves innocence, not ignorance.


12 Responses to “Faith Like A Child”

  1. Todd said

    I think perhaps I am being misunderstood. I am a nerd. I freely admit this. I get excited about how the salinization of the soil of Mesopotamia led to the collapse of the Middle Assyrian Empire.

    I realize that not everyone is like that.

    However, just because gaining knowledge is not your heart’s desire, you still have a responsibility to grow in grace and knowledge of our God.

    That takes many forms however. I never said you have to do it by studying musty old tomes or delving into the intricacies of Armenius vs. Calvin. But lets not throw the baby out with the bathwater by trashing formal education and serious study because some people think it’s boring.

  2. joe said

    Nerds of the world unite! 😀

    OK, I’m not really a nerd…I’m more of a geek.

  3. nathan said

    In Jesus time, the pharisees were highly educated, who knew their Bible inside and out.
    The disciples–the ones Jesus invested in–were the ones who were not able to memorize so much scripture.

    How much good things did Jesus ever have to say about the pharisees and sadducees who really studied scripture?

    Now, i do balance that with saying i agree Erwin’s statement is misleading–and it was a statement made as part of a teaching message at a conference. I haven’t heard his whole teaching, just that one line. I doubt he meant we should abandon formal education altogether. I suppose he meant formal education isn’t everything. (Which is imho unquestionably Biblical) Our rewards in heaven aren’t based on how many degrees we have from seminary.
    But yeah–it is imperative we work consistantly on learning more about God. But learning from God doesn’t have to come from a seminary or reading books on the subject. When God speaks, do we listen? There are likely people with Ph.D.s in theology who don’t listen as much as some high school dropouts–in Jesus time, these would be called Pharisees and fishermen.

    don’t really know…

  4. Spending 3 years learning from God Himself is a pretty impressive thing for a fisherman to put on the resume. 🙂 Also, it is probable that Peter and the other disciples lacked the opportunity to learn, not the ability.

    I am not saying that to be a good Christian you have to be a theologian or hold a Ph.D.

    I will say again: I realize not everyone is built as a scholar like me.

    I am not advocating Intellectual Imperialism. I’m not even saying everyone needs formal education (although I think it’s an incredible asset).

    I am simply saying that, in my opinion, and gathering from people I’ve talked to, most Christians cannot tell why they believe what they believe.

    This is a pretty serious issue.

    And I’m sorry if it offends anyone that I think it is up to the individual to learn it instead of being spoon-fed from their pastor.

    The pastor is a shepherd, not a nursemaid. He is a resource, not the only place from which to get knowledge of the Bible and of God.

  5. nathan said

    quote from Todd:
    Spending 3 years learning from God Himself is a pretty impressive thing for a fisherman to put on the resume.
    end quote.

    That is my point. At the end of the three years, the Pharisees still knew way, way more about scripture than any of the disciples. Hands down every Pharisee knew way more than every disciple.
    The disciples did not get a formal education, they got educated in everyday life. NOTE: not all disciples who spent 3 years with God himself turned out okay–look at Judas.

    I suggest our relationship with God is more effected by how much we obey God than how much we formally educate ourselves about God.

    BUT–it is indeed important to learn about God. But I suggest learning about God isn’t the most important thing. I think learning needs to be secondary to actually doing what we’re told by God.
    (btw, i mess up all the time in not doing what i’m told. i suck.)

    I likewise agree, why do we believe what we believe? Good question. and i agree it’s a serious issue. But why do we believe what we believe, because we read it in a book or because God proved himself in our everyday lives? (and by saying ‘book’, i am referring to not the Bible.)

    man…this is a good topic Deuce.

  6. Very good stuff. THIS is why I started this blog. Thanks to all who have participated!!

    @Nathan: Yes, the Pharisees knew more Scripture. But the disciples knew what it meant. I think that’s a key difference.

    And you are absolutely right, obedience and a relationship with God are far more important than head knowledge.

    However, we don’t believe in God because the sun comes up each morning. We believe in God because we learn about Him from the Bible, and then we are able to recognize Him at work in our lives.

    I think it’s a good topic too. This is fun!

  7. joe said

    @nathan: I run into pluralist thinking all of the time, and I am not able to share with them what God has done in my everyday life. I am forced to use logical thinking and things I’ve learned in books other than the Bible to have any kind of meaningful conversation. The reason is simple, the instant I say let me share my experience with you (because, they can’t argue with my experience, right?) they respond with their experiences. If they can’t argue with my experience, then I can’t argue with theirs. So, I am reduced to logical thinking.

    I agree 110% that obedience beats knowledge, every time, but knowledge has its place.

    What about Paul? He was an apostle, he was trained by the Holy Spirit in Egypt for three years, and he knew the scriptures at least as well as the pharisees.

  8. nathan said

    Paul was a Pharisee pre-conversion. he was very smart (i’ve heard it said he had the equivilant of seven Ph.D.’s.

    But what changed his course of life? his book knowledge or his obedience after an encounter with God?

    Book knowledge has its place–i read books and i encourage others to read to give the mind a workout. formal education has its place, too. not everyone has a gifting (or even the ability) for formal education. some do, and for those who do, perhaps it would even be a sin for them to not pursue knowledge.

    But i suggest the argument of obedience is universal because it is personal. To one, it might be a sin not to read. To another, it might be a sin to read too much. To one, it might be a sin to have a beer whilst watching football. To another, it is not. What i struggle with in my life is probably not the same exact things others struggle with.

  9. joe said

    I completely agree that Paul’s encounter with God, not his book knowledge, was the change factor in his life. But, consider the rest of the apostles…Luke was a doctor, and most of the rest of them wrote books and letters in a time period when only the best and brightest were taught how to write.

    (I’ve heard that Paul had the equivalent of several Ph.D.’s, but I don’t know where I heard it or if it’s even able to be validated.)

  10. I would also like to make the point that, when you are sick, who do you go see? The guy that spent 10 years in med school. When you need to adopt your stepson, you go to the guy who went to law school. When your taxes are a mess, you go to the guy who studied accounting.

    Why is it bad for men of God to be educated?

  11. nathan said

    it’s not bad for one to be educated–and i believe one’s relationship with God is absolutely, totally and completely independent of one’s education level.

    It is indeed good to be educated, and I encourage people to read and graduate from college.

    But simply reading books and graduating from college does ABSOLUTELY nothing for one’s relationship with God.

    One’s relationship with God is based on their level of obedience, not level of education.

    Now–If God tells you to be educated, you would be sinning to not pursue education. Likewise, if he tells you to work at Wal-mart all your life, you’d be sinning to pursue an education.

    I am simply suggesting that obedience is more fundamental than any education.
    Put another way, I suggest it is easy to be educated and not be a Christian (which was McManus’ original point, i think). However, if one was obedient to God in all things, it is impossible to not be a Christian.

  12. @Nathan: Very good points. I think it’s also a good thing to point out that too much “head knowledge” can be detrimental. Adam and Eve ate from which tree? The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Obedience is primary. But it’s oftentimes a lot easier to be obedient when you know why.

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