I aspire to instruct. If I had to use the language of “gift,” I would say that instructing is my gift. And moreover, I enjoy instructing—the process of learning new ideas so that I can then share them with others. Instructing is what I hope to do as a career, whether by preaching or by teaching. I think I have something to offer in that area.
But I am disheartened. I have seen others instructing—other preachers, other teachers and professors, other thinkers—and I have seen how people respond to them. It is disheartening, because people don’t seem to listen.
As to why they don’t listen, I can only conjecture. I imagine it is due to pride, the great sin, as I often do the same thing. Even though we are likely reading or listening to our intellectual superiors, we think we know better. We trust our own faculties for decision-making—when we likely shouldn’t.
A couple weeks ago, I mentioned Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind, a book that I think makes another point that is relevant to the present topic. Bloom argues that modern thinking has coupled enlightenment philosophy with pluralism and has thus lead to this present crisis. The Enlightenment’s belief that a society can be founded on self-interest combined with American relativism has caused our culture to ignore wisdom.
In my particular Christian fellowship, this problem is especially present. The Churches of Christ have no creed or governing body to check themselves against, which I’m generally in favor of. However, because of this, members of the fellowship often find themselves drifting towards extremes. Because we have no base other than the widely debated Scriptures, we easily slide towards conservatism or liberality. We don’t seek out the wisdom of the great thinkers and interpreters of Scripture, the Church Fathers. We don’t allow ministers to challenge our previous dispositions. We rely on ourselves.
Bloom says that people haven’t always been this way, and so that encourages me that it doesn’t always have to be. People will again seek out wisdom from writers and artists and thinkers. We will again possess open, explorative minds that are looking for new ways of understanding old ideas—and minds that are looking for new ideas.