In both of my part time jobs in retirement I am asked a lot of questions. I am honored to teach a Bible course at our local high school as well as serve as Pastor to Senior Adults at our church. My high school Bible class meets five days a week during the school year and in my church work I usually teach two or three Bible classes that meet once a week. With that much teaching it is no surprise that I am asked a lot of questions.
What surprises many of those in my classes is that my most frequent answer to questions is, “I don’t know.” That answer is not satisfying to many, but it is honest. I do know a lot about the Bible, but not as much as people think I should or as much as I would like. That’s why after all these years I continue to read the Bible as well as many books about the Bible as I can.
The reality is that there is a great deal about the Bible, God, and Christianity that we do not know or completely understand. It is also true that there is a lot about Christianity, God, and the Bible that we do know and understand. I try to keep both points in mind.
Theological schools and seminaries offer a couple of graduate degrees that when I read or hear about always bring a smile to my face. The standard seminary degree for many denominations for pastors is a Master of Divinity. Think about that: a master of Divinity. I like the degree, but I don’t think it is realistic. The other degree is a Master of Theology. Think about that: a master of Theology. Again, I like the degree, but it seems like an overstatement to me.
The last couple of weeks I have been reading a new book by Matthew Barrett entitled NONE GREATER: The Undomesticated Attributes of God. It’s not easy reading, but I am enjoying it. In the preface Barrett says he did not write the book “for scholars” but for “churchgoers, pastors, and beginning students” (xvii). While I am getting a lot out of it, and not surprising to me, there is a lot I don’t fully grasp. In this book about the attributes of God chapter one is about Incomprehensibility (which I understand) and chapter 5 is about Simplicity (which I don’t understand).
My quest to better understand God is not new to me. I just went to my bookshelf and noted four older books that have informed me through the years: Your God is too Small by J.B. Phillips (1952), The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer (1961), Knowing God by J.I. Packer (1973), and small faith: GREAT GOD by N.T. Wright (Second Edition, 2010).
I’m uneasy with anyone who is unwilling to answer a question about God or the Bible with the acknowledgement “I don’t know.” Granted, there is a lot we do know, but also a lot we don’t know. Even when I answer a question I think I know, I want to display humility and never come across as arrogant.
After all the years of going to school and teaching and preaching about God and the Bible I don’t know it all, but I continue to learn and grow. I hope this post serves to challenge and encourage you in your journey.
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You are right to say ” I do not know”. We just finished a 22 week study of “Revelation”
We used NT Wright, study guide. It was fantastic, but at the end I told everyone that “It is very clear, that not every thing is clear”.
We now have 4 Men’s Life Groups going. All doing the same study each week.
7:30 AM Tuesday, 11:00 AM and 7:00 PM Wednesday, 7:00 PM Thursday.
62 guys signed up for this study of “Joshua”.
I was really disappointed that the Tuesday night Men’s Bible Study disbanned and only one of those guys continued in the other groups.
Jim Hickey, Eric Bell, and I are now in charge of the men’s ministry. We call it the “Kingsmen Men’s Ministry”. We will be addressing all the men in church on May 5th. Trying to encourage Bible study and participation in service and activities in and out of the church, along with going to church on Sunday.
I am very happy with our revamping of the men’s ministry and looking to further God’s Kingdom. I started all this in 2011 with the one Bible Study and give God the Glory for all of this, now 4 groups!! YEA!
Working hard and enjoying retirement.
God Bless my Friend,
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Bob, I like your humility and willingness to say “I don’t know “ when you don’t know. We as Christians and Americans would be a lot better off if more people would say “I don’t know” than give a wrong or flip answer.
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It is okay to acknowledge that we don’t know everything. But I’m just wondering if saying “I don’t know” everytime always work out best.
I have always appreciated your candor over the years as you were teaching and your willingness to admit when you didn’t know the answer. I also appreciate your passion for the study of the word and for reading the works of other scholars and incorporating their observations into your preaching. There are many topics in the Bible on which even the best Bible scholars do not agree. Many times you would share the different schools of thought with us so that we had something with which to wrestle. It gave me a greater hunger to go home and study the Bible myself.
Both Orville and I miss your teaching. We have been blessed over the years to sit under a variety of Pastor/Teachers but not many have your gift of teaching. You stick to the word, use a variety of supporting passages to demonstrate the consistency of the message, and truly deliver an expository message.
Thank you for your continued teaching and sharing in your blogs.