Misunderstood Scholarship

Several times lately I have found myself and my scholarship misunderstood by others in the church. The last thing I think I should do is publicly gripe about it but I think offering some clarification regarding my interests and passions, resulting in a defense of the Christian engaging in those things, would be of help rather than hurt. I’ll focus in this post on the issue of misunderstanding and in subsequent blog posts (at leisure) defend those interests for the sake of the church.

What sparked these moments of seeing myself misunderstood were two instances listening to sermons in church and a third being a conversation had with a friend after church.
In one sermon the preacher was talking about one of Paul’s letters and he spent a little bit of time on the opening greeting, you know the ones that include, “grace and peace to you….” The preacher was great in what he said but he also joked that probably only Bible geeks care in these details. He’s sort of right but it shouldn’t be the case, I don’t think, that only Bible geeks care about Paul’s greetings (so called “details”) in the letters. They are a part of Scripture and informative to us as Christians. Three guys down the row from me all started joking and pointing me out, in good fun. I don’t mind being the/(a) Bible geek but I think it misunderstands my engaging in scholarship as though it is the unimportant details that I’m interested in rather than getting at the meaning of the biblical text.

The second instance happened when another preacher, rightly in my opinion, railed against those who care too much about speculation on things that miss the point of the Scripture text. So, Jesus heals a man born blind by making mud and placing it on his eyes. Lots of ink has been spilled on why Jesus used that method and misses the point of the text. While I don’t think we should never say anything on the issue, I agree with the preacher. And I believe my scholarship is interested in the same thing. But of course someone gives the ol’ “haha, that’s you” elbow and face. But why is that me? Well, others have been interested in things away from the text and I suppose they think that we scholars are all the same.

The third instance was less humorous. A friend basically challenged my engaging in linguistics, failing to see the use. Upon further reflection he had decided that translation was an important use, but that was about it. I think this one is a misunderstanding too because the friend doesn’t seem to have understood what it is I study and therefore can’t see how it is helpful to the church. The things I’m extremely passionate about aren’t everyone’s passions and I get that, but how come my passions are less helpful to the church than others?

Now, I have a sense of humour about my scholarship and interests, but these occurrences all made me see how my interests are misunderstood by many.

Does it matter that I’m misunderstood? Well, I have to admit that I’m like most people and I don’t like to be misunderstood. I see value in the scholarship I’m engaged in for the church and would like others to recognize that as well. And because I see value in what I’m doing for the church I see a place for defending that. But, I have to also recognize that I am always going to be misunderstood and it’s not my responsibility to change everyone’s mind about me. So long as I am convinced in my own mind, and listen thoughtfully to my brothers and sisters’ criticism, I think I should continue doing what I believe it is God is having me do to bless the church as one member of the body among others.


One comment

  1. Bekki Beilby

    This is a great response Andrew.
    Colossians 3:2 “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the Earth”. These are interests and passions that set your mind on Jesus, and work you towards the goal of relationship with God. There isn’t anything more beautiful or engaging to study than the Word of God. We all work at different levels, some of us are able to absorb or understand more than others. I know that you have been a resource to me and to the bible study that we were a part of while in Guelph to help us clarify understanding and meaning in certain scriptures. Scripture study is a help to the church. It helps the body of believers to better understand, know and love the scriptures.
    The only time this becomes a problem can be, like you pointed out, when things are taken to extremes and we lose the value of the text.
    I know personally if I have said things in the regard that make light of “bible geeks” it is usually a reflection upon my own insecurities of not understanding something, or being worried about someone judging me for not understanding something and therefore making a comment before someone else does.
    My Point? I just wanted to let you know that what you are doing does and HAS been a help to the church body in the past, I know it is now and in the future. So, Thanks!

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