I have been wondering about something for a little while now, and I am wondering what your thoughts are on this. If you have some, let me know. Or it could be that no one else is wondering about this.
Recently I have been interviewing at some clinical counseling, family service type sites, as I am beginning to do counseling work as part of my requirments for my masters in Marital and Family Therapy. And one of the things that I have noticed about the interviews I was on, was this one underlying assumption or thought.
That as a counselor in training, and as a licensed therapist one day as well, it was important for me to know that I would always be a life long learner, and that I would need to be that in this profession. That one could not master counseling or therapy because we are dealing with people…unique people, always changing, always different, always different issues, etc. I like that aspect of therapy and counseling, because I enjoy learning. I enjoy this process. The interviewers made it pretty clear that if I thought I would have all the answers and wouldn’t be a humble learner, then this was not the profession for me.
And as I have talked with my friends about this idea, we have noticed that other fields such as technology, business, medicine, etc., are always evolving as well. There are learning curves and for one to advance in the field, one must be a life long learner. They must be willing to be open to new ideas, whether they eventually work or prove false. They must test theories. They must experiment, and be willing to make mistakes. It would almost be ludicrous to hire someone if they thought they had all the answers and didn’t need to learn anymore, or if they thought they were the expert and there was no room for mistakes or errors.
You don’t want that type of person coming out of med school who says they have all the answers. You don’t want that type of person coming into your computer company who feels they have nothing else to learn.
But why is it that when it comes to ministry and theology we seem to believe different? There are certain denominations, theological camps, etc. that expect one to be the bearer of all information. To have all the answers. To not have an answer, and especially the right one is looked on as a flaw, or inadequate. The underlying assumption then is this….that when it comes to theology, we are not life long learners, that we don’t need to grow or evolve, or even be allowed to change our theological stance if we come to believe different. Why is that?
After reading many books and blogs and having many friends in minsitry, it seems to me that churches are often weary of hiring someone who would say to them: “You know. I’m a life long learner in this field of theology and the task of ministry. I don’t have all the answers? But I want to grow and learn.”
Is theology, the study of God so easy to master? Are we not life-long learners? Do we at 25, 26 and older think that we can possibly have this Christian life, and the thoughts of the mind of God mastered when we are handed our M. Div. degree? Do we think that God is easier to figure out than technology and medicine and psychology, etc.?
This does not mean that we don’t hold convictions. This does not mean everything is up for grabs. But rather, what I am wondering is why certain theological camps, churches, seminaries, etc. claim absolute certainity on every issue concerning God as if they have Him figured out with absolute clarity…..when in other fields we would never do that? If any field of study should be more humble, and willing to learn, and grow and be challenged and make mistakes and be life-long learners, shouldn’t it be the field of theology?
I am becoming more and more convinced that there is great fear in many churches and theologians, etc. if they can’t come up with the right answer. The fear of not having the right answer is huge. That is also why I am more and more convinced at why many young Christians are being drawn to pastors and thinkers and theologians who they hear say at times, “I don’t know. I don’t have the answer for that question. But I will be praying, studying, etc. about that issue.” That type of not knowing is much of the authenticity that many Christians are looking for. It is also this fear of not knowing that shuts down much of the dialogue between different theological strains, etc… This is not about which questions we need to have answers to and which ones we don’t….it’s about the posture of sometimes not knowing everything, and being on a life long learning curve in pursuit of God.
Many might say what about, 1 Peter 3:15,
15But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
Are there not times when the reason and the answer we give for our hope is not always about having the right answer, but about sharing what Christ has done in our lives? Has not much of our apologetic attempts been without respect and gentleness?