Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Getting Lost Down the Knowledge Rabbit-Hole or When Learning Can Shut You Down

photo: Pixabay
Recently I have been stuck in a trap. It's a trap that says, "You don't know enough to write anything relevant on [insert a topic here]. You need to learn more and study harder before you can have an intelligent statement on that." Consequently, I haven't been doing much writing lately. I have become intimidated by my book cases, which are three-quarters packed with unread books. Books are surrounding and taunting me. There is so much that I don't know--so many people who are smarter and more learned. How can I possibly have anything to write about?

Writing a blog entitled The Christian Intellect has added another layer of intimidation. I have actually fallen prey to the wrong-headed thinking that I was trying to dispel with this blog, namely that the intellect isn't something high brow--for professor-types only. It is simply how we think about things. A Christian intellect is a mind devoted to Christ--a mind that is being renewed by the Spirit and transformed. The idea for this site was that every Christian is called to renew their mind and learn to see the world through the lens of the New Creation. It's not about impressing people with theological jargon or quoting Luther and Aquinas.

Reading and listening to lectures or sermons is part of the process of developing your thinking, but writing is also an important element. As the saying goes: "Thoughts disentangle themselves passing over the lips and through pencil tips." (I cannot find a standardized version of this quote nor verify its origin, but it's a useful phrase none the less). In other words, we clarify our thoughts when we are forced to shape them into coherent sentences and paragraphs. We write in order to learn.

I have also heard from multiple sources that the best way to learn a subject is to teach it! Far from being experts, some teachers are only a couple weeks ahead of their students in terms of study. If writing is a way of processing and learning information, then teaching can be even more so because you are actively engaging your brain on multiple levels.

It is easy to get sucked down the knowledge rabbit-hole. It is easy to get lost in a wonderland of ideas, scratching your head and asking, "Where do I even begin?" It is tempting to sit back and let others engage in hashing out theology or biblical studies or philosophy or apologetics while we watch from the sidelines. Maybe that next book, sermon, or lecture will frame everything just right and we will feel expert enough to write or teach on a topic. When we do this, we are not truly honing our Christian intellect. Honing the intellect will require us to charge "once more unto the breach, dear friends."

So let's not worry about being pretentious. We want to learn to think well--think clearly and deeply on important issues. But we need to remember that there is never a point at which a person can be said to have arrived. There are always more books than we can read. There are brilliant minds that we haven't yet encountered. I don't have everything figured out. I'm just a guy who wants to grow deeper in my walk with Christ and put my intellectual capacities at his service. How about you?