Friday, February 22, 2008

Spiritual Ignorance

I had a very clear reminder today of the current state of total spiritual ignorance that is rampant in the culture around us, particularly in the younger members of that culture. I was getting my hair cut this afternoon at the place where all of us in the family get our hair needs met. The girl cutting my hair is probably in her early 20's, knows all of us and knows that our oldest son Mike is attending college in California. For those of you that don't know, Mike is studying at The Master's College, working on his Bible Exposition degree in prep for seminary and ministry. She asked how he was doing and how long it would be til he graduated, etc. Then she asked what he was studying to be, and I told he he was preparing to be a pastor, and he's studying the Bible. Her response was, "Which one is that?" I didn't quite know how to answer, so I told her, you know, the Bible, Christianity, God and Jesus and all that. She asked if he was liking his classes, and I told her that he was, and in fact had just called me about he had aced a really hard Greek test. "Greek?" she asked. "So are there any Greek temples around here?" Ummm... Again, I wasn't quite sure how to answer. I said that no, that's not the reason for the Greek, that the New Testament in the Bible was originally written in Greek and so to study it you need to know the language. I could tell by her response that I had gone way over her head. All she could say was, "Wow, I couldn't even learn Spanish in high school!"

As I left, I recalled a previous discussion I'd had with this same girl about Mike's college pursuit. When I had told her that he was studying to be a pastor, she said, "Really? I didn't know you had to go to school for that!" Now, she is a really nice girl, but I realized how completely ignorant she is regarding anything spiritual. God, Jesus, the Bible, Christianity, church, ministry and all that goes with it is completely outside of her experience in the first twenty-some years of her life. And she is just an example of what I think is an entire generation that is largely in the same boat. As their parents have abandoned the church, as even the minimal shared cultural knowledge of Christian faith is being lost by ignorance. Not necessarily by outright rejection, but more so by apathy. What this means, and I am seeing it more and more, is that we are dealing with people in our culture who have absolutely no idea what we are talking about when we try to speak to them regarding the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It's not so much that they have wrong understandings about God. They have no basic understanding of God at all. He is outside their frame of reference.

Of course, there have always been cultures in this state of spiritual ignorance. And the Gospel of Christ and the Word of God does not need cultural understanding of Him to bring His elect to faith. But this is something new for the American church, for American Christianity. And the aha to me has been that we must be aware of this when we seek to speak the Gospel to those with this state of ignorance. We have to speak to them in categories they can understand. We have to help them first understand who God is. We have to recognize that we are dealing with a blatantly pagan worldview, that fundamentally has no place for spiritual realities. And we have to realize that this spiritual vacuum largely explains this culture's susceptibility to any kind of "spirituality" that comes along.

I'm not sure which is worse - having wrong spiritual understandings, or having no spiritual understanding whatsoever.


sj said...

I have been thinking on your post and have a varied assortment of thoughts.

1st, do you have to go to seminary to be a pastor? Sometimes I wondered if it doesn't become a hinderance; esp when it (intentionally or otherwise) promotes pulpit professionalism. I am so appreciating in these past few years the 'pastorship' of my husband in our home. In many ways we do an inservice to you guys when they are not developed to understand there role as pastor in the home ... certainly they can not all go to seminary ... except that which the local fellowship provides in discipleship (and is it?)

2nd, The current state of spiritual ignorance in our nation is cause for great grief in my heart and has been since my teens. It seems to me, it lays at the feet of the church to repent. I trust as more and more of us carry this mourning in our prayers, we will come together for corporate mourning, confession and repentance.

3rd, the current state of spiritual ignorance is a GREAT opportunity to make God known. There are not preconceived notions to overcome and the climate as you pointed out is seeking spiritual answers. Oh church, there is no greater time than to declare the goodness and existence of God.

4th, AMEN, AMEN, we must start with declaring who God is esp. in light of Heb. 11:6. Why do we always want to start with you are a sinner? Hello, should we not start at the beginning ... There is a God, One True God and this is who He is. Then maybe the fear of God (which leads to wisdom) will surface in our land. And then maybe the Rahabs and Ruths of our nation will declare, "I will forsake the gods of my land and your God will be my God."

Anonymous said...


Good thoughts, many of which I share. Re: the issue of seminary to be a pastor. I agree in principle with what you are saying,the primary qualifications for a pastor are a shepherd's heart, ability to handle and teach the word correctly, and a clear calling from God. However, I have served on several boards examining men for ministry licensure and ordination, and have quite honestly been apalled at the lack of Biblical and pastoral knowledge and skills some of these men have shown. And all of them were already in a "pulpit professional" position. I think the promotion of pulpit professionalism comes from those of us in the pews, rather than those in the pulpit. Shame on us for that.