Friday, October 21, 2005
On Depth and Loftiness...
One of the most frequent irritations I have in ministry is the notion of depth. People who have been in church a long time seem to have a penchant for deep teaching that should reveal the hidden mysteries of the bible. Now, as an academic, when I hear the term depth I understand that to mean a closer scrutiny of a text; so, in biblical study that translates to a narrower focus on particular passages of scripture, the history of their interpretations by rabbis, priests, and biblical scholars, the applications of those interpretations, greek and hebrew word studies, and thoughts about the way our culture tends to interpret particular passages differently over time.
The problem is that none of that actually matters. None of it changes the way we serve Jesus Christ. It feeds our rationale minds but not our souls. Truth be told, when I deliver “deep” teaching, even those who claim desire for depth are lost in the minutae of academic gobble.d.gook.
It doesn’t satisfy.
On the other hand, when we discover something in scripture that hits us in the stomach, that levels us or brings us to our knees, we have a new fixation on the person of Jesus and our lives are changed forever. When we are confronted with the Word in such a way that our marriages are remade, our world is redeemed, our kids rediscover faith after a time of apostasy – in those times – we feel the worth and value of scripture immensely.
So here’s my thinking. “Depth”, as it’s commonly understood or talked about really isn’t depth at all. Rather, that depth is actually a kind of loftiness. It is a migration towards an overly rational, highly intellectualized understanding of faith that too often makes us completely useless. That’s not to say that scrutinizing scripture is bad [I am, after all, working on two doctoral degrees in that very field!], but it is to say that we must be cautious about how much we give over to the lust of the mind.
On the other hand, teaching that actually makes a difference in our lives is teaching that we should now consider deep teaching. This is teaching that means something in real life. This is the teaching and interaction with the Spirit that hits us where it hurts [boys, I think we all know what I’m talking about here]. In my mind, that’s real depth.
More balls, less brains? Well, it’s not as simple as all that; but, yeah – that’s what I’m saying.