We live in a time and place of people fascinated by degrees, credentials, and man-made accolades, to the point that, when unimaginative employers look for people to fill the cubicles, they are more concerned with a person’s university background than they are with any ability to actually perform the work required.
(As an aside, these same professional job recruiters, who no doubt have degrees in Professional Job Recruiting, creep people’s Facebook and social media accounts, more concerned with how much wine someone drank on Friday night, than that they know the difference between him and me and he and I. So they hire teetotalers who consistently write, “Her and me talked to he and they and said that they’re business model was to unsustainable.”)
Artists Should Know How to Draw
As you may know when you read my articles and look at the artwork, I am married to a professional fine artist, Steve Henderson. Whether or not you like representational art, you have to admit that the guy knows how to draw a face so that it looks like an actual person, as opposed to an 8-year-old’s interpretation of it. As far as university degrees go, he has a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), which on a personal level means that it took years of practice and study to transcend the misinformation and poor teaching he paid so much to experience, and on a professional level that he cannot instruct at the college, university, or even high school level, because he doesn’t have enough education.
Whether or not he can actually paint, draw, or create a piece of fine art of excellence is not the issue.
The funny part of this is that, in several private workshops Steve has given, more than one of his students has been a university-accredited professor, taking his class because he or she is untrained and unskilled in the artistic discipline. Once Steve was told,
“I’m supposed to teach a watercolor class next semester and I’ve never done watercolor. I hope I learn enough in this workshop to pass it on to the students!”
I’m sure I don’t need to point out the irony of this situation.
The Worship of Degrees
But this is the world we live in, the world of men who set up systems and require people to fill out forms, and take classes, and endure seminars, and undergo sensitivity training, so that a new generation can get the job and pass on the lack of knowledge that they received themselves. Ultimately, it is not whether or not one can actually perform the work for which one was trained — cut hair, practice medicine, teach art, or know the difference between you’re and your — it’s whether one has the piece of paper saying that one is appropriately licensed to do so.
Within conventional, establishment Christianity — the kind overwhelmingly and depressingly practiced in countries like the one in which I was born and live, the United States — we are not immune to this fascination with education, and even the smallest, rural churches point with pride to their Pastor with the PhD, convinced that, because of his advanced seminary education and ability to name drop Greek and Hebrew words, he knows so much more than the rest of them.
(More likely, he knows how to use Strong’s Concordance and a lexicon, resources available to any of the rest of us.)
License to Study?
While we are not required, yet, to undergo licensing to study the Bible for ourselves, the subtle pressure is there among us, as church congregants are firmly encouraged to join small groups, under the shepherding aegis of an approved leader who walks them, step by agonizing step, through workbooks, worksheets, and pop-culture books by pop-culture preachers expostulating about Jesus, the Bible, and the abundant, purposeful, intentional and missional life we are supposed to be living.
“You’re reading the Bible by yourself, without any commentary or notes at ALL?”
I’m not sure if this is a mortal sin or a venial one, but increasingly, it is something we are not encouraged to do because, you know, if you’re not guided by an expert, you may get something wrong, and that could be very, very scary — maybe even resulting in a generation of Christians believing that, if only they say the right words and tap into an inner power, they can get anything they want.
At times like this, it’s good to remember that the pillars of our faith, the ones who started the whole Jesus message and died for it, were ordinary people — many of them fishermen — and none of them with PhDs with an emphasis in Biblical counseling or Media Arts and Worship. Despite not having written a doctoral thesis on church growth, they managed to successfully teach others the best news the world has ever had, and the consistent message was not, “Go ye forth and get a degree,” but, “Tell everybody about Jesus Christ, who He is, and what He did.”
They had what all Christians — regardless of the letters after their name or a certificate attesting that they completed an in-house church leadership seminar — have: the Holy Spirit as our guide and teacher, living within us:
“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14: 25)
Take Him at His word, literally. Read the Bible for yourself. Pray — privately — to God. Trust that He will teach you, and stop relying upon any other human being to do your thinking, or live your Christian life, for you.
Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity where my message is consistently that individual Christians stand up tall and think for themselves.
Posts similar to this one are
Grammar Despair (if you don’t know when to use “him and me,” or “he and I,” you’re in a big group — which includes people with PhDs, by the way. This short, easy book, which I wrote and self-published, will quickly and efficiently answer your questions about a lot of common, but not impossible to solve, grammatical challenges.)