I’ve made a “commitment” to work through Willard’s “The Divine Conspiracy” with a study guide, so I suppose this is going to be at least about 10 weeks worth of study.
Willard’s comments (in bold) in the foreword to the guide is noteworthy (p. 1-3) – my thoughts in brackets.
.. Until the present century, Christians assumed that anything that was important had to be studied and restudied and studied again. they did not think that studying something many times was strange. It is the twentieth-century illusion that you can comprehend aspects of Jesus and his teaching in a quick, snappy sermon.
(More and more nowadays .. I’m reading slower, I’m re-reading stuff I thought I read years ago. More and more, I’m highlighting, scribbling, reflecting and responding with actions that I believe will make a difference. I remember at one phase of my Christian pilgrimage when I finished reading the New Testament once I was not motivated to re-read it again. How wrong I was? Now every passage is worth unending re-studying)
In the nineteenth century, for example, people heard long difficult sermons at church in the morning. then they went home and discussed the meaning of the sermons with neighbors and family in the afternoon. We can not imagine people doing this today.
(Frankly, I have a difficulty sitting through a long difficult sermon myself. In many ways, I’m a child of my age – i.e. can multi-task and yet unable to plunge the depths of issues. But, I think this can be unlearned and relearned into a new mode of thinking. This process of “renovation” (there that word goes again!) takes time … I’m just beginning to enjoy its fruits now .. that’s after 4 years of Seminary and another 6 years of pastoring, about 15 years when I “conciously” affirmed my faith in Christ and got back on the journey with Jesus … 31 years of learning to live out the promise of my baptism as a baby (if you want to count the day of God’s chosenness from infant baptism)! I think BLC’s effort with a whole morning dedicated to worship & learning is kind of a “revised” version of a long diffucult sermon, heheh! The LiFE group sharing has been rewarding thus far … still rom for improvement
We need to return to the idea that we have to put thought into God’s kingdom and how it works. We accept that someone spends years becoming a dentist and even more years training to become a surgeon, but we do not accept that we need to spend years giving serious though to the nature of the soul, the nature of God, who Jesus was, and how it all works. In early periods of the church, it was assumed you would devote your whole life to understanding the fullness and complexity of God’ kingdom.
(emphasis mine. I feel that last line liberates me from rushing and squeezing too much too soon. I still hunger for learning and yet I know it’ll take a lifetime for the processing and progressing to take place. Such Grace! As for the analogy of training, it shames the Christian community when even leaders take short cuts, and recently this “cheap”-“short-cut” theological degrees specifically doctorates have raised quite a number of eye-brows. Lord have mercy. Now wonder, Christians follow suit in their dicipleship. With out making it in accessible, or over intellectualized (the danger in Malaysia is anti-intellectual), time to make ammends… REPENT?!)
Yet rarely this happens in churches today. We recruit church members in a quick and easy manner so that Christians and non-Christians think they do not have to study. We have copied the media and the educational establishment by doing so. Both say that the public will not look at or try to understand the intricacies of complex issues, so they produce “dumb down” versions that people will look into because they are easy to understand. Yet understanding anything important requires major effort. Understanding Jesus’ teaching is more important than learning algebra, which takes a great deal of effort; yet most Christians have never put the same amount of effort into understanding Jesus’ teaching that they’ve put into solving algebraic equations.
(I believe in simplicty, I believe God’s truth is not just for scholars but for the ordinary – it’s plain. And I also believe with whatever capacity we’re able, we’re called to put effort into it. Looking at how we’re willing to put effort in pursuing education, making a living, creating opportunities for pleasure and entertainment. I wonder why is it so hard to do the same for what is the most important – our re-forming of our worldviews, the shaping of Kingdom values, the nurturing of authentic relationships, the cultivation of a right & healthy lifesytle, the investment into the next generations, add to the list…?) Ok! after complaining, now it’s time to get our hands dirty and start constructing!)