About Jesus - Steve (Stephen) Sweetman

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Intellectual Humility    


After I read Jesus' prayer for Christian unity in John 17, I think He must be saddened to see our denominational schisms.  Is it really our doctrinal differences that split us or is it something else?  Read Jeremiah 17:9.


"The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?"


Jeremiah 17:9 states that we are so instinctively sinful that we have no clue to know how sinful we are, and furthermore, there is no human cure for this inherent deformity.  Clearly, we are the problem as we push our views with little consideration of other views.  We fail to do the needed research, yet we act like experts.  Our poor communication skills result in misunderstanding.  Our "I'm right, you're wrong" mentality is ecclesiastically debilitating.  Don't get me wrong. I believe Biblical knowledge is important.  Read Hosea 4:5 and 6. 


"You stumble day and night, and the prophets stumble with you. So I will destroy your motherómy people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. "Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children."


I take Hosea's words seriously.  I refuse to be Biblically ignorant.  I don't want my life as a Christian to crumble away in some crusty old ecclesiastical corner.  I will use whatever intellectual capabilities I have to imbed God's Word into my life.  That being said, due to the depraved person that Jeremiah 17:9 says I am, my intellectual capacities are compromised and my understanding is finite.  I'm fallible and I can be wrong.  It's reasonable, then, for me to demonstrate an intellectual humility, a quiet doctrinal confidence, as I share my doctrinal distinctives that I've struggled to formulate for decades.  If I can succeed in this endeavour, others may be willing to hear me out without exploding into a Jeremiah 17:9 irrationally emotionalized doctrinal dispute that destroys Christian unity, as Hosea wrote.


The apostle Paul understood Hosea 4:5 and 6.  I believe he was the most intellectually capable, yet humble, man recorded in the Bible.  He could effectively debate the masters of philosophy (Acts 17:18).  He was educated by Judaism's best (Acts 22:3).  His treatise to the Romans is such a brilliant defence of a cause that law schools often refer to it as a masterpiece in how to win a legal case.  Paul, more than any other Biblical personality, has defined Biblical theology for us.  Here's what he wrote concerning humility in Ephesians 4:2.


"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love."


I realize that a forceful defense of Biblical truth is sometimes needed to combat heresy.  Nevertheless, as we attempt to create a corporate Biblical consensus, intellectual humility is essential.          


Our insistence on being dogmatically right, not doctrine, is the source of much of our schisms.  If we want to reach any corporate theological consensus, it will be through a spirit of intellectual humility, a term a brother in Jesus recently passed on to me

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