18 May 2021

Bereanism: A Threat to Sectarianism (A Parable on Study to Show Thyself Approved)

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: 2 Peter, Discipleship, Exegesis, Journey, Sectarianism, Spiritual Disciplines, Unity
“The real student is an adventurer in search of truth. He should have no preference as to what truth is. The partisan spirit has no place in the study of truth. To permit some preconceived notion keep one from seeing or admitting truth is beneath the dignity of the real student.”
– (K. C. Moser, 1937 Journal, p.53)

As soon as night came, the believers sent Paul and Silas to Berea. When they arrived, they went to the synagogue. The people there were more open-minded than the people in Thessalonica. They listened to the message with great eagerness, and every day they studied the Scriptures to see if what Paul said was really true.” (Acts 17.10-11, Good News Translation)

Scientist:Quest for Knowledge

A scientist goes to her telescope. She collects mountains of data. She notices that somethings do not seem to fit currently held views and understandings regarding the behavior of a planet’s orbit or variation of a star’s light or that particle did not do what it was supposed to do.

After consulting the received canon of wisdom from Newton, Einstein and Hawking does not solve the puzzle. She decides that there is a mystery to be figured out. So this scientist returns to her telescope, lab or where ever and gets more and more data. She spends months and months crunching the data, she goes back over the numbers, checks the instruments and finally decides there is only one way to solve the mystery … postulate the existence of something affecting the movement of the planets orbit or that there is something in between the star and earth that is affecting its variation. What could account for this. She comes up with a theory and gets more time on the telescope or lab and points it not at what she was studying before but at the location she has calculated would hold this new object. And low and behold there it is! A planet, a galaxy in between us and the former object. Because she was willing to question previously held beliefs she actually discovered a truth that was unknown to previously smart people. So scientists announced the discovery of a new “state” of matter that exists in a one dimensional quantum gas. They had to be able to be non-threatened by questioning the status quo. See Stanford Physicists Find New State of Matter.

She is recognized. Congratulated. Nominated for a science prize. And we are grateful because our universe just got a little bigger.

Minister: Quest for Truth

A preacher goes into the study to “study to show thyself approved.” The student opens the word with the prayer of Psalm 119, “open my eyes, so that I may behold wondrous things in your torah” (Ps 119.18).

Instruments are employed for study. Mountains of data are collected. The minister notices that somethings do not fit with currently held views and opinions regarding this or that passage or belief. Consulting the received canon of wisdom from the Gospel Advocate, Spiritual Sword or Wineskins does not solve the puzzle.

The minister decides to return to the excavation dig, gets more data, checks the instruments, goes over the numbers and finally decides there is only one way to solve the mystery. Postulate that currently accepted wisdom is WRONG. The minister postulates a theory and points the telescope and discovers “there it is.” Low and behold we have learned something new because the minister was willing to practice the “restoration plea” and go study and not think that previously held beliefs were sacred. The minister announces the discovery.

The minister is fired. The Berean is written up as not believing “things surely believed” known to “faithful and representative men.” The minister is called a “liberal.” He, or she, is castigated by critics with the slogan “you believe you have a PhD to understand the Bible and go to heaven.” What was discovered is denied as fake. We discourage fresh exploration. Instead we, in the words of K. C. Moser, cast the minister out of the synagogue as a heretic. And we are fearful and our universe just got a little bit smaller.

For this very reason do your best to add goodness to your faith; to your goodness add knowledge” (2 Peter 1.5, Good News Translation).

Disciples are called to a life of adventure in the quest for God’s truth.

2 Responses to “Bereanism: A Threat to Sectarianism (A Parable on Study to Show Thyself Approved)”

  1. Robert Limb Says:

    Historically, researchers in scientific disciplines have also been pilloried for presenting unorthodox solutions to problems. There is something, it seems in the human, not just the christian psyché which is sent into denial by novelty. I share your lament, Bobby, and it leads me to wonder what is to be done about it.
    It is not a difference of opinion, we can manage that. It is a question of conflicting mentalities. It is worse than if I were to reply to your article in French. For the moment, the only answer I have is patient, loving, careful listening…to people who seem incapable of hearing what I say.
    See: Jonathan Haidt “The Righteous Mind”

  2. Jerry Starling Says:

    I once told an elder, “I believe my opinions are the best in the world.” His jaw dropped as I paused before adding, “because as soon as I am convinced there is a better one, and then I adopt it.” Sometimes that convincing comes from personal study; at other times, someone opens the Scriptures to me. I do not blindly follow any man, save our King Jesus. I will listen, learn, and leave a truth universally received IF the new understanding of Scripture holds up under continued testing.

    A good parable you have given us. “Speak where the Bible speaks; and say nothing where the Bible says nothing,” except “I do not know.”

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