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What We Have Been Given

For my theology class, I just finished reading C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity. I know that I had already read the book twice, but I may also have read it a third time before this reading. Reading it again, though, showed me just how much Lewis has influenced my thinking on a number of topics. I have believed certain things for such a long time that I came to believe that my own theology was largely the result of my own thinking and Bible study, as though I have been a pioneer in Christian thought.

Rereading this book, though, shattered those thoughts: much of what I thought was mine was really something I picked up from Lewis. I imagine that if I were able to survey, in a moment, all that I have ever read or heard over the course of my life, I would realize that I have had very few original thoughts at all (if any). What a humbling thought!

So, I have been reflecting more on this verse: "What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?" (1 Cor. 4:7b). Ideally, my learning, and then (from what I learn) my teaching and my writing, should all happen because of a desire to build up the church in Christ. I should confess, though, that I am a sinner, and much of what I do in the way of studying theology and of relating it to others comes as a result of a desire to be "important" in the Christian world.

So, to the extent that what I have written or said comes from an arrogance that exalts me rather than Jesus, I truly apologize. This would, by definition, be a public sin, so I want to apologize publicly. I suppose this will probably be something I struggle against all my life, but, by the grace of God, I will one day be free from all this pride, content to gaze into the face of Jesus and discerning to realize that looking at myself instead would be foolishness. Praise God for that!

Also, I have been gaining a fresh appreciation for all the people from whom I learned Christianity during the course of my life. I remember talking about Jesus with my Grandpa as we went on long walks together. I remember learning wonderful Bible stories at my small, Mennonite church in Julesburg, Colorado from Sunday School teachers who were committed to telling us children about Jesus. I appreciate the fact that I have heard at least one sermon a week for virtually all my life. What a staggering thought, to realize that what I now know about Jesus is the fruit of so many people, who knew what they knew from so many people, and on and on! What do we have that we have not received?

Perhaps it would be helpful for those of us called to teaching to have constantly in mind our own mortality. For example, my Grandpa who taught me so much is right now losing much of his mental capacity. This is terribly difficult for me to watch, but it also reminds me that I must take advantage of the time I have to pass along what he and others have passed along to me, all the time concerned about seeing the next generation come to a knowledge of the Savior. I will one day die, even if Grandpa goes a bit sooner, and then both I and he will be forgotten in this world. But, Jesus will never be forgotten, and so, if my reputation and my name are tied up in him, why should this bother me?

Let us thank God for what we have been given.

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Good to hear the humility - it is a sign of spiritual growth - God's work in you. The conundrum is always how God sees us as both the problem and the solution.

The evangelical world, including Luther and the Anabaptist movement and the renewal of the "position in Christ" theology has led us to a real ugly problem. The predominant thinking is that since all beleivers "have the Holy Spirit", each is equally capable of reading, interpreting and proclaiming the "truth" in Scripture. Oh, how we need to return to understanding how we are to live in submission to the community of beleivers. How much we need to leave behind the entertainment of church today, both adult and children's programs and return to a community that reads and hears God together.

We must learn to respect the long traditions, 2000 years+. No, we don't always know better than the established church (Rome?).

Great comments. I look periodically on the web and sometimes find great stuff.

These are really good thoughts of which I should be constantly reminded.

You might enjoy reading Tom Wright's own debt to (and critique of) Lewis.

Speaking of Wright...

My thoughts regarding what you wrote took me to what Wright said about how to approach tradition in his The Last Word. He thought that we should listen very carefully and humbly to tradition--especially the tradition of the early fathers--and that we should weigh our interpretation of Scripture against what they said. The balance, though, is that we should always be advancing biblical and theological scholarship, never being content to remain stale. So, he isn't an individualistic Protestant (I am my own pope!), and he isn't a Catholic who refuses to think unless the pope speaks (WWPD?), but he incorporates the best of both worlds, in my opinion.

Two semesters of church history is really helping to see what he means.

none of us are humble men. this, i think is the beginning of humility. and more gloriously, the beginning of God looking upon us with pleasure and support(Is. 66:1-2). CJ Mahaney's book on this subject is a short read, and a profound one. in fact, he discusses much of what you have mentioned in this post. God bless your ministry.

So, would you say that I'm basically dating C.S. Lewis? ;)

Hmmm...maybe not. But I think it's great that you are learning from great minds.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the matter and reminding me how blessed I am that others have already put so much down in writing. Maybe the reason why it's hard to come up with a completely new thought is because our human minds haven't fully grasped the truth that is before us, let alone be completely original.

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