Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Book Learning

When I found myself unexpectedly in a dry and barren place, I discovered first-hand the dirty little secret that Christianity doesn't want to talk about: 

Book learning is not enough. 

Everything that I knew about God, I still knew about God. Everything that I knew was true, I still knew was true. I could have quoted Scripture at you, cross-referenced a given topic, told you about my Jesus. 

But in the dark night of the soul, it's not enough to "know" something that you learned from a book. 

It's kind of like when you're watching Survivor or any other survival-type show, and you have the guy out there who has read a lot of books about survival or watched a lot of YouTube videos, and he very confidently looks into the camera and says, "I've got this. I know exactly how this is done." Then, you watch for two days as he struggles to actually start a fire - because he's studied it, but he's never actually done it. 

The same is true with our faith.

There are many who say that that key to Christianity is just knowing about God. It's reading His Word and seeing what He's done. Their approach to evangelism is to throw a bunch of ideas at you and tell you that believing means agreeing that these things are true. Their entire goal, it seems, is to get you to know the Bible inside and out, to be able to quote Scripture, to catch the reference to this or that Bible story when someone drops it. They will insist that the key to a solid faith is knowing God's Word. 

And this is precisely why so many have a faith that is not sufficient for their struggles. When they wander in the desert, being able to quote Israel's Exodus experience just isn't as helpful as some want to tell you that it is. Knowing that Israel walked up to a rock and prayed and water came flowing out of it isn't exactly reassuring when you're in a place where you just keep hitting your head against that rock and whatever's flowing out, it ain't water.

Knowing that God is real, knowing that God is good, having read the stories of what God is doing in the world...it's not enough when the world is doing you in. When your heart starts to slip and let go, it doesn't matter how well the rope is tied - your hands still feel tired and weak, and you still feel like you're falling. 

Our faith has to be more robust than this. It has to be more than just what we can call to memory, what we can quote, what we can intellectually assent to. It has to be more than the things we can say that we know about God because we read them somewhere. 

Out here in the wilderness, it doesn't matter how many YouTube videos you've watched; if you've never started a fire with your own hands, you're going to struggle. 

Out here in the wilderness, it doesn't matter how many pages you've read. How many passages you can quote. How many verses you have tucked in your heart. How many sermons you've listened to or worship songs you've sung or classes you've attended. If you haven't had your hands on the living God, if you haven't had Him in your heart, you're going to struggle. 

That's not to say that book learning is not valuable, that it's not meaningful. Actually, it's quite the opposite. It might not be sufficient, but there's something very important about it.... 

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