13 March 2012

My Credentials and Views on Education- 6

I went to work about a year ago at a local hardware store/lumber yard. It was too much of a cut in pay so I went back to remodel work. But worst of all (or best) I lost the time so precious to me. Working on estimates for houses and garages, pricing sheets, answering phones and waiting on customers no longer afforded me the time to listen to my audio materials. Obviously I wasn't going to walk around with headphones on. The personal interaction was good.

That's the only downside to my present job. Other than dealing with customers which in itself is a challenge, I'm often alone. I have to communicate to procure the work and instill confidence in a homeowner for them to hire me. I have to communicate with them and explain why a certain shower won't work or what will have to be done to install it. But I don't have to deal with the daily grind of working alongside others. At least not anymore. I've had plenty jobs in the past where I've been in some difficult situations. The military was probably the worst. It was a constant struggle and often unpleasant. It's a closed society and though there's a level of superficial etiquette, among the enlisted ranks it can be pretty foul and for a Christian pretty miserable.

So with reluctance I returned to my work but with a new appreciation for its nature and the listening time it affords me. But most of all I love the freedom I have...to come and go as I please, to set the agenda for the day, to take a day off when I need it. Since we homeschool our children this also works nicely with our domestic schedule. If I end up for whatever reason taking a day off, our kids aren't in school and we can do what we want.

As the years have passed it has been pointed out to me more than once that I have gift when it comes to talking to people. I can talk with rich or poor, educated or uneducated. I live in a strange world where intellectually I more or less belong to one class while on a practical level I belong to another. In terms of tastes I resonate with both and neither. Most educated people usually assume I educated. I've talked with many pastors and professors who after talking to me for a short time assume I'm part of their world. It's interesting watching the response I get when I inform them I possess no degree, no certification of any kind.

Sometimes they just shut down...the conversation is over, or if it continues they take a bit of a patronizing tone as in, "well, you just keep working at it and maybe someday..."

Others express shock and are humbled that someone who has not gone through the education programmes they have has been able to learn many of these things, become conversant and perhaps even push them a bit.

Either way it's bad for me. Pride tends to kick in. Against the one party I start to get a chip on my shoulder and feel myself becoming defiant...against the other I start to feel prideful.

But one thing I have clearly learned is this....

Formal education doesn't necessarily mean very much. It helps, but it's no guarantee the recipient will be able to think. A lot of people can memorize facts and models but they don't know how to integrate different ideas, how to make them interact and communicate. A lot of people can read a book but they can't challenge it. They might disagree with a book or article but they can't define what the real issue of difference is. It's great for exposing you to new ideas, but beyond that it's largely dependent on the mind and heart of the student. You can get a degree and then stagnate, or you can get a degree and further your education by building on the foundation given to you. Or you can be like me and just love learning and view all of life as school. I have nothing to show for it in a formal sense, but does that mean I'm uneducated?

I've talked to PhD's that struck me as dullards. I've talked to people brilliant in their field but unable to think beyond establishment models. To even question these ways of thinking about government, society, theology, or history is akin to destroying their world and invalidating their legitimacy.

For many in Christian circles they have found comfort in institutional identification and are very threatened when the institutional narrative is called into question. They're educated but instead of thinking they spew endless articles and books reaffirming their own views. Their peer review consists of peers within their own faction telling them 'well done' over and over again.

They hide behind terms like scholarliness...and charge their opponents with lacking it. There's a place for being scholarly, putting forward conservative orderly and proven arguments that are well documented and making use of proper sources.

But at the same time this is no guarantee that you're right. I remember while in seminary I wrote a paper on J Marcellus Kik's 'Postmillennialism'. A friend of mine allowed one of his Theonomists friends to read it. The Theonomist was appalled and attacked it for lacking scholarliness and was even more offended it had been written by a seminarian.

My professor who hardly was in agreement with my extreme Amillennial anti-Theonomic, anti-Triumphalist views gave me an 'A' on the paper and praised my scholarly work. Go figure.

Sometimes being educated consists of more than writing papers and receiving grades. In that case I learned how subjective one's education and credentials can be.

I vacillate on the issue of scholarliness. I certainly appreciate it when it comes to something like manuscript evidence, or a technical commentary...but then again I scratch my head and wonder if a wrong turn has been made. Theology is not the queen of the sciences. The revered Princeton theologians of the 19th century certainly viewed it in this scientific framework. I'm afraid I just completely disagree with that.

The issues we're dealing with are foolishness to the world and spiritually discerned. I would think many of these people would know better, and realize Biblical studies and doctrinal development are nothing like math or science, or even literature. So then why do we emulate their academic models? They often seem to treat the Bible like a sourcebook for mathematical formulae. When I think of other fields and the possibility of parallels to theology, I think of something like the law where you have not just simple arguments and issues but often overlapping issues concerning laws that seem to contradict, addressing issues from different claim perspectives, the interpretation of precedent, questions of jurisdiction, and all of this interacting with legally protected rights and procedural issues. It's hardly straightforward, cut and dry.

And yet that's also insufficient much in the way the naturalist interacts with theistic proofs. Naturalism wants empirical evidence of God's existence. The problem is empiricism can't account for metaphysical realities let alone God himself. They're looking in the wrong places and with the wrong tools.

What I'm trying to say is this...I'm not sure theology needs to be considered under the same standards of scholarship that other sciences are treated. There's a danger in wishing to conform to the standards of secular academia. Iain Murray talked about this extensively in 'Evangelicalism Divided', where he discusses how Evangelicals lost and compromised so much in trying to remain relevant and respected to the outside world. In the end they gave up much of the Bible and certainly earned no respect from secular academics.


Cal said...

Being in university life myself, I completely agree with your pronouncement. Sometimes I wonder, with a real curiosity, why some people are at university? It's grade to grade and a means to an end. The most shocking thing was when I heard someone say to me they were writing a paper arguing one line, even though they disagreed with it, in the hopes that the professor agreed and would give her a better grade. What?!

Also, the pedigree of being capable of handling Scriptures is intimidating, and contrary to what Scripture says! Here is Martin Luther, a dumb peasant monk, before Roman prelates and he is suppose to say both they and the pope are wrong?! Better yet, the Son of Man had no degree but stood before the Scribes and Lawmen and told them they understood nothing because they could not see the Scriptures pointed to the Messiah. When did we get to this point?


Jim C. said...

Hey John,

You said in your post that among enlistees and NCOs the working environment is unpleasant for Christians. Would you say the same for officers?

Protoprotestant said...

I have a good friend who was an officer. In some ways on the large scale he was under more pressure. The officer corps is of course much smaller. On a small base he had some control over the work environment. He had an office underneath him and could control the workplace culture.

On another level being at a small base the officer corps was a tight-knit group and of course he didn't quite fit in. There's all the little things...since it was a small base all the officers are supposed to go to the Officer's club on Friday's and have a drink on the house..a time of comraderie and all that. I'm sure he wasn't the only one who didn't go. Not because he was a teetotaller, but just the whole environment, if you know what I mean?

I think he found it less than pleasant at times but overall he was always in awe of what I was having to deal with...especially with barracks life and all that. If you're married and can go to your own home, that wouldn't be near as bad. But if you live in the dormitories or barracks...you never can get away from it. I was practically living in coffee shops and wandering the streets because I couldn't stand it.

I seem to recall when my friend was stationed back in the United States at one of the very large bases he found that to be really unpleasant, but I don't recall if it was specifically for Christian reasons or just the fact that he was now swallowed up in a larger bureaucracy and chain of command. Overseas a low ranking officer can have a lot of freedom and responsibility. Stateside you're nobody.

Again this was in the 1990's. I don't know how it is today. I'm sure it's all changed a bit over the past decade.

He certainly didn't have to deal with endless over the top blasphemy and crude speech that was just commonplace in my shop. I was like Lot, constantly vexed even being there. After awhile you just have to realize these people are indeed wretched. It's sad. They're lost.

Jim C. said...

I'm guessing that sooner or later your fellow soldiers sensed your difference of opinion and noticed your ensuing unwillingness to partake in many of their off-the-job activities. I'm also guessing you took some flack from them for it as well as from your commanding officer. You don't have to go into detail about what exactly they were doing. I can only imagine.

On a related note, I'm sure you've heard by now about the rogue Army soldier in Afghanistan who decided to go on a rampage and kill old men, women and children. What surprised me (at first) was his background and how disconnected it was from the heinous crime he committed.

Based on what I've read so far, the guy is 38 years old, married with 2 kids and "mild-mannered". Even though he drank before the incident, he has no history of alcohol abuse and his marriage is healthy. He also harbors no antipathy toward Muslims.

He was a highly decorated model soldier. Prior to being deployed to Afghanistan he served three tours in Iraq and was injured twice, once in the head. He was told that he wouldn't be sent to Afghanistan because of his injuries but in the end they changed their mind and sent him anyway. He didn't want to go.

Also, the day before he committed his atrocity, one of his friends got his leg "blown off", presumably from an IED.

It's reasonable to conclude at this point that his actions are the culmination of battle fatigue and drunkenness.

So far they haven't released his name in part out of concern for the safety of his family.

One can only imagine how many other soldiers in the Middle East have the same state of mind and how close they are to falling over the precipice.

I'm also convinced that special forces units/the CIA have conducted secret operations with similar results. Of course, they would have been sober and had official sanction complete with plausible deniability. You can correct me if I'm wrong on this point.

When you were serving in the Air Force did you meet anyone who had undergone a similar experience to this soldier? Perhaps someone who transferred to your unit?

Jim C.

Protoprotestant said...

Your guesses are exactly correct. Almost everyone's religious...when it's convenient. During boot camp, suddenly everyone is religious. It's interesting.

But the normal day to day life is godless and often outright wicked. I was told I lacked esprit d'corps, because I didn't go to the drinking parties and dinners.

They don't like to see that with their enlisted guys.

As far as the guy in Afghanistan, yeah it's a tragedy. The post-war stats are horrific. The post-war stats from the 1st Gulf War are terrible...post traumatic injuries, cancers and sicknesses from exposure...probably to Depleted Uranium.

Modern medical technology has enabled so many people to stay alive. I've read some reports that have suggested that instead of 4500 dead in Iraq (that's soldiers, they never tell us about the contractors...or the civilians for that matter)....but if this were the 1960's, that number would have probably been more like 20,000...another Vietnam.

Today with battlefield medicine they can keep them alive but of course look at them...maimed and messed up. A great crime has occured. That's the irony.. Bin Laden is the bad guy (and he was)...but Bush and now Obama have killed far more and caused more destruction than OBL could have ever conceived of.

I was in the 'cult' during the 1990's. The Gulf War had just ended and it was well before 9/11. Apart from Somalia and Balkan bombings it was a pretty quiet time for the military. So, no I didn't know anyone who had gone through anything like that.

The closest person I knew personally who had suffered battlefield trauma was my wife's late uncle. He was MIA for awhile during the Korean War...no one knows what happened to him. He was never the same and was a pretty hardcore alcoholic all his life. Never married...just a mess.

There's another local guy who's definitely a bit odd. Not scary, just fried. Locals say he was like that after he came back from Vietnam. He was never the same.

They all have my pity, but they're not heroes. The heroes are the one's who refuse to go and participate in unlawful wars even if it means going to jail or having to give up their lives and walk away.