Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Is it better to be a simpleton?

The following essay is excerpted from a blog I found this morning,
If God Is Love, which I intend to read regularly, and which I have also linked in the side panel of Cost of Discipleship. I recommend it to you, brethren, as a ‘safe and sound’ oasis in the wasteland of ‘Christian’ blogs.


The following is a quotation from The Prologue from Ohrid.

“It is better to be a simpleton and to approach God with love than to be a know-it-all and, at the same time, be an enemy of God.” These are the words of the priest-martyr, St. Ireneaus of Lyon. The truth of these words has been confirmed at all times and is also confirmed in our time. One thing must be added to this, namely, that the lovers of God are not simpletons because they know God well enough that they are able to love Him.

Of all human knowledge, this knowledge is more important and greater. To this must be added that the enemies of God cannot be more knowledgeable, even though they consider themselves as such, because their knowledge is unavoidably chaotic, for it does not have a source and does not have order. For the source and order of all knowledge is God.

Some of the saints, such as Paul the Simple, did not know how to read or write yet with the strength of their spirit and divine love surpassed the entire world. Whosoever approaches God with love, that person is not capable of crime. Knowledge without love toward God is motivated by the spirit of criminality and war. St. Euthymius the Great taught: “Have love; for what salt is to food, love is to every virtue. Every virtue is tasteless and cold if it is not seasoned and warmed by divine love.”

— My Notes — 

If a loving simpleton is contrasted to a know-it-all intellectual, then I would rather be a simpleton. Yet, many of us probably fall somewhere in between. For example, I am not a scholar and I do not have enough years left in my life to become a scholar. I understand some things, probably misunderstand a few things, and lack knowledge of many things. However, a self-educated person (someone who reads a lot) is not the same as a simpleton, and a scholar (in the true academic spirit) is not the same as a know-it-all.

There is an intellectual category which I call Steroid Intellectuals. They are able to read and remember everything. Within religious circles, I find that Steroid Intellectuals probably use the technicalities of doctrine as distraction — as a way to escape the real impact of their own sins, as an obsession in order to avoid emotion, as a bulwark against inner emptiness, and as a competitive game. I am not criticizing them — just trying to understand them because I often feel vulnerable in their presence when they blast forth details like gangsters firing semi-automatic guns. The curious thing about Steroid Intellectuals is that sometimes they are rank beginners, fresh converts, newbies who have read much and lived little.

How much does a Christian need to know? How much book-learning? Which books? The answer is probably very personal as well as practical. I expect to continue reading books for the rest of my life. Inasmuch as each individual is unique and must follow their own path to God, each individual’s library might also be unique. One book is essential, the Bible. Other books might be regarded as standard or common to an understanding of religion. And, still other books are personal choices. One way to appreciate the uniqueness of an individual is to read a couple of the books which he or she loves — as a way to travel a few miles on their path.

Reading books is also a matter of time and priorities. We all have other responsibilities and enjoyments. Sometimes, I would rather do other things — work in the garden, try a new recipe, or sit back and watch the sun go down. And, sometimes, I would rather read the same book again than to start a new book, or read again a book which I read several years ago and in which I now have a renewed interest.

I admire the true scholar, the keen mind, the teacher, the intellectual who has the patience and loving-kindness to reach people at their own level and for the purpose of glorifying Jesus Christ rather than the human intellect.

1 comment:

Andrew Byrnes said...

I myself am I recent convert and can reflect upon times where I fit with the Steroid Intellectual newbie stage of faith.

I have just found this website and have enjoyed what I have read so far. This article was great and has given me a good opportunity to reflect upon my not-so-humble attitude that I seem to get from time to time (I'm only twenty-two, so I am still a bit of a know it all I suppose).

Great read! :)