A Little Exercise for Young Theologians

Helmut Thielicke, in what has to be one of the finest little (absolutely must-have) books ever written for those in school and considering pastoring or a teaching ministry, A Little Exercise for Young Theologians, said something like this some where in that book: “During the period when the voice is changing we do not sing.”
Bloggers pastors or students or theologians, especially young ones, need to listen to the wisdom of this little word by Thielicke. Why? Let me begin with this: what you say on your blog is international, permanent, and universally accessible. It’s not that I think you need to hide your ideas; it is that some of your ideas are not wise to be aired in public. Keep them to your closer friends and give them time to dig roots. Some of them you may toss into the bucket before too long.
Recognize that you will change: I’m asking our pastor readers today to weigh in on this one. Here it is: Did you change your mind on something that, when you were a young pastor, you thought was absolutely important? What was that? Had I been blogging 25 years ago, I would have been harsh on the grace emphasis of a writer like Yancey.
The passions of young pastors are important, as is their enthusiasm. But some passions and some enthusiasm go too far when you are young, and when you get older and wiser those passions will be moderated into lasting wisdom. To use Thielicke’s image, passions make the voice screechy.
You are working out your ideas and your theology — at least I hope you are. It is indeed disappointing to me when someone thinks they’ve mastered theology as a result of a class in seminary or after having read an author or two. Especially when they haven’t earned the ideas themselves but are simply borrowing someone else’s ideas; we call this 3d person theology. Theology takes a lifetime to engage responsibly and wisely. So, hold your ideas a bit more tentatively when you are young. You’ll grow into moderated, confident wisdom. That’s the best time to chat about theology.
So, my suggestion to young pastors: blog with an open hand and an open mind.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://www.mytrueself.typepad.com Jennifer

    Scot,
    I wonder if its more about the attitude of the pastor-blogger than the fact that they are airing ideas that are not ready yet. My (youngish) pastor blogs, but not to “teach” or pontificate, but to create conversation…and lots of people from the church join the discussion, and it really feels like discussion. It seems like most folks would never have that kind of access to conversation with their pastor without a blog discussion of that sort (which maybe is a sad story in itself, I dont know). Couldnt it be healthy for a young community to talk through still-forming ideas together?

  • http://cruciality.wordpress.com/ Jason Goroncy

    Scott,
    This is a good post. I recently gave a paper on James Denney to a group of ministry students where I made a similar plea: ‘… that very few of us go through the journey of ministry without undergoing theological revision and development, and that our years at theological college and in early ministry are perhaps more about learning to ask the right kinds of questions than about getting a handle on all the answers – though hopefully there’s a little bit of the latter too.’ Ironically, I also made use of Thielicke’s A Little Exercise for Young Theologians.
    Part of the difficulty with the medium of blogging is that it is so public. Part of the joy is that it enables at least some thoughtful learners to air and explore questions. Part of the (time-wasting) frustration is that there seems to be more ‘self-proclaimed experts’ than humble ‘learners’.
    That said, I remain grateful for the times when I could – and continue to – fumble around with ideas in a less public domain.

  • http://taddelay.wordpress.com tad delay

    Excellent advise, especially since the tendency is to be overly provocative in order to generate comments (and hence, more traffic).

  • http://communityofjesus.blogspot.com/ Ted M. Gossard

    Yes, I agree. I’m no longer young, nor a pastor (though perhaps I missed that as my calling), but I would testify myself that this is true.
    On divisive issues I try to express where I am but keep an open ear. I should always be ready for refinement, or perhaps even change. Not to say that I haven’t expressed thoughts on my blog I may not hold to now (my blog just over 2 and a half years old and blogged another year before that, mainly on your blog). I think the tone is important when we express our thoughts on issues in which Christians disagree.
    And we need to go out of our way to express that tone very clearly, which with words can still be misconstrued, so we need to be aware and work at that, I believe. A tone of grace and reconciliation, with a listening heart and ear.

  • http://loveacceptforgive.wordpress.com Warren Rachele

    Many of my ideas and positions have undergone the maturation process that comes with being challenged, disenchanted, and better read. It is embarassing to recall some of the notions that I held to in my Seminary days when I hold them up to the light of growth and further study. When I think back to the number of my cohort that staked themselves to being ‘Calminian’ without understanding the meaning of what we were saying, I blush and hope no one else remembers.
    Because of similar off-the-cuff commentary and the application of 3rd person theology, I stopped commenting in this forum. Challenges to prevailing memes are met with ‘so and so wrote this’ or MrOgian ‘said this’ or ‘such and such creed declares’ without ever addressing the core of the inquiry. Theology requires application to life and our worldview, otherwise it is simply an impressive exercise in memorization. A pastoral call is about much more than obedience to a creed. For those words to mean anything, they must be applicable to the messy and complicated lives of those we shepherd.

  • http://mycreedjon.blogspot.com jon

    Thanks for the post Scot, this has been helpful for me, especially when I found myself changing some of my theological views just after bible school. And since then i haven’t been the same again. I guess there is still many things that i have to learn and be mindful not to be too rigid in my theological standings. I’ve just entered the ministry and going through the phase of being youth pastor. So this is a gem of an advice! I guess what i have to do now is check out the book!

  • Matt

    Great advice Scot, I learned this the hard way. I put some theologicl reflections and struggles over the doctrine of the atonement on my blog that were misunderstood. The result was a great misunderstanding and it cost me a overseas ministry position. It was painfull and I wish I had read your advice before 8 months ago when this all played out.

  • http://www.jesustheradicalpastor.com John Frye

    Marriage, divorce and remarriage was a volatile theological realm when I graduated from seminary (1975. Many views prevailed and accusations of moral relativism were spouted regularly. I was young and wanted to “exegete” correctly and purely and I did so for years *at the expense* of hurting human beings. I have mellowed on this issue without compromising biblical categories and pay more attention to the hearts and hurts of people in marital crisis. Some I’m sure will think I’ve wandered from “the truth” but I think I’ve more fully embraced the Jesus Creed :) .

  • http://trevinwax.com/ Trevin Wax

    Thanks for this good word, Scot. It is a helpful reminder to hold back a little and to always seek to blog with charity and humility.
    I believe you are right regarding how our theological views will change (to some extent) over time. There are, however, many bloggers who seem to have closed the lines of communication, and I wonder how open they are to thinking through the positions of others. In these cases, conversation seems almost useless.
    Thanks again for the words of wisdom.

  • http://missional.blog.com Jamie Arpin-Ricci

    Hey Scot, this is a great post and an important topic. This applies to missionaries in a big way. I have seen young missionaries lose financial and moral support for this very issue. I just advised a young friend yesterday on this very matter.
    Peace,
    Jamie

  • http://www.cfrknox.com David Reeves

    Great point Scot, not only have I noticed that in myself, not a pastor, but in my own views and response to people in the midst of life, but I have noticed it in someone like Michael Card, early music had references to Jesus as the “angry young man”, songs of late refer to the “silence of God” and his compassion. Not sure if it is a decrease in the Testosterone levels or a genuine work of The Spirit in our lives that does that.
    I also vaguely remember a young feisty prof (kind of looked like Dietrich Bonhoeffer ) teaching a summer course on Jesus and Discipleship, that was pretty rough to swallow and at times made a number of us wonder secretly about our faith and wether we were “radical” enough in our walk. :}

  • http://www.reclinerramblings.blogspot.com Michael Cline

    My favorite book! I’ve always said that if I get the chance to teach a theology course some day, I would require the class to read Thielicke’s handbook the first week before we started in on “the lofty and difficult art of dogmatics.” I especially love his insights on the “pathology” of a conceited theologian and how the “church is our pastor.”
    By the way, if you want a page reference, I believe you are quoting page 12.

  • Jeff Wisdom

    Scot,
    I value all that I learned in seminary,including the cultivation of a love for exegesis. But when in the pastorate, I learned that the people I served needed to their pastor to model a maturing faith – most of all they needed to see Christian character bearing fruit in me.
    When I became aware of this, it scared me to death!

  • joe troyer

    I wish I had this article a year ago. I gave up my blog. I realized that it wasnt helpful to my position at the church. Not many really read it, but some that did took issue with some things. When you are not a good writer like me, the wrong attitude gets conveyed and words taken not in its original intent. I laid it down. I went back and read it, most of it was pretty good i thought. there were about 3 posts i would like to have back.
    the problem was that i understood where i was coming from but i did a poor job of communicating that with others. thus lead to a few hard feelings that had to worked out. yeah, it might be best to slow down and think through things. face to face communicates much better.

  • Diane

    I’m not a pastor, but I’m a religion reporter. A story that sticks with me: About seven years ago I interviewed an enthusiastic young pastor of a start-up church. He told me, utterly earnestly and energetically, that the world would be transformed (transformed!) when people learned how to rightly understand the Augsburg (sp?) Confessions. And he would teach them!
    I nodded, but all I could think was “You are doomed. You are never going to attract anybody to your church by offering them an understanding of the Augsburg Confessions.” I was raised Lutheran and I don’t even know what they are. I have no doubt that a right understanding and practice of them would change the world, as would practicing the Sermon on the Mount, the Ten Commandments, etc. … but the only way, in my experience, to reach people is to leave the theory behind and meet them at the level of their pain, their need for love, forgiveness, acceptance, community. This pastor did end up folding up shop … but maybe he is wiser and is thriving somewhere else?

  • http://www.blog.followingchrist.org Jeff

    I’m still fairly young (32) and in my fifth year of ministry. During these years I have become convinced that ministry should be guided by giftedness rather than gender. A big part of the change was moving from 3rd person theology (in seminary, God help me) to experience working with gifted and talented women and men as a campus minister.

  • http://www.holinessreeducation.com Greg

    Scot,
    I couldn’t agree with this idea more. The biggest change for me now, rather than a decade ago is tone. Youth and zeal lend to preaching at people rather then engaging them. There is also the disconnect between the idealism of seminary and the reality of ministry. These inform and shape our theology significantly. I am glad I didn’t start blogging till a couple of years ago. Even now, though, I am sure there are some things I will regret 10 years from now. But that is part of the learning process.

  • Randy

    I’m thrilled to see this topic being explored as this is something that has bothered me more as I’ve gotten older. As someone who works with young people I’ve had to learn to moderate my own impatience with the exuberance (and sometimes lack of wisdom) of young believers with just enough 3rd person theology to be on fire with ideas that haven’t been fleshed out in real-life experience yet.
    What really prompted me to comment, though, is the original quote: “during the period when the voice is changing, we do not sing.” This is actually 1950′s vocal pedagogy. Nowadays all singing teachers and choir directors MAKE SURE that boys KEEP singing–and singing constantly–all throughout their voice change, whether it happens quickly or is more measured and slow. The research (and everyone’s anecdotal experience) is clear: the boys who navigate the voice change the best, and have the best success as adult singers, are the ones who keep singing regularly and enthusiastically during that period when it seems like they should give up because they are awkward, out of tune, and unpredictable in their tone.
    Does the analogy still hold?

  • http://dougrutter.blogspot.com Doug Rutter

    Scot,
    Growing up in a very “Arminian” church culture, my understanding of reformed theology was a straw-man at best and a caricature at worst. I still believe what I belive, but once I was able to overcome that bias I have been extremely blessed by the ministry of Calvinists like Piper and Carson.
    PS – That’s the reason I’m trying to give these emergent guys all the benefit of the doubt I can. I’m skeptical, but I don’t want to make the same mistake twice…

  • http://qbsblog.wordpress.com qb

    This insight does its work at the tense nexus of “don’t let anyone look down on you because of your youth” and “let not many of you become teachers,” undergirded by “[elders] should not be new believers, lest…”
    In many of the larger, evangelical churches with which I am familiar, regrettably, having 30-somethings (with very young children!) on a “board” of “elders” is not uncommon at all. I still have not figured out how to reconcile that reality with what [deutero-]Paul had in mind in the pastoral epistles. In the general case, when the fruits of their fatherhood are still in the bud, how can such men be trusted to shepherd the Lord’s church well? And in fact, under conditions of intrachurch conflict, in my limited experience they do more harm than good.
    Slightly off topic, but not really, when you think about it. Thielicke’s advice has a lot of important bearings to it, not just in the case of blogging or public teaching. We don’t put rookies in the cockpit of a 747; too much is at stake.
    qb

  • http://dougrutter.blogspot.com Doug Rutter

    qb,
    I appreciate your insight. I was appointed as an elder at our church when I was 28. At the time, my kids were 5 and 1. In my interview the elders asked very pointed questions in order to identify if I was exhibiting the type of family and fatherly leadership that Paul is ascribing.
    However, I wonder if we applied your criteria, wouldn’t we need to exclude from the Pastorate those with young children as well? Surely the lead pastors of churches function as elders (espcially in the teaching role that Paul seems to place such a priority on).
    Would you exclude from the pastorate men like Matt Chandler, Rob Bell, and Mark Driscoll? They are all fathers of very young children and are all fucitoning as teachers and leaders in their churches.

  • http://www.guynameddave.com Dave Bruno

    It’s a brilliant book. Good point applying it to Christian bloggers.
    What’s funny is that we can read a book like Thielecke’s and still not get it for a while. I remember one outburst in the car over a decade ago after a young seminary student taught our Sunday School class, “He should shut up and read Thielecke!” But I kept doing my own dumb and ungracious preaching and theology for years and years…and probably still do from time-time.

  • http://www.jesustheradicalpastor.com John Frye

    I, too, was asked to serve as an “elder” when I was a first year seminarian and only 24 years old. I served only briefly because I realized the issues the elders faced were beyond just biblical/theological knowledge. Deep, life-shaped wisdom was also required, so I stepped down. I am glad I did. But on the other hand, we can be stupid old farts, too, at times.

  • http://qbsblog.wordpress.com qb

    Doug (#21), I was careful in my post to say, “in the general case,” and to acknowledge the tension with “do not look down on [Timothy] for his youth.” I do not recall, however, Timothy being asked to serve as a shepherd per se; he was to appoint them in a fledgling church whose members may not have been steeped enough in what God thinks is important to choose their shepherds well. Timothy’s function as a teacher and church planter appears to me to have been somewhat different than the role of a pastor per se. Our modern term “pastor” carries along with it a lot of connotations (primary ecclesial authority, for one thing) that do not seem consonant with the way the NT writers use the term.
    I do not know who Chandler is, so I cannot speak to his case specifically.
    Based on what little I know of him, I certainly *would* vote to exclude Driscoll, BTW, for precisely the reasons Scot’s post points out. He exhibits a great deal of immaturity in his public communications, the shoot-first-ask-questions-later sort of immaturity. The term “frat-boy attitude” seems to apply to him with great accuracy. I don’t care how fast “his” church is “growing” or how notorious it is; that does not prove anything, and I am not overly impressed.
    In addition to his admirable (apparent) scholarship, especially in things Jewish, Bell is certainly gifted, which is so obvious as to be a banal observation on my part. Importantly, however, he also appears to possess a threshold quantity of humility, something Driscoll appears to lack. I think it would be unwise for the elders of the church he serves – if there are any – to discount his views on important matters, but the letters to Timothy and Titus cause me to doubt that it’s wise to vest in such a young man an expansive degree of relatively unchallenged authority.
    You are asking me about people I do not know personally, however, so all of these observations should be taken with a grain of salt. In general, I find that we evangelicals are overly prone to falling head-over-heels for youthful, talented personalities, which we might compare to what was happening during the time of I Samuel 8-9.
    In fact, the most pressing problem may not be with Saul per se, but with those of us who clamor for him to be king over us.
    qb

  • http://qbsblog.wordpress.com qb

    John (#23), your last point is well taken; there is nothing about being older that by itself qualifies a man to be in a position of church authority. We 40+ folks can be dolts. I suppose that’s why we find [deutero-]Paul putting “not a new convert” in the hopper with a bunch of other qualifications.
    But in the general case, the younger men lack the experiential wisdom and the track record of successful family-raising. They may be in the *process* of being successful, but the track record itself shows up in the term “believing children,” which I take to mean older children who possess and demonstrate an independent faith in Christ, not a derivative faith borne merely of their status as children of parents who take them to church and get them baptized at an early age.
    qb

  • http://dougrutter.blogspot.com Doug Rutter

    qb
    I don’t neccessarily agree with your characterizations (but I agree that celebrity phychoanalysis can be an imprecise affair), but I certainly resonate with the I Sam analogy.
    The one trap that churches in my tradition tend to fall into is seeing Paul’s “qualifications” in the pastorals and a checklist for legalistic righteousness. I instead tend to think that Paul is intending to describe the characteristics of a mature christian elder and allow the the men in each congregation to make those decisions as they are lead by the Spirit. It seems that some of the characterisics are Bianry (yes/no) and some are qualitative and require prayerful examination and analysis.

  • http://qbsblog.wordpress.com qb

    BTW Doug (#21) – and I’ll shut up and go away after this – my reading of the Pastorals suggests the following set-theory distillate:
    “All elders are to be able to teach, but not all those able to teach should be elders.”
    qb can teach integral calculus effectively and with great passion, but you certainly wouldn’t ask him to administer a department of mathematics!
    qb

  • http://qbsblog.wordpress.com qb

    Doug (#26), I could not agree more fully with your last paragraph. In the last couple of years, I have had to allow my traditional understanding of the “qualifications” texts in the Pastorals to breathe a little more – ironically enough, as a result of my fledgling and ongoing education at seminary. I, too, come from a tradition that tends to the legalistic.
    qb

  • http://danielktaylor.wordpress.com Dan

    Would what Scot is talking about include “voting” to exclude Mark Driscoll when one admittedly knows little about him?

  • http://www.rhettsmith.com Rhett Smith

    Scot:
    Great post. There are some things I wish I could take back that I wrote in a blog post. But the community has been great and it’s been a live and learn process. I’m pretty careful about what I do post, but I wish I was better at it.
    rhett

  • http://www.liambyrnes.co.uk Liam

    After recently graduating and looking forward to ministry I have had this book on my wishlist for a while. Maybe a good time to buy it!
    There is much on my blog that I would retrospectively retract, though hopefully nothing stated with the aire that I knew all aspects of the subjects I wrote on.
    Thanks for your thoughts Scot,
    Liam

  • http://ipsissimavox.blogspot.com/ Randy Barnhart

    Scot,
    As I look back it is amazing how I’ve changed. Here are a few positions I’ve taken (all over the map):
    1. I’ve gone from being a conservative Republican who saw the so-called values of that group as nearly divinely inspired to being a liberal Democrat who, though I’d never have admitted it, had the same high opinion of that particular viewpoint as well. Now, I see myself as a rather hopeful resident alien, an expatriate of sorts.
    2. I once used Scroggs to teach a class advocating for the acceptance (by the church) of the homosexual lifestyle, while recently I used Scroggs (actually, I prefer to think I dismantled Scroggs, with help, of course) to teach the inherently sinful nature of same sex sexual acts (in the broad context of confession for all sexual sin).
    3. Once upon a time I taught that the Bible was merely (emphasis on “merely”) a human witness to God’s revelation in Christ to now teaching that the Bible is the divinely inspired human witness to God’s self-revelation in Jesus of Nazareth (yes, I semi-hid a lot in that sentence).
    4. I’ve gone from being a “blank check Christian” (Hauerwas’ ugly phrase) to being a just war advocate to embracing pacifism (because it works) to attempting pacifism (because it it is true).
    I have to stop. I think I’m going to be sick.

  • http://www.rhettsmith.com/?p=971 Anonymous

    » Changing & Developing Our Thinking in an Online Community

    [...] Scot McKnight has a great post, A Little Exercise for Young Theologians, which is a take on the classic book of the same name by Helmut Thielicke. [...]

  • http://chickchaotic.wordpress.com/ Elizabeth Chapin

    As a not so young seminary student (I just turned 44) I find great wisdom in this post and have added the recommended book to my Amazon shopping cart. I have always had great interest in spiritual formation and have often been troubled by those who are young and are put in positions of leadership or authority and then end up doing or saying some really stupid things down the road. Perhaps I am one of those who did/said stupid things ;-)
    I think Ted, #4 makes a good point when he said, I think the tone is important when we express our thoughts on issues in which Christians disagree. And we need to go out of our way to express that tone very clearly, which with words can still be misconstrued, so we need to be aware and work at that, I believe. A tone of grace and reconciliation, with a listening heart and ear.
    I recently posted something on my blog that got very different responses from people who know me personally and those who don’t. Perhaps the people who know me could somehow “hear” my tone, while others could not. All the more reason to make an effort to express our tone with words and not just expect the readers to “hear” it in our blogs.
    I also appreciate what Randy #18 had to say about the vocal pedagogy. While I agree the analogy holds true – young theologians should keep using their voices, but perhaps the arena should not be such a public one?
    As to Scot’s inquiry, I was not a young pastor (women were not pastors in my church world) but I was a ministry leader and held firmly to the view that young women should never initiate in any way in relationships with men. This was so important that I taught it to all the young women I mentored. After reading Growing Strong Daughters by Lisa Graham McMinn because I have four daughters, I will not be teaching the view I formerly held to my daughters or to the women I mentor now.

  • http://thethirdmile.wordpress.com/2008/07/09/discovery-11-blogging-advice/ Anonymous

    Discovery :: 11 :: Blogging Advice « The Third Mile: Ponderings, Parables, & Other Discoveries

    [...] Discovery :: 11 :: Blogging Advice Filed under: discoveries — Isaac Bubna @ 7:11 pm Tags: advice, blogging, jesuscreed.org Go check out a� great post from over at jesuscreed.org� titled “A Little Excercise for Young Theologians“ [...]

  • http://www.chadholtz.wordpress.com Chad

    This is sound advice, Scot, and a definite must read for anyone seeking to go into ministry. I was grateful to be given the chance to read it while in undergrad studying theology and I recall the impact it made on me then.
    I think I would add, however, that airing ideas in and of itself is not bad. What is bad is if we do it without any sense of humility. How true it is that our views and positions often change as our ideas “take root” and we mature in the faith. And thank God for that! I am by far a different pastor and thinker than I was even 2 years and I hope I am even less dogmatic about my opinions today as I was then.
    Thanks for this reminder.
    Grace and peace,
    Chad

  • http://www.samandress.blogspot.com Sam Andress

    Helmut’s little exercise is a great little book. I read it while at Fuller. I also read Barth’s “evangelical theology” which is helpful in the same way. Both caused me to pause, slightly. There is much wisdom in your words Scot, but I do think that part of what is wrong with this approach is that “elder’s with wisdom” are often not accutely aware of what is happening in the milieu of twenty-and-thirty-somethings. Too often leaders in their 50s have become “successful” and quite rigid in their methodolgies and even resistant to new thinking.
    If anything I think the emerging generation has a more open posture towards theology and the world whereas the boomers tend to be entrenched in the structures and therefore in all their wisdom they are categorically unable to see things in a new way. Scripture says that youth should not be looked down upon and Paul seemed to enlist youngsters with zeal. It also seems that when the church silences the youth for the sake of keeping things proper, the church loses its prophetic edge.
    Youth tend to not be encombered by book deals, tenured positions, and denominational polities which their whole income and assets are tied to…

  • dan!

    I understand clearly the wisdom here, but I struggle with the extent at which it should be applied.
    I am a young pastor who has been struggling since my first day on the job a few years back. That day was only a few months after graduating from bible school (undergrad). My theology has changed much in these last years, and I am thankful for the way that God has been stretching and growing me, although it has been hard. My struggles have been primarily with the form of traditional church and becoming more and more disillusionment with it. The difficulty has been the inauthenticity that I feel not being able to share those struggles because of my position.
    What I want to express is this: I understand the logic and wisdom, but so badly with that there was more room for struggling and processing.
    Thanks for the post scot.

  • http://www.JesusCreed.org Scot McKnight

    dan!,
    Of course, I too wish there were safer and more open environments, and the blog world can be one of those. The issue in this post is not that you have those struggles and not that you need to talk about them, but how much of that is wise to take into the public on a blog.
    I’d advise finding some pastors or theologians or friends to whom you can talk about these things. Blogging is one way of doing this, but all I suggest is that you be careful in what you say.
    My last comment on the post itself is my point.

  • dan!

    I appreciate the reply and the clarification. Thanks for the wisdom.

  • http://ipsissimavox.blogspot.com/ Randy Barnhart

    Sam (#37),
    Please don’t read any angry tone into this, but I find it curious and sad that any seminary trained adult can write (RE his or her reading of HT’s A Little Exercise…, and KB’s ET), “Both caused me to pause, slightly.” Forgive me if I am wrong, but that seems somewhat dismissive of these especially pregnant, though tiny, books (not to mention dismissive of SM’s wise counsel to “hold your ideas a bit more tentatively when you are young. You’ll grow into moderated, confident wisdom. That’s the best time to chat about theology.”
    Also, if the people in their 50s that you are reading and/or listening to have become rigid, I would suggest changing your patterns of reading and listening. My experience (both as a younger guy and now as an older guy) is that few are more certain and willing to pontificate than the inexperienced.
    As an old guy (50 this year, so I am almost twice your age) I would love to hear your take on “what is happening in the milieu of twenty-and-thirty-somethings” that has never happened before. Maybe even I can learn something new.
    This is just my take on Paul, and I may be wrong, but, I don’t think he is the best example to use if you’re looking for someone of someone who deferred to the zeal and insight of those less experienced than he.
    I enjoyed your website, btw. You do a great job. Keep it up.

  • http://www.BiblePresChurch.org Bob Smallman

    Great post, Scot!
    I suppose I’ve changed my views on many subjects, but most of all I hope over the years I’ve developed a greater spirit of humility toward those with whom I might disagree — and a greater willingness to listen to and to learn from all sorts of people. I’m more interested in listening to people and less interested in labeling them.
    I find myself today much less dismissive of other’s views than I was when I was younger. That doesn’t mean I don’t have strong views on important issues — only that I hold them less defensively and more charitably. And even my definition of “important issues” might be a bit narrower than it was years ago!

  • http://erika.haub.net Erika Haub

    John Goldingay used to say often that he was maybe right about 90% of what he said and wrong about 10% and the trouble was he didn’t know which were the 10%. I loved that.

  • http://benbyerly.wordpress.com/2008/07/10/mcknights-advice-to-young-passionate-bloggers/ Anonymous

    McKnight’s advice to young, passionate bloggers « Ben Byerly’s Blog

    A Little Exercise for Young Theologians
    Scot McKnight has a nice post about the relevance of Helmut Thielicke’s little book “A Little Exercise for Young Theologians” to blogging over at Jesus Creed » A Little Exercise for Young Theologians.
    I’ve used Thielicke…—–
    [...] 10 Jul 2008 · No Comments A Little Exercise for Young Theologians . . . Recognize that you will change . .. [...]

  • http://abisomeone.blogspot.com/ Peggy

    Randy, #41,
    LOL! Just turning 52 this week, I represent your remark 8)
    As with everything else, it is usually a mistake to generalize things by age, stage, race, nationality or gender — especially wisdom!
    I have known young people who were wise and “elders” who were foolish. I have been both … LOL!
    What I have come to understand, however, that has been most helpful to be in this arena has to do with restraint — particularly viewing restraint as one of the key attributes of God.
    It is restraint that allows room for wisdom. And it is the lack of restraint that leads us to “drop” the key to the Jesus Creed … we do not love our neighbor as ourselves and we do not love God with the humility that puts “them” first in our heart, soul, mind and strenth.
    If we did, we would temper our tongues (James had some very good words about that!) and “do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God”. It’s getting all three parts right and together that presents the challenge, eh?
    Sometimes justice calls for setting something right. But mercy requires careful deconstruction in order to prevent destruction in stead. And humility (like love) covers a multitude of sins.
    …this is why Job is one of my all time favorites. He was old and he was wise and he was just and merciful and God bragged on him!!! But when faced with catastrophe after catastrophe (and some friends that did better when they just said with him in silence), he lost his restraint when he not-so-humbly called God on the carpet. He quickly regained it — being really wise — and got back in line.
    Love Job.
    Erika — love that line from Goldingay! I think there is also a bit of that principle that says the 10% where we’re wrong — we tend to be dead wrong 8)

  • http://abisomeone.blogspot.com/ Peggy

    …perhaps the place to “sing” during the voice change is in the shower!
    Of course, that will resonate more with the brothers, since the sisters don’t have this “event”. I’m not going to assume anything about wisdom because of this difference in the maturation process, however 8)

  • tscott

    mmm…..when and how much to chat about theology?
    …i agree with josenmiami( and others have also) that it shouldn’t be before coffee.
    …jesus creeders-do you remember the post this year over
    those pesky calvinists?… perhaps the worst tone ever and over theology.
    …how about yesterday and the theological differences over theology and slavery back in the day…they turned it over to the generals to decide who was right( and it would be myopic to think that only happened during the American civil war).
    …am looking foward to a discussion on “Chrysalis” later this year…how about this quote…”Ironically, the institutional church is often an obstacle to spiritual growth…it has something of an investment in keeping its members in an infantile state.”
    …i definitely changed from thinking preaching was most important( including theological positioning) to people having priority( small groups seem right)… it comes from focusing on Him over time.

  • http://scotteriology.wordpress.com/2008/07/11/gods-long-nostrils/ Anonymous

    God’s Long Nostrils « Scotteriology

    [...] So completely ignoring McKnight’s advice at Jesus Creed I am going to write a few pieces in the near future on translations and interpretation that could definitely get me in trouble with a future employer! However, before I enter those dangerous waters I would like to give you just one small example among many that translators face. [...]

  • http://waynepark.wordpress.com/2008/07/11/blogging-etiquette/ Anonymous

    Blogging Etiquette «

    [...] Blogging Etiquette 11 07 2008 A post by Scot Mcknight @ Jesus Creed has stuck in my mind subconsciously all week. That’s when you know you’ve read some good blogging… [...]

  • http://vialogue.wordpress.com/2008/07/11/the-blogospheres-puberty-choir-jesus-creeds-advice-to-young-bloggers/ Anonymous

    The Blogosphere’s Puberty Choir – Jesus Creed’s Advice To (Young) Bloggers « VIA

    [...] The Blogosphere’s Puberty Choir – Jesus Creed’s Advice To (Young) Bloggers The Jesus Creed blog by Scot McKnight posted the popular “A Little Exercise For Young Theologians.” I thought I would use this post as a launching pad for the purpose and mission of the VIAlogue blog, and, as always, make some comments and pose some questions regarding McKnight’s thoughts, which I have an appreciation for. [...]

  • http://www.vialogue.wordpress.com VIA

    I appreciate the popularity and sentiments of this post and suggest there is a paradox of wisdom and a double ring at play here. http://www.vialogue.wordpress.com. Much appreciation for the discussion.

  • http://www.justindetmers.com Justin Detmers

    Excellent post! I’m 25 & I’ve been part of the blog world/(mostly informal) theological study for a few years now; honestly, when I hear other younger types sound off on many different issues, I don’t really think it carries as much weight. I actually find myself a bit skeptical of motives from time to time, is this person (or am I) just trying to show others how smart he or she is? Or, is this person just trying to be like others they look up too? It’s not that youth = insincerity, but rather that true credibility is doesn’t come by having a blog and knowing some new/big vocab words. Perhaps James is correct, that we (especially younger types) should be quick to listen and slow to speak, and not many should presume to be teachers.
    …so I’ll be quiet now.

  • http://www.justindetmers.com/?p=195 Anonymous

    Jesus Creed speaks wisdom — justindetmers.com

    [...] Scot McKnight, who has the blog Jesus Creed,� wrote an excellent post� called “A Little Exercise for Young Theologians“, referencing a book by the same title. I believe his thoughts could be especially beneficial for those who are in a boat similar to mine. The wisdom in the following quote, takes me immediately to James 1:19, James 3: 1-2, and basically everything JR Miller modeled for/said to me in 2005-2006. [...]

  • http://taddelay.wordpress.com/2008/07/12/meanderings-5/ Anonymous

    Meanderings « emerging toward something redeeming

    [...] Advice for bloggers I found very important to consider for bloggers intending to be leaders, pastors, theologians, or even students. � It’s making me muse over what/how I post here. [...]

  • http://andrew-s-murray.blogspot.com/ Andrew Murray

    Scot,
    Thanks so much for pointing out this book. I had not heard of it before.
    I am 21-years-old and have some teaching responsibilities at my church (as part of the teaching team for the Sunday night service), so this book will be most welcome.
    I am a bit of a “lurker” on this blog for this very reason: at least for now, I do my best to read very much and comment very little.

  • Jason

    I find the things I wrestle with today and the food I preach off A YEAR LATER. It takes me at least a year before I bring it to my people.

  • http://wordsfromtheway.com/between-the-trees/?p=508 Anonymous

    A quick trip around the links at Between the Trees

    [...] This post from Scot McKnight hit pretty close to home. I think it’s safe to say I’ve hit a lot of screechy, off-key notes in the past few years. [...]


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