Experts

     A while back I was approached by a fellow who soon revealed himself to be an expert. It really did not matter what subject was under consideration, he knew everything in the world about it. Over the years I have allowed myself to be frustrated by this kind of person. In more recent times my response to these people has been more of a sad sense of amusement.

     Now, having expertise as a “watcher of football on television” or being an “expert political observer” is something most of us dabble in from time to time. We are able to present our theories about which team is best or which candidate ought to win. As long as we keep a Christian attitude about it no harm is done. The matter of attitude is, however, of great importance when it comes to supposed or actual expertise.

     It is also important that the expert really knows something. This is tremendously important when the subject is the Word of God. These two factors, attitude and actual knowledge, are essential in the study of the Bible. When I was a student at Freed-Hardeman College I was ten years older than the average student. I had enough sense to know I did not know anything, and I was thrilled at the opportunity to study God’s Word in that environment. But it didn’t take too long to discover experts among the student body. They knew it all. Amazingly some knew even more than their teachers!

     I began to see that the life of books and study can do something bad to people. The process of studying and gaining information can cause a person to think that they know more than they really do. I saw fellows then and still see people today who have cast aside all elements of humility about themselves and their own expertise. Humility begins when we can come to see that studying the Bible is hard work. Many “experts” have very superficial levels of knowledge. Once humility about studying God’s Word is lost then all hope for gaining real knowledge is gone.

     This subject makes me think of brother Hugo McCord. I do not know of a better or more accomplished student of the Bible than he was. He could read the Hebrew and Greek texts like most folks read the directions on an oatmeal box. He was a student of God’s Word. But he was also the most humble of men. He did not allow his academic accomplishments to ruin his humility before God. A manifestation of that humility was his friendship with another great student, brother Franklin Camp. These two faithful men did not always agree about what the Bible taught but they were both magnificent and humble students of the Word of God. I learned all I could from both of them.

     Allow me a word on the matter of content and expertise. One thing a good student must learn early is that there is a tremendous amount of information on any subject. This is especially true when the Bible is under consideration. People have studied the Old and New Testaments for about 1986 years; the Old Testament alone for longer than that. The audacity of a man or woman who would leave the impression of complete knowledge of even a portion of that information is ridiculously immense. The more you know the more you know there is to know.

      We can “know the truth and truth will set us free” (John 8:32). We can and indeed are expected by God to know and obey the truth of the gospel (Romans 1:16). But the man who presents himself as an expert on every element of the Bible has deceived himself and is on a path to deceive others.

     Some may argue that I have created a straw man with my picture of the so-called expert so that I may easily tear him down. My response is that self-appointed experts are already straw (1 Corinthians 3:12), made that way by their lack of humility. Humility is required because though many passages and doctrines are taught clearly in the text there are some matters about which good men and women can and do disagree. A few examples I have in mind are the date of the writing of Revelation, which New Testament letter was written first or some aspects of the work of the Holy Spirit. Doesn’t the mere mention of those subjects bring various views to mind?

     Someone defined an expert as being from out of town with a briefcase. Let us desire to study, know and obey God’s truth with an attitude of humility.