Once, when I referred to someone as an expert, a work colleague commented that an expert is a “drip under pressure”. The Oxford Dictionary’s definition of an expert is “someone who is very knowledgeable about or skilful in a particular area”.
I’m often amazed how many people are experts when it comes to religion… or more particularly experts on Christianity. Let me give you some examples.
The man was my age and a member of a church that has a huge nominal membership. He confessed to going to church on special occasions such as Christmas and Easter. When he moved to our town he tried the local Presbyterian Church but was put off because the preacher had mentioned sin and assumed (as the Bible correctly teaches) that we are all sinners. He was scathing in his criticism and lamented that these fundamentalists still took the Bible literally. I was surprised… not by his rejection of the fundamentals of the faith – I’ve come across that often enough – but by the way he set himself up as “the expert”. He, with his admitted infrequent church attendance, presumed to know the truth so much better than the Presbyterian preacher who had seminary training and whose job it was to study and teach the Scriptures week by week. He knew too that the person he was talking to also had five years of Biblical and Theological education and who generally expounded the Bible twice on a Sunday but he never asked what I thought about the matter. No, he was the expert.
Being a religious expert begins early in life. I once mentored a Kids’ Hope student when the subject of the Bible came up in conversation. He proudly announced that he and his Mum and his sister were not Christians. He also added the reason for his unbelief: In the Bible, Cain must have married his sister and, since that is clearly the wrong thing to do, the Bible couldn’t possibly be true. I don’t want to blame this child for his views – he was clearly parroting what he had heard his Mum say. She obviously considered herself an expert and she made sure that her son would also consider himself an expert. Again, my views were not asked, it was simply considered as ‘done and dusted’.
A third example is a relative who joined a church that discourages eating meat. From there on, at all family birthday parties, she tried to convince the rest of the family that it is more Biblical to be a herbivore than a carnivore. She lectured us loud and long for our failure to become vegetarians as she was. I was then at theological college and I often received articles and books from her in the mail to persuade me of the error of my ways. Not once did she ever ask me or the rest of the family for our understanding of Scripture on this matter. No! She was the expert and the rest of us all got it wrong. That opening definition of ‘expert’ comes to mind: a drip under pressure!
It probably doesn’t need saying but this attitude of being ‘the expert’ is not very humble. In fact it is evidence of the pride that lay behind the fall of Adam and Eve in Paradise. They too figured that they were the experts and that God had somehow got it wrong. And sadly, they acted accordingly.
At its worst this attitude of pride sits in judgment on God and on His Word. We make up our own mind about what we believe and what we reject. And so we craft a version of Christianity that sits comfortably with us and we don’t let the Bible convince us of anything that we don’t like to hear. I am the expert.
But what about those instances when the issue does not concern the fundamentals of the faith? What about issues such as being a vegetarian? Here especially it doesn’t sit well for people to parade themselves as experts. There are many matters on which Christians must agree to disagree. Eating or not eating meat is just one of them. In these areas especially it becomes important no to parade oneself as the expert but to listen to views of others and together to search out what the Scriptures do tell us about those matters.
Let’s make sure we’re ‘experts’ when it comes to the fundamentals: the doing, the dying and victory of Christ. For the rest, let’s not be drips under pressure but humbly let our thinking be shaped by the Word of God.