culture

You’re Not An Expert on Everything

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Should you speak on the next big topic of the day? In our culture, news comes at us quickly. We are often bombarded with the next so-called important cultural emergency just moments after we have discussed the one prior. As one crisis leads to another, Christians are often talking, tweeting, or writing authoritatively about the subject.

However, this mentality extends further than just becoming overnight experts in latest cultural debate. Sometimes, we Christians present ourselves as self-proclaimed leading experts in other academic fields (science, sociology, technology, etc.) when we have little to no educational or vocational training or experience in the field. We tend to enjoy telling others what to think and how they should think about the very field they are in.

As such, we often exemplify this meme.

When we speak as if we were the authoritative voice on all things, we can come across as prideful in our own knowledge and dismissive of those who actually have the requisite training and experience in the field. Thus, the watching world and even our churches may see us as nothing more than clanging cymbals.

We acknowledge our own limits and exalt the intellectual gifts that others bring to the table.

But, these cultural topics and academic fields still deserve our attention and warrant a biblical framework. How should you as a pastor, layperson, academic, or student think and engage in these topics where you may not be an expert? Here is some advice:

Stay in your lane.

Pastors and Christian academics are generally well-versed in theology, biblical studies, and even some philosophy. We can exegete passages, parse Greek and Hebrew verbs, and discuss the finer theological details. On these matters and other related fields, knowledgeable Christians should rightly be considered experts and trusted authority figures. We indeed have something to offer the world!

However, many pastors and Christian academics have little to no training or experience in other fields. If you are a pastor or Christian academic, reflect on your own educational and vocational background. Do you have a degree in the field you are wanting to speak on (whether that’s science or politics)? Have you worked and gained valuable real-life experience to understand the finer context and details of the matter? This is not to say that Christians cannot have a voice in the conversation. Rather, you should remember where your strengths are and where others are similarly strong in.

To see this from a different perspective, consider if the roles were reversed. What if someone not trained in biblical studies or theology spoke with authority on those matters? Chance are you would be rightfully upset they were misrepresenting your field of expertise or you might view their proclamations with caution.

If you’re reading this and theology is not your expertise, then the principle still applies. All of us have topics we’re more knowledgeable about. We should speak authoritatively on those topics, and with greater humility on others.

Apply the Bible and theology.

Although pastors and Christian academics may not be experts in all fields, this reality does not prevent us from having a voice in the conversation. Rather than portraying ourselves as an authoritative voice, we should find the areas where we can offer a helpful voice in the discussion. The Christian faith is applicable to all of life since we believe Christianity offers the best explanation of the world we live in and our purpose in this world. Thus, Christians should not be afraid to show the connections between our biblical and theological understandings and the hot topic of the day.

For example, Thomas Aquinas described theology as the “queen of the sciences.” In a sense, this is correct since the study of theology does include the natural world which science studies as well. Does this mean theologians are automatically proficient in subjects like microbiology or astrophysics? Certainly not. Those fields and others like them require many years of education and training to have a strong grasp of the basics. While we cannot join those fields in great technical detail, the Christian can offer their expertise on how such theology relates to these subjects. When new scientific or technological innovations come out, Christians can speak to how these we should understand God, humanity, and our place in the world in relation to these

Admit your limits.

Although Christian biblical studies and theology are crucial, we should not assume ourselves to be the arbiters of knowledge in all domains. Most pastors and Christian academics are uniquely positioned to speak on matters of the Bible, theology, the church, etc. When faced with a topic that we know little about and have not received the adequate training for, we should humbly seek the expertise of those who are in the field and bring them into the conversation. Instead of excluding those who may have the best foundational understanding, we should invite those experts to have a front row seat at the conversation table.

This kind of open and inclusive conversation is only possible if we are willing to admit our own intellectual limitations and accept the contributions of others. With humility, we acknowledge our own limits and exalt the intellectual gifts that others bring to the table. Thus, this inviting attitude takes us out of the spotlight and places more qualified individuals at the forefront. In this manner, we can begin to bridge the seemingly large divide between disciplines.

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Eddy Wu

Eddy Wu is a Ph.D. student in Christian Apologetics and Culture at Southeastern Seminary, where he works as the IT Operations Manager. He loves technology and is interested in the problem of evil. He and his wife Erica live in Wake Forest with their 2 kids.

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