(by Lisa Robinson)

I have read John 11 many times and have been immensely ministered by it.  It seems each time I do, there is something fresh to be gleaned in the text.  So as I listened to this radio broadcast the other day whereby the preacher was identifying three reasons why Jesus wept, I got a little stuck on one point – because of sin.   It was through a discourse about the topic on Theologica, that I realized what I had missed as one of the members pointed out to me.  For whatever reason, I was not drawing that out of the text even though it was quite obvious, especially when correlated with the complete witness of scripture.

In reality, this happens to all of us.  There is something we miss.  We will read our Bible and draw out certain conclusions that may or may not be consistent with what is actually being communicated.   We may understand or we may draw erroneous conclusions.  To be sure, whatever conclusions we draw will impact how we think about God and how we live out our faith.

Needless to say, this is why teachers in the body of Christ are important, to help us understand the Bible better in order to live out a fruitful, Christian life.  It is one of the reasons I believe those charged with the pastoring and teaching task should have training that encourages a comprehensive evaluation of the Biblical text accompanied by spiritual maturity and accountability.

But what happens if the teacher is missing something or drawing conclusions that are not consistent with what God is actually communicating through the text?  What happens if that teacher is relying exclusively on teachers that agree with him and dismissing those who don’t?  What happens if the teacher insists that he believes his illumination of the text is correct because of what he believes the Holy Spirit has communicated to him?  What happens if we only listen to one teacher or teachers that teach everything alike?

I contend that in reality, we need many teachers.  Now those teachers are not restricted to the ones who stand in the pulpit at your church or lead your Bible study.   Bible commentaries are teachers.  The voices of the past through annuls of church history are teachers.     Discourse with other members of the body of Christ is a teacher.  For teaching comes when we learn something about what it is we are trying to understand.   Teaching is done by those who are trying to understand it themselves.  This is why I reject the notion that the study of systematic theology and church history is unnecessary or antithetical to spiritual growth.   Because it presents a plethora of people who were striving to understand the faith that has been handed down themselves.  And if we are trying to understand the Bible better, it seems reasonable to me that we engage in a process that will provide perspectives that maybe we had not considered.

More important, we need diversity. Diversity in teaching is important that encompasses a diversity of viewpoints.  Diversity should present options that drive us to quest to understand what is being communicated.  It should temper renegade and rogue conclusions, which is most likely if there is a single source.  Diversity dispels the fact that I alone can come to right conclusions with just me and my bible or that teacher who is accountable to no one and will not participate in honest investigation.  Diversity presents us with the possibility that maybe we are not understanding something clearly or missing something entirely.  Diversity should hone discernment. Diversity should humble us.

This is not to say that one should go out and make sure they know all competing viewpoints, especially if they are younger Christians.  But I know of those who will only listen to one teacher or type of teacher.  I know of those who reject diversity of thought since they are convinced that the ones teaching them possess the truth.  I know of those who reject investigation of tools presented by other teachers. I know of myself, that like all people are subject to misunderstanding.  No one person can hold the corner on truth and understands everything perfectly.   The only one who has, was born in a manger, died on a cross and now sits at the right hand of the Father.  That leaves those of us who strive to understand him better based on what He has communicated, with our imperfect understanding to recognize we need others to help us understand what we may be missing.   The one who won’t do this most likely leads a cult.


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    40 replies to "The Benefit of Many “Teachers” and Why Diversity is Important"

    • ScottL

      No doubt that the motto – Me, Jesus and my Bible – is counter to the Scripture we say we are studying.

      Lisa, how far can one go in having other teachers from outside our ilk?

    • Lisa Robinson

      Scott, I think it will depend on where we are in the process. I kind of see it as a natural progression, that as we engage with the Biblical text, it should raise questions of what is being communicated. Those questions should prompt a quest for answers. That quest will most likely lead to a diversity of options, to varying degrees. So the parameters will not necessarily be the same for everyone.

      But i think the more constrained we are, the more we will rely on what is inside that constraint – us and maybe the only teacher or same-teaching we will listen to.

    • Susan

      …..or is a false teacher.

    • Alex Guggenheim

      This is an important point. All theological systems have strengths and weaknesses. Those that are devoted to one system to the point of failing to appreciate and benefit from the contributions of others or failing to recognize areas where their system has not thoroughly explored and presented comprehensive arguments is always a deficit. Take Lutheranism for example and particularly the LCMS. Luther and Chemnitz formulated a fantastic template for a theological identification and its subsequent sect or denomination. And those following enlarged on many of their arguments. However, some areas did not get addressed to the degree one would wish and others simply repeated without challenge to the inferior teachings. And so today, within the LCMS, there is a certain “satisfaction” among many that are aligned with Lutheranism to their own detriment because they defend and teach Lutheranism in spite of later illumination offered by other sources that they won’t even concede are…

    • Daniel

      Great thoughts, Lisa. One cannot overemphasize the importance of doing theology in a community. I’ve had your same experience of “why did I never see that before” even on passages that I’ve studied for years. I’m still, after decades of study and debate on the topic, picking up new things in Genesis 1 and 2. Makes me realize that we should never get to the point where we think we know all there is to know about a particular passage.

    • Norm Grant

      Great post.
      There is something to be said about the friction that occurs as you pursue what God is wanting to say at that moment as you get into the text and, one’s preconceived understandings of what you think the text is saying.
      Diversity causes us to wrestle with ourselves where we’re constantly asking of course how is it that God is wanting to stretch us personally first before we share it with others.

    • […] Think Christian What Does Your Quiet Time Smell Like? – Jon Acuff, Stuff Christians Like The Benefit of Many ‘Teachers’ and Why Diversity is Important – Lisa Robinson, Parchment & Pen What if Your Reputation is Unjustly Bad? – John […]

    • Lucian

      This will probably make you sad, but I think it has to be brought to your attention.

    • mbaker

      After 50 years of being a Christian I find myself doubting almost everyone. Much of what I was taught by so called experts in the hypercharismatic church is just as bad as what it is taught in the traditional old line line denominations, which have drastically changed their stances because of popular trends in Christianity.

      So important to remember to rely on what the salvation message teaches in the long run, that we are are ALL sinners in need of grace. The older I get the less I rely on spiritual gurus of any ilk.

      While diversity is important and I agree with examining both sides of an issue, I think we can get so caught up in that, thinking we are on the right track, that we can allow that sort of thinking to distract us from the simple basic truth. In the en , we came become so confused that we are in a whirlwind of doubt, and therefore have nothing to concrete to rely upon ourselves or to teach others. Then it is not a matter of faith at all., but of pure human opinion.

    • In many cases I have found the divisions, particularly of the believing church, are a result of a legitimate concern taken to an extreme. One sees one aspect of truth and another sees a competing aspect of truth and both exaggerate them to the detriment of the other. Therefore it is good to see both sides because even it you are right on the main issue, the other side may see a related aspect you have missed.

    • cherylu

      mbaker,

      I have been thinking along the same lines that you have here in comment #9. But I wasn’t sure how to put it into words. I think you did a good job of doing it for me. Thanks.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Mbaker and Cheryl,

      It’s not a matter of relying on others but listening to what they have to say. To be sure, there will be extremes and concepts not worth considering. Keep the meat, and throwing away the bones. But that presumes the ability to even decipher, which would be increased by exposure to multiple resources.

    • cherylu

      It’s not a matter of relying on others but listening to what they have to say. To be sure, there will be extremes and concepts not worth considering. Keep the meat, and throwing away the bones. But that presumes the ability to even decipher, which would be increased by exposure to multiple resources.

      In my experience the trouble with this often is that people think that the bones are the meat! Instead of growing up in the faith as it talks about in Eph 4, they end up being “tossed about by every wind of doctrine” Which of course is the opposite of what is supposed to be happening.

    • Paige-Patric Samuels

      The diversity of teaching within the ethos of a Christian circle is to be welcomed. As most of the creed of Christendom hold to two dogma Calvinism (Augustinism), of Palgus (Amrininism ) others are dispelled or demonized as heretic. As Liz rightly suggest, that we ought to encourage a wide verity of viewpoints , that come from the vast field of Systematics and the Patristics, that are petulant in the field of Theology and Church History.On e should never infer that their own epistemology, that is our theory of knowledge concerns and beliefs their justification is an monopoly for an individual. Ludwig Feuerbach state: we are distinctively human beings . We are essentially social and physical, not spiritual beings. those we must recognize our own limitations. let us learn from each other.
      Eat the meant throw away the bones some bone are good to suck!

    • cherylu

      Eat the meant throw away the bones some bone are good to suck!

      I would like to suggest that perhaps if you had come out if the Christian circles I have (the hyper charismatic movement,) you might be just as horrified at the “bones” some people think are meat as I am. Some of the diversity of teaching in the church today as is so far off the track that it is down right frightening.

      Lisa did mention, extremes and concepts not worth considering. However my contention was, and still is, that very many people hearing those extremes think they are correct teaching–the meat.

    • Paige-Patric Samuels

      Yes this is true eisgesis of the text rather than exegete the text, is all to common in (charismatic churches), where bones are more commonly chewed, sad I am a vegetarian.
      the poor diet that many of the saints are getting in the name of bible thumping preaching, has gotten so bad, no wander we have seen a mass exodus in our churches emassie. Most charismatic churches/Pentecostals do not encourage diversity, they feel those in leadership that is, see it a a personal attract on themselves. So they get ire, and go batty on the individual who may encourage diversity. It is very important to rid that sort of culture and encourage diversity to prevail in the Church which is the Body of Christ.

    • John From Down Under

      @ mbaker

      I didn’t realize you’re a Pentecostal refugee too (see Cheryl, we need to start a coalition and I nominate you as President ;-)).

      I could be wrong, but I read some trepidation in your last paragraph. The smorgasbord of different interpretations of the faith can be draining, exhausting and confusing. Yet I think it’s necessary to sharpen our discernment skills. It is far worse to withdraw completely and resign to our own understanding alone and that of our denomination. In other words, I don’t think playing it safe is the answer. It’s certainly easier, but not beneficial in the long run. The ‘exploration’ is worth the risk.

      I think also, it comes down to our devotion to truth and learning. The reason we fled Pentecostalism is because we heard the ‘other side’. Had we shut our ears we’d still be there. The greatest benefit IMO of welcoming diversity is that is can smash our idols (those beliefs & opinions we have fallen in love with)

    • John From Down Under

      @ cherylu

      Since when did you have any problems with diversity? I watch you mud-wrestling Hodge and wm tanskey (the theological heavyweights), they get you in a head lock but you still come back determined 🙂

      Funny imagery aside, my point is that your ‘insistence’ is indicative of a commitment to truth and learning, you just want to get to the bottom of an issue but only after ‘the penny dropped’ in your own mind, not just because what someone else said (the ‘referred conviction’ as CMP calls it).

      I wholeheartedly embrace Lisa’s advocacy for diversity (not that she needs my endorsement, but that’s the point of posting comments). Exposure to diversity works best too when we can acknowledge error even in the people we respect and admire the most and not be blinded by the Christian celebrity syndrome (which is not only among charismatics btw, just drop the name of, Carson, White or MacArthur in some reformed circles and watch some of them go weak at the knees).

    • mbaker

      John,

      I wholeheartedly agree with diversity in the sense that we should listen to solid theology across denominational lines. That’s why I read and study widely.

      My point, which you made much better was this, if I may borrow your quote:

      “Exposure to diversity works best too when we can acknowledge error even in the people we respect and admire the most and not be blinded by the Christian celebrity syndrome (which is not only among charismatics btw, just drop the name of, Carson, White or MacArthur in some reformed circles and watch some of them go weak at the knees).”

      As a former hyper-charismatic (I would say ‘reformed’ but then I’m not a Calvinist! :)) I heartily agree. It is the ‘referred’ theology that CMP mentioned that I find often masquerades for real diversity of thought, because itis simply built upon narrow admiration of a spiritual guru(s).

    • cherylu

      John from Down Under,

      Funny thing about diversity. When the Bible was written, there was a unity of teaching in it. Jude 3 tells us to contend for the faith once given to the saints. II Timothy 3 speaks in a negative way about certain women that were always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. And Ephesians 4 tells us to grow up and not be tossed around by every wind of doctrine.

      Seems to me diversity was not something that was very highly valued by the writers of Scripture! It was as teaching got more and more diversified that we started having problems.

      And now we find ourselves at a point where we have to sort through all kinds of diversity to hopefully find the truth and recognize it when we see it. And things have gotten so diversified that it is looked at negatively if someone believes they know the truth. Seems to me like things have gotten kind of all upside down and back wards down through the years! (Wish things could be simple for once.)

    • mbaker

      To continue my train of thought from comment #19: Sometimes ‘diversity’ in the church nowadays is defined by how many people follow the teachings of certain well known theologians, or someone who chooses the theology of a certain camp like Calvinism, reformed, Armianism, ecumenical or emergent.

      It’s alright to choose where you want to be in that mix, as long as you don’t change scripture to suit that agenda, because then it’s not about diversity but re-inventing Christianity.

      Many things which are totally against scripture have snuck into the church nowadays under the banner of ‘diversity”. Everyone seems to have a different definition of what that term means nowadays, and how far it should go.

    • John From Down Under

      @ Cheryl

      I totally get your point. The difference though between us and the early church (book of Acts ‘early’) is that they didn’t have the ‘varieties’ we now have and the many competing voices, as well as the proliferation of heresies that now abound. Things were a lot simpler in the beginning, though it didn’t take long before the apostles started addressing the need for sound doctrine (Paul’s epistles warn everywhere), clearly because ‘other gospels’ began creeping in (example John’s epistle warnings against gnosticism).

      By ‘diversity’ though I don’t mean open slather, let’s listen to everybody including new age and mormons and figure out the truth. My definition of diversity is to allow for other respected and sound minded Christian apologists and exegetes to challenge me and shape my thinking. Since no denomination has a monopoly on sound exegesis and absolute hermeneutical integrity, why would it not be healthy and edifying to listen and weigh up what others have to say?

    • cherylu

      John,

      I don’t think I ever said that it is never healthy to weigh what others have to say. What I have said earlier here though is that listening to what some folks say can end up with a person eating a lot of bones! And those folks aren’t the Mormons and newagers either. There are a lot of people out there that are very highly respected in their circles that are teaching very deadly stuff–at least from my perspective. I am referring to hyper charismatic stuff again. My whole point was that listening to diversity can sometimes get us in big trouble. I didn’t grow up in that type of church by the way. I grew up in extremely conservative church circles that didn’t want anything to do with any thing remotely pentecostal say nothing about the hyper charismatic stuff of the last years.

      I have had other experiences where my mind has been signifcantly changed by listening to diversity too. But it isn’t the cure all and has it’s own set of dangers that can be devastating.

    • John From Down Under

      Cheryl,

      The crux of your response is ‘be cautious’. I couldn’t agree more! No doubt there are risks. It’s risky driving a care, but you don’t stop driving, you just drive carefully. My point is that the rewards outweigh the risks in the long run. There are plenty of horror stories I know. That’s how cults start, because people follow a ‘respected leader’.

      Maybe an example will help articulate my point better. I didn’t know the ‘law and gospel’ distinction was until I started reading from Lutheran sources (which in my Pentecostal days I wouldn’t touch with a 10 foot pole). It is enlightening and edifying stuff and challenges the way you read the bible, even though I have some reservations on the rigorous application of the concept.

      I’m sure both of us find Calvinism challenging and intriguing (why else do we keep on visiting this blog) though we are not intellectually convinced of its veracity.

      I’m hoping I made more sense.

    • cherylu

      The crux of your response is ‘be cautious’

      I think I would say be very cautious. As someone who has been very badly burned, my caution meter is constantly running on high. It sounds like you have probably only had good results from listening to diversified teachings. And while I have had some of those too, the bad one was so bad that it has left me forever very cautious.

      And frankly, since the phrase “eat the meat and spit out the bones,” was a catch phrase of the groups I was in, I don’t think I will ever stop cringing when I hear that phrase used. Guess I should of mentioned that to Lisa in my first response to her.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Cheryl,

      Sorry about that. I didn’t mean to provoke any PTSD 🙂

      Seriously, I have come out of hyper-Charismatic affiliations and I have to wonder how much diversity they exposed themselves to. It’s been my experience that because of the experiential nature of hyper-Charismatic practice, that the conviction of their “meat” is not necessarily born out of honest and fruitful study but on perceived spiritual activity that affirms to them they are correct.

      From what I have experienced, if one is not really grounded, they can get swept away by such teaching especially given the emotionally charged nature of it. Even more the reason why balance with non-Charismatic sources are beneficial. That of course presumes that one is willing to honestly investigate.

    • John From Down Under

      Hey Cheryl,

      Once bitten twice shy as they say. Don’t worry, I got burned too but from ‘my own’ and invested a lot of energy and emotional capital following men that I thought ‘God brought into my life’. Looking back though, I can honestly say that I learned great lessons so the pain was worth it. Even if I meet one person to warn them about such traps, it was well worth it.

      It was these experiences that made me more determined to branch out and get serious about study and research until I clear my head and detox from Pentecostalism. Though I wasn’t involved with the ‘hyper’ variety, we still got into some heavy stuff mainly with ‘the gifts’.

    • mbaker

      I agree with these questions because in this day of so much untruth we need to ask this of ourselves, no matter how expert we think we are on either side:

      “But what happens if the teacher is missing something or drawing conclusions that are not consistent with what God is actually communicating through the text? What happens if that teacher is relying exclusively on teachers that agree with him and dismissing those who don’t? What happens if the teacher insists that he believes his illumination of the text is correct because of what he believes the Holy Spirit has communicated to him? What happens if we only listen to one teacher or teachers that teach everything alike?” After all, we will all be judged on the end not by what we were we taught but by how much we stayed in tandem with God’s truth personally.

      This is the real crux of the matter. I too think it better to err on the side of caution nowadays no matter how diverse our teaching is or complete our teachers might be, and be more like the Bereans.

    • cherylu

      Lisa,

      I agree that there was certainly a lot of experience based thinking in these groups. However, I also saw a lot of taking things out of context and some very strange eisegesis.

      The interesting thing with this group was that most of us sort of grew into this whole thing by–you got it–diversity of teaching. These weren’t established groups here but new ones that grew up. Most of the folks probably had some pentecostal background. But the understanding of most of the group, including that of the pastor, changed and grew over time as we were exposed to more and more teaching and interaction with others in the hyper charismatic movement.

      So for me, this was certainly a personal and group experience of diversity of teaching taking us all down a very detrimental path. As far as I know, a good share of them are still in the middle of all of it too.

    • Lisa Robinson

      “The interesting thing with this group was that most of us sort of grew into this whole thing by–you got it–diversity of teaching. These weren’t established groups here but new ones that grew up. Most of the folks probably had some pentecostal background. But the understanding of most of the group, including that of the pastor, changed and grew over time as we were exposed to more and more teaching and interaction with others in the hyper charismatic movement.”

      See I don’t see this as diversity but a natural progression of certain conclusions drawn in Pentecostalism. The emergence and growth was still due to a fairly myopic focus that did not really consider other points of view.

    • mbaker

      Lisa,

      I think most of us can agree with what you said here:

      “See I don’t see this as diversity but a natural progression of certain conclusions drawn in Pentecostalism. The emergence and growth was still due to a fairly myopic focus that did not really consider other points of view.”

      However, maybe some of us don’t think that diversity, in and of itself is the total answer to the problem. We have to take a stand somewhere otherwise we are as just as bad as the other side.

      While I agree with most of what you say in the post I don’t think the answer simply lies in relying to many different sides as the solution. otherwise many folks wouldn’t be able to grasp the simple gospel message, as it stands.

      An old saying , and i think a good one is that to many cooks spoil the broth. Somewhere, in there, after listening to all sides we have to take a stand ourselves.

    • Lisa Robinson

      “We have to take a stand somewhere otherwise we are as just as bad as the other side.

      I’m not suggesting that there shouldn’t be any conviction but that conviction should be routed in a thorough examination. Not having any convictions about truth just pushes us over into the abyss of post-modernism and I’m not suggesting we do that. But I see nothing wrong in a continual examination of our convictions. Most often, that will only affirm them anyway.

    • mbaker

      Lisa,

      You said:

      “I’m not suggesting that there shouldn’t be any conviction but that conviction should be routed in a thorough examination.”

      I you read my post in comment #31 in you will see I am not disagreeing with you in this particular aspect, only that the answer itself does not lie simply in pursuing diversity of teaching itself, on a strictly corporate level. There is a personal responsibiilty as well that we are called to, and that is to study the a scriptures for ourselves and balance that with all we are taught by others.

      One does not exclude the other in my mind.

    • cherylu

      Lisa, regarding comment # 30:

      You may have a point here, I am not really sure. But I haven’t become a cessationist, so I haven’t given up everything I got from pentecostalism.

      mbaker made this comment earlier, After 50 years of being a Christian I find myself doubting almost everyone. Much of what I was taught by so called experts in the hypercharismatic church is just as bad as what it is taught in the traditional old line line denominations, which have drastically changed their stances because of popular trends in Christianity.

      I have to echo that statement. It is not only in hypercharismania that I see a lot of problmes. That is just where my personal experience lies. I see other things that have come in that I don’t see any scriptural basis for that is any stronger then the eisigesis I saw in “charismania.” So I guess I am just very cautious about a lot of things these days.

    • Paige-Patric Samuels

      Is it wrong to be a Pentecostal as the aforementioned comments suggest that if your are not a McAfthur, Carson, whom are Reformed, in their epistemology, they hold the view that that Pentecostals are unable to sit on the same table as they are as deemed heretic and apostate, where is diversity in that, how is that Pentecostals can read Hodge, Grudem, Chafer, Bevink, Horton, Post-modernity Descartes, Princeton theologians cecessionist BB Warfied, and maintain their epistemology, they can read Dispensationalism and compare the diversity, and the polemic arguments, without loosing their position, why would a Dispensationalist who once where a Scholfied, a Ryrie, Baker, Nuberry, Bullingerites, why would a so-called progressive Dispensationalist become Reformed, I think diversity encourages polemic thought on the mata-narrative of biblical text, and enjoy the richness that others have in the past have brought to the table, not bash Pentecostals because they speak in tongues as lunatics.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Paige,

      As I’m sure you’re aware there’s a difference between classic Pentecostalism and the hyper-Charismatic movement that we have been referring to. The former will me a lot more likely to diversify their resources than the latter.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Mbaker,

      Gotcha and I’ll reiterate a comment I made early on to Scott’s question of how far one should go outside of their “ilk”

      I kind of see it as a natural progression, that as we engage with the Biblical text, it should raise questions of what is being communicated. Those questions should prompt a quest for answers. That quest will most likely lead to a diversity of options, to varying degrees. So the parameters will not necessarily be the same for everyone.

      So I suppose that I had in mind that we were already beginning with basis that everyone is reading their Bible. But that studying should raise questions.

    • Paige-Patric Samuels

      True it ought to be natural, and we must allow room for the histo-grammatical contextual aspect of the text to speak of yesterday as we would here it today, and we ought to be prompted to allow our investigative minds to embrace the divergence views and challenges that are petulant in the text.

      Pentecostal church of the pass did not encourage this,a as it would be considered disastrous to ones faith, this however, I disagree with that line of thinking, but where literary was poor, it was discourage. Going to Theological college enable me to reflect and think and re engage with the teachers of the pass, and unpack my source, in order to come to a new assumption through engaging with others and core text.
      As your rightly concur then that studying the bible should raise some hermeneutical questions for appropriate observation interpretation and application and appropriate exegesis. What happens then when this does not occur. what happens to the learning process?

    • Saskia

      Very true…
      “let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Appollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the furture. All are yours. and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s”

    • Paige-Patric Samuels

      gotcha, that is one, I feel that the only way around this is as you concur, Rom 11:36. all is out of God through Him and for me,that is so comforting. I welcome diversity and I am no cessationist

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