OK, we all can be a bit of a know-it-all at times, and we all can now and then become arrogant and averse to other points of view. So in one sense this article is for every single one of us. But I do have in mind a particular class of Christians who can be all rather unpleasant to deal with because they clearly have an unteachable spirit.
They can be so very difficult to be around since they are not open to learning, to being corrected, to seeing other points of view, to having their perspective challenged when need be, etc. Sadly I have known too many of these Christians – they are a real worry to be honest.
They usually lack two vital things: humility, and good teaching. It is exactly because they are so poorly taught that they often will take offence and get angry when anyone dares to try to discuss things with them, and point out that they may be missing something.
Instead of being open to correction and learning new things, they dig their heels in even further, and attack those trying to help enlighten them a bit. They are arrogant and they are unteachable. Christians who are like this can be amongst the most unpleasant folks to be around, and trying to deal with them is no easy matter.
The Old Testament would refer to such people as fools, while the New Testament would call them Pharisees. And sadly we have all encountered such folks. Often this unteachable spirit is most readily found by those who are hyper-spiritual, or really, falsely spiritual.
That is, quite often we get believers claiming to be a “Bible-Only” Christian, or “Holy Spirit-Only” Christian. They wrongly think that since they have the Holy Spirit and the Bible, they have absolutely no need of learning from any “mere man”.
They are so clueless that it actually gets to be quite laughable. While they denounce theology and hermeneutics and any sort of formal learning and training – except what they think is piped to them directly from heaven – they do not even realise how much they rely on others.
The very Bible they are reading – be it the KJV or whatever – is a close but not perfect translation of the non-extant originals, a translation which is usually the result of a group of men working long and hard on getting as close to the originals as possible.
So the Bibles they read are the Word of God, and as close as we can get to it, but the work of mere men as well. All translation work involves interpretation, and the scholars involved had to make choices about how a word might be used, the best way to translate it, and so on.
So there is no getting away from human involvement – ever. But these same folks decry human teachers and theology and “book learning”. When I was trying to explain a theological point to one fellow recently he snapped back by saying he reads nothing but the Bible.
Yeah, it showed big time. He was so ignorant, so misinformed, and so theologically reckless that of course he read no one else. He was a know-it-all who thought he and the Bible alone would lead him to all truth, with no one else helping out in the process.
But if this is the case, then why the importance of teachers and sound teaching found throughout the New Testament? God has designed believers to learn biblical truth through the help of teachers and good teaching. Sure, we can read and study on our own, but we must supplement that with good doctrine and teaching as found in books, study tools, commentaries, sermons, teachers and the like.
Indeed, every time you go to church you are hearing a “mere man” expound upon and seek to explain what the Word of God teaches. He is offering his thoughts, opinions and perspectives on what the sacred text is saying. And because he is fallen and fallible, he will not always get it right – none of us will.
But some of these hyper-spiritual types will retort that they have been given the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth. And that of course is terrific news, as found in places like John 16:13. Yes we are given the Spirit to guide us. But does that mean we all of a sudden become perfect, and hence forth never think or say any wrong thing?
Of course not. We are all broken vessels as Paul says, and we all see through a glass darkly. Even with the wonderful gifts of the Word of God and the indwelling Holy Spirit, we still are fallen and fallible human beings who still often get things wrong.
A simple proof of this is to take a group of a dozen spirit-filled Christians, give them a particularly difficult Bible passage, ask them to go off individually and write down its meaning, and then come back together to share the results. I can almost guarantee that these Christians who have the Bible and the Spirit may well come up with twelve different interpretations or understandings of the passage.
That of course is because none of us get it all right, this side of heaven. None of us are infallible. We can mis-hear or misunderstand or twist what the Spirit may be trying to tell us or teach us. Only in the next life will we obtain perfection. In this life we are all fallen, we are all finite, and we are all fallible.
Oddly enough, many of these hyper-spiritual types, or fightin’ fundies as I like to call them, are dead set against all things Catholic. They hate the idea of some infallible pope, yet all they do with their perverted understanding is set themselves up as an infallible pope!
They got the Spirit so they don’t need nuthin’ else – certainly not any man-made teaching! No siree. So they make themselves infallible. It is called pride and arrogance. It is called having an unteachable spirit. And it is a recipe for disaster.
All the cults operate this way for example. They all disdain and warn against what they call “man-made teaching” and theology and so on. They expect all truth to be found only in the cult leader. So these hyper-Christians are really cultists themselves.
As I have said so often, a little humility sure does go a long way. Instead of calling everyone who dares to differ from you a heretic and sending them anathemas, it might be wiser to admit that we do not know everything, we sometimes get things wrong, and we can actually learn from others now and then.
That is what humility and a teachable spirit look like. The obverse is when people get mad at you, take offence at you, and give you the cold shoulder just because we try to explain things to them, point out how they might be misunderstanding things, or seek to share some theological truth with them.
I even had one person who I said I was praying for lash back and say my prayers were no good since I obviously did not have the Holy Spirit, was likely not saved, and she believed she was perfect anyway. Yikes, talk about deception big time. Talk about an arrogant and unteachable spirit.
Well, I will keep praying for her and others like her, that they learn that the best place for a Christian to be is on their knees. Humility goes a long way here, while pride and an unteachable spirit can send you to a lost eternity.