Monday, March 30, 2009

Gifts of knowledge and teaching are separate

I was reading Systematic Theology[1] and something struck me I have never seen before. Gifts of knowledge and gifts of speech are separate. Forgive my slowness, for it seems obvious in retrospect. Someone can have huge understanding, but no teaching ability, or huge teaching ability and no understanding. And unfortunately we tend to equate the two.

Why unfortunately? This leads to problems when we assume that teaching ability is the same as understanding. Who have you learnt most from? It has probably been those with most teaching ability but not necessarily the most wisdom. We learn our understanding of God moderated through the most entertaining preachers (and now bloggers), and get our knowledge of cars and motoring from Jeremy Clarkson. At the risk of invoking Godwin's Law, the supreme example of someone who could teach without wisdom was Adolf Hitler. Or perhaps more controversially Plato (Moron). His arguments are weak enough every first year Philosophy student can find flaws in them, but he does write well.

This led me to a deeper understanding of James 3:1-2. Do pray for those with the gift of teaching. People (including me) will listen and believe almost whatever they teach, and if they lead little ones astray the consequences are severe.

Now I wonder how do we find those who have gifts of wisdom without gifts of teaching? To learn about programming I read entertaining and informative programming blogs like Jeff Atwood's, but if I want to find programmers gifted with knowledge who don't communicate well, then I look for impressive programs and find out who wrote them. Know them by their fruit.

The same should happen in church. I should seek out those people whose godliness I admire, and if they aren't the best teachers I should just be a better learner.

[1] Chapter 52, page 1021