This is part of a weekend series I’m writing for Near Emmaus. Be sure to check out other posts by other bloggers, especially if you’re interested in biblical studies.
Since I began seminary last fall, I’ve been thrust into a somewhat-constant critical mode where anytime anyone says anything about anything I feel the need to object or play the Devil’s advocate. Not only does this have the great potential of being annoying to the person(s) I’m critiquing, but it also probably isn’t necessary. After all, not everyone is in some form of grad school. Not everyone is taking the same classes I am taking. And, much to my demise, not everyone cares as much as I do.
Ever since I’ve begun thinking critically about my faith, Scripture, and Western culture, I have found that I cannot go back to the way I used think. Once I’ve been made aware of something, I can no longer ignore that something. Where I seem to get into trouble is when I try to bring someone else along to where I am, even though they might not be interested or they might not be ready to evaluate a particular something under critical light (i.e. divinity of Jesus).
I find this is a little related to the balance between faith and scholarship post a few weeks back, but with a slightly different emphasis: being a seminarian amidst non-seminarian crowds. This could be a weekly Bible study or prayer meeting or Sunday morning service or believing coworkers. It could even be, as in my case, online communities.
A verse that comes to mind is Romans 14:1, “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.” Now I know the context is different (discussing, mostly, food laws), but I think there’s a similarity for when seminarians encounter others who may not be as practiced at critical thinking, may not find the need for critical thinking, or haven’t thought critically about a specific topic. In this case, bringing critical light to something they hold dear might have damaging consequences.
So how do we know when to turn off the ever-constant internal critic? At what point do we find ourselves saying, “Okay, this is too far; pull it back”? Or, if we feel the need to bring that critical light to that particular topic (sometimes needed), how do we go about doing so in a gentle way that doesn’t cause panic? What experiences have you had in bringing critical light to a topic?
 By no means am I suggesting that those who have not thought critically are weaker in faith; instead I’m saying that non-seminarians might not think about things as critically.