In this episode John and Gregg discuss Donald Miller’s Sept 25 blog post. While John usually appreciates Donald’s posts, John is critical of Donald’s view that Jesus valued people who blindly trusted him: that we should trust without reasons to do so (or even against having other reasons not to). Gregg had similar thoughts and left a comment where he suggested two problems that he saw in Miller’s approach.
First, Gregg expressed concern with Donald’s view of the biblical passage he references (John 6), because it seems that for Donald the Bible’s meaning amounts to “how it strikes me” on a given day. Instead, Gregg argued that Christians should rely on biblical scholarship to help us understand the Bible better. For Gregg this does not imply that we seek to eliminate faith (because we need faith!) but underscores that there are better and worse ways to express faith / engage faithfully.
Second, Gregg pushes back against the idea, to quote Miller, that ” ‘understanding’ is not a character trait that Jesus seems to value.” Gregg claims the exact opposite. So even in passages such as Mark 4 where the notion of understanding seems devalued by Jesus, good biblical scholarship helps us interpret the chapter better (and shows us, incidentally, that understanding remains crucial but that it is not the point in this section)!
John explains his frustration that the blog post seems to fail a basic intelligence test: we are to “follow Jesus” by giving up everything, yet do so without having sufficient reason. Gregg suggests that the main issue is that Miller’s approach lacks rigor, which involves the dual approach of looking at myself and looking at the material in question, in order to assess the material and yet also properly to determine my own competence at making good assessments. So rigor always involves acquiring the skills one needs to understand correctly through competently assessing certain situations.
Gregg also considers that Donald’s post confuses “the story” for “the whole story.” For example, Gregg argues that each gospel presents only part of a picture of Jesus life, and that even the whole Bible depicts God, human beings, and the relationship between the two in a manner that is sufficient for belief, but the depiction is not exhaustive or complete!
Yet where John then wonders whether we can know anything at all, Gregg demurs: the New Testament presents numerous situations where people really do understand Jesus better or worse, such that “following” Jesus means neither disregarding our intellect and experience, nor believing that it’s all about God acting in mysterious and unpredictable ways (so that we must simply “go with it”). And where John argues that “God is in a different category” than everything else Gregg maintains that we, as human beings, are always in the same category in terms of always using the same faculties and have the same general needs for our evaluations, however they are comprised, to be relevant and persuasive!