I was at a large church for a book launch, and the author was introduced as ‘One of the brightest theologians around. A Professor at the University of [prestigious name deleted].’
The problem was, he wasn’t. A bright guy, yes, but a junior lecturer. A bright guy, but this was his first book – and it was a popular paperback.
And I was at a large conference where several speakers were collectively lauded as ‘among the most intelligent people on the planet.’
Well, again they were bright. But none of them was a Don Carson or Jim Packer.
And I’m uneasy. I’m uneasy that the people introducing the speakers felt that this was a remotely appropriate way to introduce someone who is nothing but a steward of the King. And I’m uneasy that none of those introduced felt that they ought to demur. And I’m uneasy that both those events occurred in a British context; we used not to speak like that about each other.
Have we fallen into the Corinthian error of writing each other’s publicity, believing it, and then puffing the great ones on the conference circuit?
Have we made the rookie error of confusing intelligence (raw brain power) with wisdom?
Being in the Christian spotlight is a spiritually dangerous place to be, because the Evil One tempts us in twisted ways. Any musician on Sunday knows that, as does any preacher – give us a microphone and we think we’re someone special.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians, ‘For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? (1 Cor. 4:7). And, ‘For it is written: ‘”I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”‘ (1 Cor 1:19). And so on.
I’ve no idea who the most intelligent Christian on the planet is – and that’s an illuminating question, because it reveals we think that such a person would be well known. Yet she might be a recently converted Dalit road-sweeper for all we know.
But even the most intelligent of the well-known Christians has not a scrap of intelligence that is his or her own. And anyway, what counts is wisdom, which is the wisdom of the cross.
Let’s start behaving towards each other like we believe it.