Of all the jobs I’ve held, being an editor is the only one where strangers send random emails trying to convince me of God’s reality. Granted, part of that may be because email is now so common as to be passé among the younger crowd. When I myself was younger it was still just catching on. Still, part of these strange emails is likely based on the evangelical compulsion to make others see things their way. Someone who edits biblical studies books might seem like a good target. I got another such email just last week, and as always, I wondered over it. What kinds of assumptions must random strangers make about biblical studies specialists? One of these assumptions, it’s clear, is that they suppose we are atheists. They know this without even asking.
Technology has made such blindsiding communication easier. It didn’t invent it, though. It took a lot more effort to write up a letter, address it, buy a stamp, and mail it than it does to sit down at a keyboard, click, and they start proselytizing away. In my earlier days, in other incarnations of a career, I received unexpected missives from time-to-time. And certainly as a seminary professor you had students who had already figured everything out by the time they’d gotten to matriculation. Many of them were coming to seminary to teach rather than to learn. Such can be the arrogance of faith. I fear that many of them graduated with their biases intact. Education, perhaps, doesn’t work for everyone.
Having it all figured out is something many of us strive for. We want things to make sense. We want our spirituality to fit into this increasingly materialistic world. Some of us go to seminary and/or graduate school to help us make sense of things. We encounter minds further along the journey than our own, and, if we’re open, we learn from them. For me, it’s difficult to understand how education isn’t always a humbling experience. Oh, I get emails from academics who think they’ve figured it all out as well. Such communications always make me sad. The human enterprise, such as it is, has spanned millennia and true progress has only been made when people were humble enough to admit that they didn’t know everything. They would eventually invent the internet and email. Then those who already knew all the answers could send them to strangers to convince them of their own great learning.