A Helpful Ignorance
Questions are a significant part of every TLI class. Pastors, in particular, tend to inquire the most. They isolate problematic passages or sticky theological subjects. They bring up concerns both personal and pastoral, some of which can be very difficult. Ultimately, the challenge of answering these queries falls to the TLI teacher. So how do you respond?
Pastor Dieusibon, a post-bachelor student at Institut Biblique Croix-des-Bouquets (IBC) in Haiti, recently shared his appreciation for the way TLI teachers always take time to answer the inevitable barrage of questions. In his rich baritone voice, Dieusibon noted the many times careful, biblical replies were given in and out of class. But then he added something more.
"What I really like is that our teachers are willing to say, 'I don't know.'" Sometimes it's because they aren't sure on a particular topic. Others, it's because the question raised is not explicitly answered by the text, and they don't want to go beyond what God has said.
Dieusibon went on to explain that, at first, such a response was surprising to the students, perhaps even disappointing to them. Because they expected their teachers to be, as it were, Bible answer men. Instead, he added, "You have become for us an example of ministering in genuine humility."
So often spiritual leaders like Dieusibon are expected to know it all. Daily life in the congregation gives rise to questions, biblical and otherwise. Parishioners then quiz their pastors. Sometimes on serious personal matters. But sometimes they ask trivial questions which are tertiary to scripture.
In the past, these Haitian pastors may have ventured a guess and feigned confidence. They may have offered a response too quickly or asserted it too strongly. But now they've begun to learn the value of delayed answers, or even the blessing of confessed ignorance. According to Dieusibon, the pastors at IBC have a new possible reply: "I don't know."
To be a spokesman for God doesn't require omniscience or infallibility. It requires faithfulness to God's Word and humility. Hopefully, that's a lesson TLI can teach, whether we know the answers or not.