Cage-Stage and Seminary Debates as a Mode of Life

I have the following passage in my sidebar here at the blog, it communicates an important perspective that we would all do well to keep before us each and every day; especially those of us who get so caught up in the nitty-gritty of theological mechanics. Barth quotes early Lutheran theologian, Martin Chemnitz:

We must always keep in mind that the reason the Son of God came down from the hidden throne of the eternal Father and revealed heavenly doctrine was not to furnish material for seminary debates, in which the display of ingenuity might be the game, but rather so that human beings should be instructed concerning true knowledge of God and of all those things which are necessary to the pursuit of eternal salvation.[1]

We might call getting caught up in “seminary debates” as the cage-stage of intellectual and theological development. It seems ‘natural’ for this type of mode to obtain for just about anyone, at some level, when they are introduced to new information that others aren’t as privy to. But the prudent Christian, even in the midst of much of this heat, will have the discernment to see through this acquisition and quagmire of knowledge, and throw themselves at the mercy of Christ, asking for His intervention in their lives; requesting that He keep them humble before the living God, and to see any knowledge they gain of Him to be held loosely as something they have been given as a gift from Him. Unfortunately, all too often, particularly on social-media these days, we see the exact opposite happening; and the cage-stage turns into a life of theological glory wherein said Christian learns to present their mastery of theological ingenuity in ways that make them appear self-deprecating and humble before God and others. And yet, a corrosive bent has already taken root for many, and their eyes become glazed over by the beauty of their own navels, even as if their navels are the face of Jesus Christ Himself. Age is no boundary here. A person can be a senior Christian scholar, or a ‘new-guy-seminarian,’ and continuously stumble over the same type of love of self that leads to making the means the end, and collapsing themselves into Christ in such a way that the words they speak must simply be life and peace. ‘The love of knowledge puffs up.’ This is the message that Chemnitz is articulating, and we would do well to heed his wisdom.

[1] Martin Chemnitz, Loci theol. ed., 1590, Hypomnemata 9 cited by Barth, CD I/1, 82.

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