This Sunday we will celebrate with those members of First Baptist who have graduated this year from high school, college/university or graduate school.
This is as it should be. Our church has a long history of creating, promoting, and celebrating achievement in education.
In more recent years, however, education in general, and academic achievement in particular, has been met with some disdain within our society. Some of this dislike has been directed toward those who are high achievers and scholarly thinkers. And some churches have joined in. Why?
Jean Piaget suggested two levels of cognitive development for all those seven years of age and older. The first level is what is called the concrete thinker. The second and higher level is the abstract thinker. The concrete thinker looks for absolutes and offers “statements of fact.” The abstract thinker looks for possibilities and offers an abundance of questions
In a society where many are looking for simplistic answers, sometimes those who are asking questions are not appreciated. This seems especially true in the arena of religious beliefs.
What happens is that many concrete thinkers feel insecure when challenged by the questions and reasoning of abstract thinkers. This is especially true when one’s belief system, behavioral values, and societal morays are questioned.
The result may be additional scrutiny on how the Bible is taught, what is valued as appropriate religious beliefs and behavior, and the qualifications for religious teachers and leaders. The problem is that “doubt comes in the window when inquiry is denied at the door.” (Benjamin Jowett)
The church needs to be a friend of education and unafraid to deal with the inquiry of reason. Perhaps we need to be reminded of the challenge of Jesus who said, “Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all….thy mind.” It is a part of the first and greatest commandment.
Faith and reason can walk together. In my judgment, faith will outlast reason. Thus it moves beyond reason, but is not contrary to reason.
For example, a believer and non-believer can follow the same evolutionary path of creation all the way back to the Big Bang. When reason stops there, faith makes one additional step forward, “God is the creator of the Heavens and the earth.”
Faith and reason need to walk together. Reason will keep faith from diminishing into superstition. Faith will keep reason from evolving into absolutism.
So we salute those who have attained their highest level of educational achievement. Congratulations! This church lives on faith and is a friend of reason. I’m pleased to be a part of this church.