The end goal of our learning at seminary is to explain the raw material of Scripture, and to apply it to the minds and hearts of God’s people. So in addition to, at the very least, a decent set of social skills, we have to know how to use those skills to bring God’s Word into everyday lives. You only learn to do this when you actually do it. For this reason, at the very beginning of last semester Dr. de Visser encouraged us to make the most of opportunities that would allow us to do this; to put ourselves in situations where we discuss the Word of God with real people.
So when third-year Tyler sent out an email asking for volunteers for a community Bible study, I availed myself. It turns out that a group of women at Hamilton Cornerstone had decided to put together a Bible study for any women from the community who were interested, and one of those who were interested happened to be a man. So one of the organizers contacted Tyler to see if he was interested in running a men’s community Bible study, and he was. Thus the email to the seminary students, to which PhD William also responded. So that made three of us seminarians, to which were added three men from Cornerstone Church.
That was last October. Initially, we had three men from the community who attended. One came only to a couple meetings before dropping it, but he was replaced by another fellow who’s now attending new members classes at Cornerstone. The other two guys are an interesting pair. One of them comes from a Seventh-Day Adventist background, and the other was born and raised in Trinidad before settling in Hamilton. They’re both older, and they’re both trigger-happy with their opinions. They both also consider themselves to be Christians, despite some rather unorthodox views.
You don’t meet many self-professing Christians these days who deny the Trinity, but they both do. One of them doesn’t believe the Holy Spirit is God, and the other denies the divinity of Christ. The Trinity is one of those doctrines that you take for granted, as it’s not often that it comes under attack. You think you understand it well, and then a couple people come along who challenge you on it, and suddenly you find it somewhat more difficult to explain. Nevertheless, we’ve come to know these men better over the months, and the wonderful thing about establishing relationships with them is that we get multiple opportunities to discuss these issues.
We’ve all had the experience, or something like it, of discussing Scripture with co-workers, or fellow students, or others you hardly know, and in our attempt to explain things, messing the whole thing up. You walk away from those moments feeling stupid and frustrated and very inadequate. Those feelings aren’t all that bad if they motivate you to understand more clearly and deeply the things of God, but often you don’t get another chance to have that conversation with those same people.
This is an important reason to establish good relationships with people outside of the Church. That way you can get time to know them, to ask questions about what they believe, to see things from their point of view. You’re rarely going to change anyone’s mind in a single argument; but when people see your care for them, and see your genuine interest in how they think about the world, they’ll be much more open to how you think as well. You’ll also get multiple opportunities to discuss the same issues, although depending on the level of heat generated by the last argument, you may have to wait a good while. The community Bible study has so far been an interesting lesson in these things.