Doctrine and the Poor

The Israelites leaving Egypt did not have advanced degrees in theology but God didn’t hesitate to tell them all kinds of in-depth and complicated things about himself.

I am thoroughly enjoying reading¬†Church in Hard Places¬†by Mez McConnell and Mike McKinley. It’s only early February, but this may well be the best book I read all year. I’ll write a fuller review in the next couple of days, but I couldn’t resist this quote which seems as relevant to Bible Translation work in Africa as it does to church planting in poor parts of Edinburgh.

One objection that I hear from time to time is that poor communities typically have less access to quality education, which means the people in those communities do not have the necessary tools to learn doctrine. If people are not living in an environment where reading and study is normal, or if illiteracy is widespread, you cannot teach them complicated theological concepts. if you try, you will shoot over their heads and lose their interest.

Honestly, such attitudes strike me as paternalistic and condescending. Poor people are poor, but they are not stupid. They are just as capable of understanding the character and ways of God as anyone else. Paul didn’t write his letters to the faculty of a seminary. His readers were generally not wealthy, privileged or well educated. And the Israelites leaving Egypt did not have advanced degrees in theology but God didn’t hesitate to tell them all kinds of in-depth and complicated things about himself.

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