Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Thomas A Kempis on Chrisitian learning...

From The Imitation of Christ:

Those who wish to understand and appreciate the words of Christ must strive to model the whole of their life on Him.
What use is it for learned people to discuss the doctrine of the Trinity if they have no humility, and so displease the Trinity?  Learned words do not make anyone wise or holy; it is a good life which draws us closer to God.  I would rather feel deep sorrow than be able to define it.  If you knew the whole Bible by heart and the teachings of all the philosophers, what good would that be without the grace and love of God?
                                                         - Book I, Chapter 1

If I possess all knowledge in the world, but have no love, it will not assist me when God judges my actions.
The more complete and the better your knowledge, the stricter will be the judgement on you, unless you lead a holy life.
A realistic and humble attitude is the highest and most valuable thing we can learn.  The wisest form of self-understanding is to think little of ourselves and to think kindly and well of others.
                                                                - Book I, Chapter 2

Of what value is specious reasoning on deep and obscure matters, when we are not going to be judged by our knowledge of such things?  It is supreme folly to neglect things that are useful and vital, and deliberately turn to those that are curious and harmful.  Actually, 'we have eyes but do not see.'  What do origins and appearances really matter to us?
Ultimately it is the Eternal Word which speaks to us.  It is from that Word that all things come into being, and all things speak of Him.  It is the author of all things who speaks to us.  Without Him not one can judge anything rightly.  It is those who see all things as one, and who relate everything to the One God, and who see everything as in Him, who are able to remain single-minded and live at peace with God.
All achievements in this life contain a level of imperfection.  All our speculations include an element of darkness.  A humble self-understanding is a safer way to God than a profound knowledge of academic disciplines. Learning in itself is not to be blamed, nor can we despise the acquisition of knowledge (for true learning is good in itself and comes from God), but a good conscience and a holy life are even better.  Because people prefer to acquire knowledge rather than to live well, they often go astray and so bear little fruit.  If only such people were as concerned to uproot vices and replace them with virtues, as they are to share in learned discourses, there would not be so much dissolution and scandal among us, nor slackness in Religious Communities.  On the Day of Judgement we shall not be asked what we have read, but what we have done; not how eloquently we have spoken, but how holy our lives have been.
                                                             - Book I, Chapter 3

We should seek food for our souls rather than subtleties of speech, and we would do well to read simple devotional books rather than those which are very intellectual.  Do not be influenced by the importance of the author, whether that person has a great reputation or not, but by the desire for the truth which attracts you.  Do not ask, 'Who said that?' but pay attention to what is said.
                                                             - Book I, Chapter 5

These critiques must have come as a slap in the face to the excesses of Roman Catholic scholasticism of A Kempis's day, yet they are hardly less applicable to many parts of the evangelical church of our own day.  

1 comment:

  1. Wow. Good quotes. "On the Day of Judgement we shall not be asked what we have read..." How it pricks the conscience! Education is acquiring virtue...no amount of buying and reading of books can change the heart in and of itself. Thanks for the food for thought.