“A Response to Mr. Elliott” by Samuel Keithley

 For young high school graduates in America, college is many things.  It is an intimidating stage in growing up.  One takes his or her first long-term leave from parents and starts taking ownership of his or her personal life.  It is perceived to be the next necessary step to getting a career.  It is a new social atmosphere with new and exciting relationships.  It is where one can take a break to grow and learn without the common distractions that come from life.

At a Bible college the spiritual element is added.  Mr. Elliott did a great job addressing a problem that can occur when that spirituality is added to a place that is seen as essential in the next steps of life.  In his article that appeared in the previous issue of the SOMA, Elliott fought for intellectual integrity of the Christian student that feels called by God to his or her place for personal development.  Elliott clearly stated that one should work hard at the task that God puts before them and that there is no room for the excuse that only the urging of the Spirit is needed for ministry.  While the article gave solid encouragement for people to stop making excuses and put their nose to the grindstone, there are a couple things that need addressing.

The first is a small detail that needs to be addressed.  The propositions that Elliott gives in his article do not break the law of non-contradiction.  It is difficult to take principles from symbolic logic and identify and utilize it in more complex sentences, which is why the mistake is not that hard to make but hard to catch.  Elliott claimed that the statements “the Holy Spirit’s power in one’s life is the cause for a theological education” and “the Holy Spirit’s power in one’s life causes a devaluation of his theological education” are mutually exclusive.1   That is not necessarily true.  The proposition that would be excluded by the first statement would be more like, “the Holy Spirit’s power in one’s life is not the cause for a theological education.”  Although the Holy Spirit causing one to not value the education that it has led the believer to does not make sense, it is not excluded.  This does not take away from Elliott’s point, however.  What Mr.Elliott saw is apparent—one cannot boast in being at Moody if one will only scoff at Moody when a poor grade appears.

Semantic issues aside, there is one thing that was not addressed that should play into the conversation.  This idea is that of heart versus ability.  Mr. Elliott confesses that ultimately what he is attacking is the “sin of sloth.”2  This is where Elliott does well to urge the Christian student to utilize the gifts that God has given in the place where God has led.  This is what Elliott’s article was focusing on; trying to get the reader to examine oneself and see if in them there was a heart of laziness that was then trying to find a plausible excuse to save face amidst his or her peers.  Elliott’s observation was keen in trying to call out not only laziness in the Christian student but also deceit; the deceit caused by pride that is so easily found in all of us.

But what I would like to qualify, if briefly, is that receiving a poor grade is also a matter of ability.  Different students have different memory and learning capacities.  There are also many different learning styles, not all of which is found in the typical college setting.  There is also a matter of subject strength and weakness (although at Institutes such as Moody the subject matter is quite limited compared to other environments).  All of this is to say that poor grades do not necessarily come from laziness.  Mr. Elliott does make a note of this in his article; “I am not wishing to equate poor grades with laziness, but rather to equate laziness with poor grades.”3   But I also disagree with this statement.  God knows that there are people who receive good grades but do not work at it.  The biblical proverb “to whom much is given, much is required” should be the words that haunt universities—for there is nothing more tragic than a lazy genius.

This is not to excuse poor grades on account of ability either.  As Mr. Elliott said in his article one needs to become humble and then work where they are weak and try to improve in that area.  That should be the tone of Mr. Elliott’s article; an urging that if you need help, please seek help.  If one is seeking a degree because of God’s calling then one would believe that he or she would use whatever resources to accomplish something rather than just get by.  If one comes out at the end of four years and the only thing received is a mere degree than the university or college has failed.

There are other topics that one could explore that create the overwhelming shadow of college education (grades, cultural and social expectations, the “college experience”) but these are the two things that simply needed more qualification: a nit-picky qualification of semantics and a deeper, comprehensive explanation of Mr. Elliott’s evaluation.  Those who receive poor and good grades should heed Mr. Elliott’s words that it is an offense to waste the time that God has given here at school and to try to blame the Holy Spirit for what is of our own doing.

Endnotes

1. Para 3

2. Para 8

3. Para 8

 

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