April 25, 2018
I like words. I have mentioned this in previous Ruminations. I like to find out where they come from and what they mean. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t remember them but I like them. Ellen is the “rememberer.” When we lay in bed at night and I’m reading one book and she another I am constantly interrupting her by saying: “what does _______ mean.” She remembers other things too… like EVERYTHING I have ever done wrong. Or EVERYTIME I have ever criticized her for something… but I digress. She has an amazing (c.f., phenomenal, extraordinary, exceptional, unique, rare, astonishing, remarkable, marvelous, mind-boggling… aren’t thesauruses great!) vocabulary. I think I might have digressed again.
This morning I came across a new word… well “new” to me anyway; one that describes all of us at various times in our lives. Are you ready? The word is “ultracrepidarian.” Yep, that’s you and me… at times. If you want to find true ultracrepidarians go to any bar in the evening and you’ll find loads of them. But again, we are all guilty.
Did you run for your dictionary yet? Or bring up “dictionary.com”? If you did you discovered that ultracrepidarians are people who share opinions about things that they know little about or discuss topics in which they have no expertise. Interestingly enough, the word comes from Latin (not surprising) meaning “the sole of a shoe, sandal.” What? “I don’t get it,” you say. Hang in there for a moment. It derives its meaning from a phrase by Pliny the Elder (remember him?). The phrase? “ne supra crepidam sutor judicare.” I hope you are impressed with my ability to copy and paste. It means “Let the cobbler not judge above the sandal.” In other words stick with your area of expertise in making judgments or conversing about things.
Why is it that there are some topics that we all think we are experts on and others not so much? For some reason, we all think we know a great deal about politics, religion, foreign relations, parenting… We have little trouble participating in conversations and expressing opinions about those things. But rocket science on the other hand; or quantum physics… Few of us would say, “Well, let me tell you what I think about the current design of interplanetary transportation.” Yeah right!
All of that to say this… I grow weary of folks telling me their opinions about God and Christianity. Particularly when they have done no more research on these things than they have done on… well… rocket science. I am too polite to say, “Shut up!” And given my position I guess I can’t very well say, “I don’t really care what you think.” When in fact… um… I don’t really care… most of the time. Don’t get me wrong. If it’s a productive conversation I am more than willing to discuss these things. But when it’s “drunk talk” (back to the bar again), I’m not interested.
Look at what Peter says: 1 Peter 3:15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect… Notice Peter does not say “always be ready to give your opinion on everything.” Nor does he say “always, ‘i.e., in every circumstance,’ give an opinion regarding your faith.” I think what he is saying is this: “Be prepared in any circumstance (assuming it’s appropriate) to explain why your faith is important and what Jesus means to you.” Of course Jesus would have to mean something to you in order for you to give an opinion. If not then you are acting like a… yep you got it… an ultracrepidarian; giving opinions on something/someone you know little about. That would be like me telling you about my “good friend” Pliny the Elder.
Do you get it? The Bible does not say that we have to give an opinion on every faith issue in every circumstance. We are even encouraged to walk away at times. Mark 6:11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” That’s another way of saying, “There are occasions where we should not waste our time with certain people.” Leave them to their own devises.”
Because of the above issues I think it is best for us as Believers to talk about our faith in the realm of “knowing Jesus and what that means to us.” If/when we get diverted into conversations about “where did God come from” and “how could the story of Noah really be true” and “where did Adam and Eve’s daughters-in-law come from” then we get hopelessly sidetracked. Don’t get me wrong. Those are important issues to deal with, but I suggest you study them before giving opinions about them… lest we be… yep one more time… ultracrepidarians.
From one ultracrepidarian (at times) to another,