Friday, December 29, 2006

The fundamentals

“It has been observed that what is instinctive is not enforced, but only what is necessary to hallow and direct our instincts.”
-T. Croskery, Pulpit Commentary on Ephesians

When I was taking an Introduction to Preaching Course, the Professor made a point similar to the above. He was trying to emphasize the need for new preachers to submit to the basic rules common to all “good” preaching. While I think this in itself is somewhat dubious (the notion that the Holy Spirit must speak only through a manmade system of rules is suspect. How is one to accurately assess “good” preaching? Such a scientific judgment of such a metaphysical activity is sure to result in error. Was Isaiah’s or Jeremiah’s preaching not “good” because it lacked three points or any positive responses among its hearers?), the analogy he used to substantiate his point was quite good.

He used the example of a young quarterback that, though talented, must submit himself to the fundamentals if he is to succeed. No college or high school coach will simply allow a gifted quarterback to run wild. He must be tamed, instructed and disciplined.

If the quarterback submits to the fundamentals and follows them without fail, he will no doubt encounter a number of apparent failures: sacks, incomplete passes, a few bone-crunching hits. But in the process, he will learn much. It is a trite, but nonetheless true, saying-that one learns more from his mistakes than his successes. So it is here. The quarterback will learn to sense the defensive lineman breathing down his neck, he will learn that resting on the fundamentals and throwing an incomplete pass is better than trusting his instincts and throwing an interception, and he will learn that sometimes he must trust a teammate to make a play that is less flashy, but more functional than what his instincts would desire.

Without this wisdom gained through the sweat of submission to something seemingly beneath him, the quarterback, regardless of his talent, will not lead the team to victory on a regular basis. Instinct without discipline will yield some exciting plays, but a boring season.

I think this is just as true in life. If we trust our instincts we will only grasp that which is immediate and will miss the big picture. All instincts, abilities and talents, no matter how unique or important, can only benefit from a good dose of discipline.

No comments: