Scripture Focus: Acts 26.24
24 At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.”
Reflection: Open Letter to Students of the Bible
By Erin Newton
To my fellow Bible students, theology readers, church historians, pastors, and professors—to all who take seriously the work of the Lord and the Word of God…
Grace and peace to you, as Paul would say.
The work, I know, is hard. The days are long. When our time is saturated with answering questions about life and faith, we give ourselves over to the strenuous task of gleaning wisdom. When we open a book or sit down to research, our minds are cultivated and poured out for others.
It takes extraordinary effort. We grow in knowledge, mature in ministry, and reshape our understanding of God and the world. Former assumptions are confronted, conflicting theories are presented, and we wrestle with never-ending questions.
In many ways, it can feel like we have lost our minds.
Festus certainly believed Paul was crazy. Was it possible? Had Paul delved too far into religious matters? Had Paul spent too much time talking to the people of “The Way” and read too much of the former prophets?
Paul was well-trained both professionally as a Jew and individually after his conversion. He experienced visions of heaven and Jesus spoke to him directly on the way to Damascus. If it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert, Paul was certainly an expert.
Festus was incredulous, but rightfully so. His logic was grounded in common wisdom, “Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body” (Eccl 12:12). He was spiritually blind and considered the gospel foolishness (1 Cor 2:14).
Paul, however, was no fool. He was no lunatic either. His life gave testimony of what his mind wrestled to understand. Paul had great learning but a greater ministry.
Let us not miss a real warning here: Great learning, unchecked and untethered, can poison the mind.
Paul was the student of students, the apple of a teacher’s eye. He was brilliant and eloquent, passionate and determined. He cross-checked the Scriptures and reasoned with logic. He was our role model for learning.
Yet he did more than write letters. He was knee-deep and in chains for the ministry. He was tethered to the church through evangelism, discipleship, and prayer.
Dear scholars, do not let your learning drive you mad. Pair your mind with your hands. Let us use our gifts of knowledge to be poured out for the sake of Christ.
Divine Hours Prayer: The Morning Psalm
Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; knit my heart to you that I may fear your Name… — Psalm 86.11
– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.
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