A Steep Grade part 2: How To Be An Autodidact

So you wanna go it alone and learn from God alone? Very few people in the Bible were able to do this. Lemme see, Moses, Job (who knows who taught him in his youth), David, Jesus, Paul. Maybe more. Their callings, while glorious, we’re intensely difficult. Full of long periods of dryness, hardship, illness, etc. In other words, not full of “pleasant” teaching moments.

Please understand that no man (or woman) is an island. God doesn’t call us to be lone wolves (or sheep for that matter) in our approach to the things of Jesus. I do find, however, two verses that intrigue me regarding autodidacticism:

“But the anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him.” (1 John 2:27, emphasis mine) Interesting. Check this one out:

“I have more understanding than all my teachers: for Thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Thy precepts.” (Psalm 119:99-100) Here, the psalmist says that they’ve effectively surpassed any schooling they’d received (presumably in the knowledge of God) having opted to receive from God Himself. What grade is that? When God is directly, through His word and His Spirit, teaching you what you need to know for your life?

“Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” (Jeremiah 33:3) God invites us to go as high as we like with our learning. I suppose it really depends on how humble we’re willing to be. And if we’re truly humble, we’ll be willing to learn from anyone God chooses to use. Even, dare I say, someone who’s not a Christian.

Eric Hoffer, author of The True Believer, only completed third grade. He worked as a stevedore (dock worker) in the Bay Area most of his life. Read his book, though, and you’d never suspect his (near total) lack of compulsory education. His insight into the way mass movements coalesce, operate and die out is spot on. Point is, he was self-taught. I remember hearing a commercial as a kid, talking about the cowboy on the range. I forget the product in question, but I remember what the voice-over said (something to this effect): “ask a cowboy his opinion on any subject and he’d probably have one.” This always resonated with me. The lone cowboy, content with his horse and his saddle and his blanket. Maybe a small toolkit for mending a fence out on the range. His cookpot and his coffee percolater. And all the time in the world to think about things. Maybe a journal to record… The idea here is that he’s travelling light. This brings up an interesting point: how much time are we willing to invest in the thinking and opining on God’s special revelation (the Bible) with reference to our life lived in and among God’s general revelation (the rest of the world)? That’s enough of an education for a lifetime. Don’t ever stop learning.

Two common catchphrases of homschoolers are: “the world is your classroom” and “every moment is a teaching moment”. This is true for the Christian as well because we have the Holy Spirit. And as such, the concept of the Christian Autodidact is almost a misnomer: “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your rememberance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:26, emphasis mine) This proclamation of Jesus is what makes 1 John 2:27 a reality. The fact that we’ve been given a teacher to help us make our way through the world at His leading. “Ye need not that any man teach you.” Okay, so maybe we don’t need it, but if the Holy Spirit or Jesus or God the Father decide to use someone, then you’d better listen.

“We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.” Jane Austen

I know she’s talking about ourselves—us. But with the Christian, as the Holy Spirit dwells within us, it’s the guide “in ourselves” that helps us to make the grade.

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