Running Ahead–2 John 1:9

Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.–2 John 1:9

I’ve been reading a biography of Ralph Waldo Emerson, the nineteenth-century writer who found Unitarianism entirely too dogmatic for his tastes. Having read a good bit of Emerson’s work in preparation for my journey to his home town of Concord, Massachusetts, I already knew that Emerson didn’t stand as a poster child for orthodoxy, but now I see him emerging as an all-too-common pattern in mental development.

A reasonably pious fellow as a youth, Emerson went to Harvard, which was already in the throes of the doctrinal decline of Unitarianism. During these years, he found himself exposed to the German “Higher Criticism.” What makes that criticism “higher”? In the minds of those who formulated its Bible-dissecting, skeptical stuff, it was higher because they’d read everything they could get their hands on. They were smart, and they knew it. That’s the story with Emerson. A thoroughly bright fellow, he traded his own intelligence for wisdom. He ran ahead, thinking he knew where he was going. He ran ahead and found himself in a place where logic told him that whatever he decided was true. Talk about circular reasoning.

God gave us a faith, a belief system, that does not require genius. It can be apprehended by little children and the simple minded. It’s not that God has it in for any of us who have a few surplus brain cells, but we needn’t get all full of ourselves. If so, we might find ourselves running ahead of God. That’s not where I want to wind up.