Ever learning, but…

You know when a person says something and then says “but” that he is about to modify, and usually in a bad way, what he has just said.  You would think “ever learning” has got to be a good thing.  Not so says St. Paul in 2 Timothy 3:7.  He speaks of those “ever learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

Luther too regularly railed against those who knew no more of the Faith at the end of the year than they did at the beginning and at those who having read the Catechism through once thought they had mastered it.  He spoke of how even though he had written it, he still read and prayed it regularly.  How about us?

I think the Synod’s devotional series Portals of Prayer has done a lot to inculcate people with a one and done mentality. It’s a different devotion for every single day of the year. I admit that the devotions are better now than they were 30 years ago when virtually everyone ended with what you were supposed to do.  However, a different devotion every day doesn’t inculcate anything but change.  When people comment about a good devotion in this resource it’s always about some funny, different, or new factoid they learned.

It wasn’t always this way. Before Portals of Prayer began publishing 75 years ago the Synod’s publishing house produced The Family Altar. It was a book of devotions to be used year after year.  This is how you learn things: going over good information again and again.  The men in Athens are not being praised when Scripture says they delighted in nothing but hearing something “new” (Acts 17:21).

I am not on the warpath against Portals of Prayer but against the falsehood that believes it can only learn, or even learns better, if the information comes in a new form with new stories. This attitude is inconsistent with liturgical worship and catechetical education.

Ever learning only comes to the knowledge of the truth if the truth is what you are ever learning. Ever learning cute or interesting stories is fun, but it doesn’t arrive at knowledge of the truth but of more stories.




About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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