“An expert is a former drip…under pressure”
– Author unknown
John Linkner, tech entrepreneur and author, recently wrote a guest column for the business section of the Detroit Free Press. In it he was speaking of redefining terms like “entrepreneur”, “innovation”, and “qualified” in order to re-imagine your future. One word he targeted for redefinition was “expert”. He wrote, “Another loaded word is ‘expert’. An ‘expert’ is not what you think. We imagine a knowledgeable, all knowing guru but instead we often find someone who learned a lot in the past but may be stuck in their ways. People who think they have all the answers can close their minds to new possibilities. Experts protect the past, yet rarely create the future. Remember, experts built the Titanic while an amateur built the arc (sic).” I note with amusement that Linkner proves his own point as he misspelled the biblical word for the ark. Obviously, not a biblical expert 😊.
We live in a day of experts. How many times have you read or listened to news stories that appeal to “experts” as the significant support for their report? Often, these experts are not even named. They are just a class of people who have attained some proficiency in their field of study/endeavor and therefore are put in the expert class.
I get it. But instead of the term “expert”, I prefer the term “specialist”. We are indeed a nation (and world) of specialization. Time was that people had to be “Jacks of all trades” in order to survive. Today, doctors specialize in one area of study. Scientists have areas of specialization. Technicians from HVAC to computers have specialized training. This specialized training makes them a valuable source of help in the area of their specialization. If I had to fix my own HVAC system I’d be living in the cold. If I had to work out bugs in my own computer, I would be…well…you know… clueless. I thank God for Bruce Hessling who keeps my programs running. And I’m certainly grateful that I don’t have to take out my own appendix but can rely on a specialist who knows exactly how to do that with the greatest degree of safety possible.
I’m grateful to specialists. I’m not as enthusiastic about experts. Being an “expert” implies being unassailable. One cannot challenge an expert because, well, they are the experts and you are not. It seems to me that one moves from the very helpful category of being a specialist to the dubious category of “expert” when one’s own philosophy, worldview, or theory comes into play. For instance, all scientists have a general agreement on the “fact of a fossil record”. But what a specific scientist does with those facts in terms of his evolutionary theory or creation theory determines his “expert” opinion.
Today, especially, we are hearing from many experts concerning the corona virus. The trouble is many of the experts have views that are diametrically opposed. I’m reminded that early on, the CDC and WHO were telling us wearing masks was not necessary. Oops! Check that. Now you should wear masks everywhere. Some experts are telling us we should be isolating even more than we are while others are saying we should lessen the isolation to develop a “herd immunity”. Who is to be believed?
Perhaps no area of “expertise” is more questionable than on the question of “re-opening” society, commerce, and human interaction. “Everyone” is an “expert” on this. If you don’t think so, just ask them. But divisions in society are becoming sharper and sharper as the pandemic goes on. Everyone has an uncle or friend who is sure that this is all terribly overblown. But everyone also has an aunt that believes we should stay in our homes until Christmas…or at least until we see if there is to be a “second wave” of corona virus come fall. The experts are equally divided.
Where does that leave us as a church. First, you need to understand that your elders are not “experts” in any way. We certainly are not experts in infectious diseases and what is the best way to handle them. We must try and rely on the best information and advice that we can. But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, we are not “experts” in the Scriptures. That is to say, that in applying biblical principles to real life situations, we are not “unassailable”. We are not prescient to know every eventuality. We are humble “specialists” in the Word who are trying to be the best practitioners of the Word that we can be for the good of God’s people. And so, what we do is to try to take what we can know for sure from the Word and apply it to life in the best way we can through prayer, counsel, and reliance on the Holy Spirit to guide us. Deflecting the “expert” tag is an admission that we need such guidance, prudence, and insights the Holy Spirit would give to us “in times like these”. Will that make us infallible? No. But it will help us strive to make the best decisions possible in areas that can legitimately be called “grey” as it pertains to this whole subject of re-opening. Pray for us, won’t you? I like to say we don’t get these decisions from the mountain etched in stone handed down to us in tablet form. But God has given us everything we need to make God honoring and wise decisions. Pray that we will do that to God’s glory and the good of his people.