Friday, January 20, 2006

Gentle Scholar

Someone once said that PhD. stands for “piled higher and deeper.” Such comments are usually from people who don’t have a degree and feel better about themselves if they can tear down those with more education. It is true, however, that sometimes those with advanced degrees can be pretentious and arrogant. Attending a consultation this past week with a bunch of academician’s there was enough posturing at the meeting to last me for a year.

Dr. Paul Hiebert was at the conference, a man who is well known in missiological circles and whose writings on issues of contextualization, anthropology and mission are often cited. I have used Dr. Hiebert’s classic article on the “Flaw of the Excluded Middle,” many times as well as his classification of epistemology.

Having breakfast with this, now 73-year-old man, I was blessed with his genuine humble and gentle spirit. He grew up in India and we talked about the difficulties and blessings of “third culture kids” (TCK’s). I told him about my own children and what a rich experience it was for them to have been raised in Kenya. After I delivered my paper, he did not display his superior knowledge but was kind and encouraging toward my presentation.

I thought of another kind and tender scholar I met several years ago, Dr. Lloyd Kwast. Lloyd, who taught at Biola University, was one of the gentlest men I have ever known, and was as godly as he was brilliant. He passed away too young but his testimony to those he taught continues to resonate.

It won’t be too many years before I will reach the age of these two men who I admire. Though I cannot emulate their intellectual abilities, I can try to imitate their humility of spirit. My appreciation is to those who are brilliant yet who remain gracious.