Don’t Be an Idiot!

Ever been called an idiot?  Ever called someone else an idiot?
Do you actually know what that means?  If not, your use of the term may be rather ironic.

Check out these Greek words:

“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

The first of these two descriptive terms is the adjective agrammatos, literally, “unlettered.”  The second is the noun idiōtēs (pronounced id-ee-OH-tace), the fourth of the five terms listed in the box above.  Yes, the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem saw Peter and John as idiots, unlearned men.  But they had been with Jesus and, therefore, had a biblical and theological education far beyond anyone in the history of the Sanhedrin.  Whatever else they may have been, they were emphatically not idiots.

The basic idea in the idio— root is that of “one’s own.”  This comes out clearly when we speak of someone’s idiosyncrasies, that is, the peculiar characteristics, habits, or manners that are their own.

The idiot, it turns out, is someone who has not benefited from the wisdom and knowledge of others and has only his own with which to work.  In antiquity it was a word to describe someone who was uneducated in general or untrained in a given area.  This is its use in Acts 4:13, which is shaded from the author Luke’s perspective in a basic way and from the perspective of the Jewish leaders in a more pejorative way.

Clearly, an idiot is not something one would aspire to be.  Yet many people manage to achieve it.

“How I have hated instruction,
And my heart spurned correction!
I have not listened to the voice of my teachers,
Nor inclined my ear to my instructors!”  (Prov. 5:11-12)

Like this fool, many people are going through life armed only with whatever intellectual and sapiential powers they can muster from within themselves.  Rather than learn from others, they must do all their thinking and learning and opinion-forming on their own.  In other words, they are idiots.

In fact, we have now become a society of idiots.  One can easily picture here a jokey meme of the Osment character from “The Sixth Sense” saying, “I see idiotic people walking around like normal people.  They don’t know they’re idiots.”

It is an everyday phenomenon to see man-on-the-street interviews in which a TV news reporter sticks a microphone in the face of some idiot to ask him or her what he or she thinks on practically any issue under the sun.  Often it is clear that the person has never before put a moment’s thought into the idea under consideration.  But that doesn’t matter.  All that matters is he or she has a voice.

This is why we must pay careful attention to the “I think” language of ourselves and others.  Sometimes it is appropriate to begin a sentence with “I think.”  Many times, however, the need to begin that way may betray the fact that we probably do not know enough to comment intelligently and should perhaps refrain from the attempt.

Nowadays, it is common to hear people thinking out loud for the first time about something but doing so with utter boldness and a shocking lack of embarrassment.  They have a brain and a mouth and a whole bunch of “rights” to free thought and speech, et cetera; and this, it seems, qualifies them to weigh in on practically anything.  “I think…”  And off they go.

Yet there is a semi-conscious awareness of many people under, say, the age of thirty that neither they nor their peers are generally qualified to opine about most things.  This awareness does not deter them from doing so, but it is there nonetheless.  You can hear it in the new popular formula for introducing one’s idiotic thoughts: “I feel like…” or “I mean, I feel like…”  Many sentences are now begun with these words, sentences which are not meant to convey feelings at all, but rather opinions:  “I feel like the press has pushed this Trump-Russia thing for long enough.  I mean, I feel like it’s time to move on.”

Sometimes people even use this rhetorical formula to introduce statements of ostensible fact.  “I feel like Oslo is the capital of Norway.”  This always freaks me out a little.

And, of course, what troubles me is that we are now getting to hear from idiot theologians in the church.  “I think my relationship with God is between Him and me.”
“I mean, I feel like it’s all about relationships.”  And so on.

How often do you find yourself responding to questions and concepts of theological significance with the language of “I think”?  If I’m honest, I must admit I do it too much.  At the very least, there are numerous times when my contribution should be either a sentence that begins “Scripture says…” or just silence; but instead, I say, “Well, I think…”  And off I go.

[Sighhhhhhhhhhhhh…]
Lord, save me from the wisdom of idiots!…  Including the one I too often am.

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16 thoughts on “Don’t Be an Idiot!

  1. It is the idiotes, on the 3rd description that our common English is derived from.
    Looking forward to finishing that familiar passage of scripture of Acts which is so interesting.

  2. Interestingly enough is a possible contrast between you as a Nicodemus, and some of us others as a Peter or John. If intended, you may have a rational comparison.

      • Classic doozy? Funny. I was hoping for a more alluring response. It is often very easy to see our our own similarities, and faults in the biblical and historical characters. Of course there is other meaty material within this article that would provoke a pensive response.

  3. I must say that I have noted the same observations and have come up with much of the very same conclusions on your subject matter in this article. If you let it, it can be frustrating dealing with some of these people that you here in describe. It has led to a multitude of problems in this postmodern age that we live in. More later when I can.

  4. Well . . . One additional comment. I agree with you completely on the Russia and Trump false accusation. They have found nothing for months and months and months, especially since the Collusion was done by the previous administration, a.k.a. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton under the authority of what many would refer to as the Islamasist president. It is an absurd notion to repeat something over and over again expecting it to be believed, except that it was the very method that Goebbles used in the 30’s and 40’s.
    So it almost accomplishes boiling down to Children arguing at the playground, saying over and over again, ” I know you are, but what am I?”in a mindless ranting repetition.

    • Of course, I was not giving that statement as my own opinion. The Trump thing was just a quick example that came to mind. The idiotic “I feel like” formula is used by all sorts of people, left, right and elsewhere.
      Personally, I don’t really care about it much. But I do find it funny how the press continues to pound a single piano key every day.

  5. As always, your subject idea and phrasing is great for starting debate. The thin linear view point accomplishes that well. I believe though, that is not your purpose. If it was, would you not clearly and concisely support your statements when challenged. I see only two reasons for this non-support. The first is inability to do so. The second is the lack of will to support the idea. I believe the reason to be primarily the latter.
    I question the purpose of you presenting these ideas on a blog….for this subject matter. Throwing out complex ideas and then refusing to dispense your secret knowledge…..is that idiocy? Is this form any better than the nightly news? In fact it is less effective. Expecting a change of philosophy or theology based on your form of dispensing information does show a lack of understanding of communication.

    My purpose is not to be harsh, but to be direct. I believe in a free exchange of information. In my areas of knowledge, please feel free to glean any needed information. I am here for you whenever possible. My hope is that you will adopt a conversational format in the future. I would find that very useful. In the mean time, it would take me years to climb the ivory tower. Please consider being more free with your specific knowledge and allow me access .

    Final note:
    Keep in mind, it is good to challenge ideas. This benefit is for the idiot and the expert.

    • Okay. Well, there are a few things to say here, I suppose.
      First, this is just a fun little post in which I am venting a bit in a humorous/serious way. i.e. I am serious, but I am also writing it with a smile and softly rolled eyes. If you or anyone else takes this post as some sort of assault, then perhaps I have failed to communicate my tone well.

      Insofar as may aim is a serious one, there are really two sides to the coin; and this post only talks about one. On the one side, the side in view in the post, it’s true that it can be a bit frustrating having ALWAYS (or so it sometimes seems) to deal with folks who weigh in on subjects as if they come from a place of authority and knowledge that they don’t really have. On the other, the side I didn’t write about, I would never want people to shy away from subject areas about which they have little firsthand knowledge. The balance, then, would be for people to boldly step up to a given discussion with a posture of acknowledgement of their true level of ability with regard to it–not more, not less. The effect of doing so is not to diminish their position, but to give it proper legitimacy. I would much rather converse with someone who acknowledges her comparative lack of ability with regard to the subject but who nevertheless steps in with confidence in her ability to think well and express thoughts in a provisional manner, etc. than someone who tries to cover her inadequacy with the pretense of knowledge and ability she doesn’t have.

      Remember, I am broadly addressing here what I see as a significant societal malaise. Complete idiots are led to believe that they have sufficient wisdom and knowledge to render worthwhile opinions and judgments on practically anything. Facebook, Youtube, public “education,” much of private “education,” and many other things work together to produce a mass of people who either THINK they know what they’re talking about when they really don’t or think it doesn’t really matter whether they actually know anything or not.

      Second, there is a TON to be said for personality types and tastes and so on. Some of what seems to be bothering you may be a tendency of my personality (which may or may not serve to mitigate any moral failing therein). I find, these days, that when I have a sense that getting into a discussion will likely be fruitless (usually because there isn’t the time needed for fruitfulness), I tend to heave an inward sigh and forego diving in. It’s not that I don’t care or don’t like conversation. It’s that I care too much about both people and ideas and love conversation too much to treat any of it so lightly. I’d rather just refrain. If I understand what you mean by some of what you say here, then I would offer that as a major reason for my abstention.

      • Good analogy with piano key. I understand. I abstain on a continuous basis. The Lord has been gone so long that even those in the Church has disturbingly contrary views of the Word of God, and whether we should bother applying The Book to our lives at all, or where we can conveniently fit it in. I could write a thesis on it. Maybe someday.
        Thank you to the 3 contributors in these threads. 🙂

  6. I am compelled to agree with the previous speaker’s opinion. Considering there is no example of meaningful or thoughtful responses to your blog readers in recent years, save one. I would encourage the blogger to enjoy a lively open-hearted debate, and exchange for the benefit of the few persons concerned especially since this is the one venue allowable by the esteemed blogger.

  7. Am I to assume the the ivory tower is the seminarian tower? Is the blogger the expert? Who does that leave as the village idiots? Will the expert help the idiotes climb the ivory tower? Some jest injected.
    :))

    • Yeah, I got it when you first threw in the back-handed insult. I am a Sanhedrin Pharisee because I went to Bible College and Seminary. You, however, are more like a Spirit-empowered apostle. I got it.

  8. I can honestly say that I have practiced what I preach here. I have taken a tone with certain folks of saying, effectively, “Yeah, you know way more about that than I do. Still, I don’t think I would totally agree with you, if I did know as much. In any case, I can see that I need to learn more about it. How can I go about it?” Then I dialogued, found out who the best authors were and the most important books and started learning. Now I know a LOT more and am much more competent to step onto the field.

  9. Because of challenging work schedule I need to be more to the point. In short, I lift you up my cousin for finishing a long time goal, and the vast amount of academic knowledge from the seminary. Job well done.
    With you in particular, the valuable knowledge and information you have could be used in an incredible way for the Kingdom of God, there are people lost, and laodacean who desperately need you to be solid, and intimate. Meet them where they live with the Gospel and material sustenance. You have expressed a great desire to be an outreach to the important valuable black folks from every walk of life. Those aforementioned folks may have the greatest potential in all of America, and beyond for the Gospel, and influencing this troubled world for the Lord Jesus Christ. Working in the trenches for such a noble cause will give great satisfaction, and give you that worldly rough and tumble experience you lack now. You could be a world beater for Christ. Like a Gentile pseudo 144,000 soldier. Why not?
    I apologize for being a little rough on you. I thought it was implied in your articles that you were king of the hill, starting that great child hood game. So in fun I was taking my shots at the hill, hence the jesting, and ruffian behavior to play the game according to the rules.
    Well in the meantime, you might just be here for a mission outreach to those that would help what has been plaguing your heart for some years. Let me know what may help you.

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