Do we really learn from instruction?


[Note: those looking for my blog summary of Integrative Psychotherapy, ch. 6 will need to come back tomorrow. Running behind :(]

How much do we really benefit from instruction? Yes, instruction increases our knowledge base. That is certainly true. But do we benefit–does our behavior really change from it? Do we learn and does it show? Allow me the freedom of hyperbole here…

This question about instruction was raised in my Sunday School class on Isaiah by our teacher John Timlin. Consider the following examples:

1. The first Fall (instruction was given and rejected) happens. God remakes creation through the flood. What happens next? Noah’s son mucks it up.

2.  Israel is warned against falling away from God by Moses as they enter the promised land. He not only tells them what to avoid but that they will likely do it anyway. What happens? Israel turns away from God to pride and idolatry.

3. The Prophets warn both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms that unless they turn from their idols, God will punish them via Assyria. First the Northern Kingdom falls. Does Judah learn from this? No. Read the passage of Ezekial 23 adn the two sisters for a graphic image of this not learning from instruction.

Fast forward to today. Does information about the risks of drug use, unprotected sex help? Some, I’m sure. But not as much as we’d like to think…

So, what does God do? he blinds the people (Isaiah 6:9ff; parables in the Gospels) so that we are left without any doubt that our salvation comes only from him. In Isaiah 6 at the end, there is only a stump left. We the vine are a mere stump. And out of that stump, the root of Jesse grows and we are grafted back in as branches.

Yes, we learn from instruction, but not enough to save ourselves. Thanks be to God for his rescue plan!

1 Comment

Filed under Biblical Reflection, Cognitive biases, Cultural Anthropology, Doctrine/Theology, Uncategorized

One response to “Do we really learn from instruction?

  1. Scott Knapp, MS

    OK, that prompted a correlated thought (and sometimes the correlatetory trail in Scotty’s thinking gets a bit fuzzy, so don’t try to understand it…just go with the flow!). Traditional homiletics as I’ve understood it to be taught has generally required the speaker to encapsulate his message in a proposed practical application, so that the listener leaves with more than “merely” more head knowledge. Personally, I can’t (and really, I can’t) think of a single time when a public orator has been given such incredible divine discernment so as to see inside my psyche and nail the precise practical application I needed to concretize his various points and drive them home in my experience! Most of the time, when I receive instruction, or am given a new book to read, that data may sit on my mental or actual shelf for days, months, years, decades even…until one day the Spirit draws my attention back to it by pulling it up from my mental library, and drives the application point home. That doesn’t mean that when I do personal Bible study, I don’t take time to think through what ramifications the pondered Scripture should have on my thinking and behavior…it’s just that the impact that I try to arrange and control just never seems to have the stunning impact that serendipitous enlightenment from the Spirit seems to have. Obviously, it just seems serendipitous to me…He’s likely been excitedly waiting to reveal these things from the moment of my birth, and shame on me when I lengthen the time till His enjoyment of my “discovery” through my own silliness!

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