The Teaching Life: Living With Mystery

This post comes on the day I begin teaching the Fall semester—my final semester at Asbury Seminary before I retire.  In a way, I guess I’m pondering what “final word” I’d like to give in relation to teaching.  And this is what comes to mind…..

I must teach in a way that preserves Mystery and leads students to being comfortable living with it.  Last week, I wrote about the need to ask good questions, not just to give good answers.  Another problem with viewing teaching as “giving answers,” is simply the fact that there are some things that have no answers.

The soul must learn to be at home with Mystery; otherwise, we will be restless souls all our days.  And more, we will perish in the quest to “explain” things that defy explanation.  This is one of the reasons why some of our predecessors in the faith believed that wordlessness is the end of all theology.  There comes a time when we just cannot describe it any more.

This means living with Mystery.  Good teachers know when to put their hands over their mouths and in so doing say, “I don’t know, and I don’t know any other teacher who does.  This is Mystery.”

But in that moment, we are not lost.  We are not speechless.  We are in the Presence of the One Who Is Mystery, and in relation to Christian teaching, we are in the presence of Christ, the Mystery of God (see Ephesians 1:9 and Colossians 2:3).  In this sense, teaching is about “offering them Christ.”

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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1 Response to The Teaching Life: Living With Mystery

  1. Keith Harcombe says:

    Dr. Harper, your retirement is a mystery! Ha, ha.

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