“Wicked people despise the cost of growth”
I heard someone say this the other day, attributing it to Dan Allender and Tremper Longman. It really stuck to me. We like to think in terms of discipline when we consider the cost of growth, and that is certainly part of it. We can feel good about the cost of discipline as we understand its investment. But what if we have to go backwards some to go forward? What if part of the cost of growth is unlearning?
I’m learning to be grateful for unlearning. What misery it would be if we had to retain what we learn as certainty for our lifetimes! Unlearning is a part of learning. And this gives us freedom and humility, then, to explore who you are, Lord, and your world with your people.
Isn’t repentance also a form of unlearning? Dallas Willard paraphrases Jesus’ words in Matthew 4:17 like this: “‘Rethink your life in light of the fact that the kingdom of heaven is now open to all.’” Because repentance is just that. It is a rethinking, seeing what’s real, turning towards it, shedding the counterfeit, and walking through the door. There’s an unlearning involved.
Artist Makoto Fujimura proposes that repentance is provoked by an encounter with the beautiful. Think about that! Beauty beckons us into the realm of goodness. If we are to walk in, we find the reality of truth. Not just truth’s propositional statements—the reality of it. And we are free to deconstruct all the false striving we have done to find it. To grieve that. Our grasping fingers find the strength to let go of all the imitations.
What a gift unlearning is! To see that God is so much bigger. So much more abundant than our scarcity containers.
Learning with the finitude of our pre-resurrection bodies involves unlearning—and we have so much more to learn! Think about the way God designed the neuroplasticity of our brains for this! And how our minds depend on connections with other minds to even learn about ourselves. I get to unlearn and learn more about myself too.
Why is it so hard to say, “I was wrong”? To admit, that something is off in the story we are telling to ourselves?
The gift of unlearning frees us to take risks. To lead with love. To be curious and empathetic. In light of the fact that the kingdom of heaven is open to all. To even be intimately known by others and God. Unlearning can help us to experience God. We can shed the things we thought limited him and his love.
Thank you Lord, that this middle-aged woman can be blessed and bless others with unlearning. Thank you that the truth of who you are transcends my own certainty. “If beauty represents an invitation to the real, and goodness our involvement in it in freedom, truth above all is our reception of reality, on its terms. It is for this reason a living relationship, one with the capacity to transform.”
 Willared, Divine Conspiracy, 300.
 See Makoto Fujimura, Culture Care, (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP, 2017), 49, 54.
 Schindler, Love and the Postmodern Predicament, 81, emphasis original.
6 thoughts on “On Unlearning”
Life is definitely a process of refining. I understand the joy of unlearning the baggage that the church has added to the gospel, but there is still a huge amount of grieving that is involved when I look back at the decades of carrying heavy burdens so that my church leaders could feel good about themselves. I’m sure it was hard for you, being taught that covenanting yourself to a Reformed/Presbyterian church and submitting to their leadership would be for your own good and protection, only to find that the leadership were only interested in protecting themselves.
Yes, holding that grief and joy together is such an act of faith.
I was reading your husbands as well as your responses to different responses to your ideas. It seems to me that there is cultural philosophy being used to make an argument. The Bible only relies on principles, there is no learning and unlearning the Bible, it is what it is. Religion is another matter. Religion is mans attempt to apply the Bilble to everyday life, often with flawed results. Many religions think their doctrinal views are absolute, and following any other religious doctrine is not following God. The Bible is simple, it tells us to love our fellow men, gives us rules to live by every day, teaches us how to worship God, tells us how to communicate with God, explains what our places are in relationships, community, and the church. Trying to justify a position based on some famous evangelical’s religious point of view or how a case was handled or mishandled has not bearing on what the word of God says.
If we are truly following the Bible, there is no question what our roles are in God’s plan. If we are following religion, there seems to always be some wiggle room created which usually gets more wiggly over time until there is no Biblical application.
If you want to follow God’s word on a women’s role in the Church, Paul was very precise in 1 Corinthians 14:33-40 about a women’s role in the church. I read your husbands response, and was personally very disappointed about his mangelical comment. It is not mangelical to quote the scripture.
I have one lithmus test for any religious commentary, what are their fruits do they follow the scripture and do they create order or disorder. It seems to me that your ministry follows a pattern of philosophically challenging thoughts and ideas, instead teaching Biblical principals, that is seen so often in current religious talking points.
I would pray that you and your husband go through all your teaching line by line and see what lines up wtih the Bible, and what is based on religious philosophy.
I’m not sure where you are reading my husband’s comments?
The Bible is glorious, living, active, mysterious, beautiful, and cutting. But it isn’t simple.
“Many religions think their doctrinal views are absolute” – this also applies to people. So, when you say “Biblical principles” are you saying that you know the heart and mind of God enough to determine for others what is Biblical, or are you saying that you’ve taken your interpretation of what the Bible says, and “[think] that [your] doctrinal views are absolute”. Taking a verse literally and out of context might make good talking points, but it is certainly not the only thing the Bible says about the matter.
Paul says in 1 Cor 14: “As in all the churches of the saints, the women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak”
but then, he says in 1 Cor 11: “But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for it is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved.”
So, what is Biblical for women? Is it silence, as you claim, or praying and prophesying as is also in the Bible? When you pick and choose from the Bible what is “Biblical”, you are not putting the Bible first, instead you are starting from a position of demeaning women and then trying to take your personal view of women and force it on scripture, it seems exactly what you a condemning in others.
I love this. Your point on the connection between beauty and repentance bears a lot of meditation.
We don’t meditate on beauty as we ought. Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.