Proverbs 18:2 is a verse seminary students (like me) would do well to memorize: “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his own opinion.” How easy it is for me to convince myself of my theological expertise, waxing eloquent with friends, explaining things to professors (as if they needed my instruction!) and taking every opportune moment to give my opinion in this or that issue. But I think much of this is pride and, as this verse indicates, foolishness. Scripture would tell us that maturity is seen in one who is slow to speak, quick to listen, and in one who always ponders their answer before they give it. Fools, on the other hand, can’t stop blabbing. And unfortunately, this is a vicious circle. The more I spout my opinion, the less I learn. The less I learn, the more empty and groundless my opinions become.
Yet, quiet thoughtfulness is not something that should only characterize my time in seminary. Throughout my life I anticipate my growth in understanding and knowledge to be in direct proportion with my ability to be quiet and listen. There will always be people more wise than us, and the moment we forget this vital truth, we put ourselves out of the reach of genuine instruction and in a spiritually precarious position.
This is not to discourage good discussion in the classroom or the sincere asking of questions; nor does it mean that we are obligated to thoughtlessly swallow every last word our professors speak—this would also be unwise. But the overall tenor of the classroom should be, for the students, one of diligent and thoughtful learning. There is a reason why they are the teacher and we are not.