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Friday, January 13, 2012

Everyone's An Expert...

Blessed is the man who having nothing to say abstains from giving wordy evidence of the fact. —George Eliot

It is a mark of the current age that everyone is an expert... in all possible fields of study. Everyone has an opinion and all opinions are considered equally valid. This particularly pains me when someone has a misunderstanding  of biblical truth, yet assumes his opinion is as equally likely as that of someone who is carefully dividing the Word. A careful exegete is always open to clarification and correction, but requires it be based on careful biblical analysis and follow the primary rules of interpretation, not on mere opinion or wishful thinking, wrenching verses out their context and assigning a meaning that was never intended. The primary emphasis needs to be on God's main point, not ours. Engaging in real discourse is always welcome. 

Perhaps nowhere is an uneducated opinion more painfully displayed than in the comments section on amazon. It's not the possession of an uninformed opinion that is the problem, it's the automatic assumption that your uninformed opinion carries any valid weight. Certainly opinions can be held at various levels of understanding. We should all be teachable and open in that respect. We're all learning and the real experts are not always right. But at the minimum, a person should ask themselves the simple question, "Do I know enough about this subject to set myself up as an authority on its analysis?" 

I've started to save some of the worst examples as I peruse through amazon. I'd love to privately take these folks aside and get them thinking about what they have written for all to see. Discretion is an art we all need to learn. Here are a few examples reviewing a classic work of Homer, the Iliad ....
"All the zombies kept telling me to purchase the Iliad and were raving about how intellectual it was. The age of it should have been a first clue. Really a rather boring read that is tripe with inept ideals. Homer Simpson was named after this guy but I believe that he has more insight into the subject matter than the original home boy they call Homer. Good for using to set your coffee mug on and start a fire with in the fireplace, but beyond that it is really a lot of rubbish. I wish Penguin Classics would actually publish classic reading material instead of a lot of blah blah." [Comment on The Iliad] (It would be interesting to hear his definition of "classic"!)
"Seriously. Homer wasn't all that, and I'm so thankful to to allow me to give it only two stars. Homer's boring, and he's totally overrated. He's always using the same lines- "bit the dust", "rosy-fingered dawn", "the wine-dark sea", "night filled his eyes", "Achilles swift of foot"- Homer needs to be more original. And what's with the one name- "Homer"- who does he think he is, Madonna?"  [Comment on The Iliad]
The teacher in me yearns to introduce them to Bronze Age history, culture and literary forms, to  the progression in oral storytelling, to the peek we're allowed to have into one of the earliest surviving written story forms. If nothing else, I'd love to help them become aware that time did not begin when they were born, nor is culture exclusively 21st century American. Give me an honest, but humble student any time, one who recognizes they have a lack of information, that life is full of things they can learn. I'd love to meet the young man who wrote this next review. Oh, the discussions we could have! May we all have such teachable spirits!
"ill put my $.02 in here i guess... honestly i didnt like this book much the first time i read it (over this past summer for a 10th grade reading list) i found it boring and at times gory. but then we started reading it again in class and something strange happened, i started to actually understand what was going on and i started to analyze the characters more deeply and i started to almost like it. im not going to go as far as saying id read it again on my own free will cause i definitely wont, but if you read this book read the odyssey as well i liked it better"

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