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Thursday 13 April 2023

The Danger of Blindly Following The Experts


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No book is filled with more wisdom than the Scriptures, and one of the most persistent themes in the Bible is beware the dangers of blindly following the experts. Here is a good example:

“9 Since much time had passed, and the voyage was now dangerous because even the Fast was already over, Paul advised them, 10 saying, “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” 11 But the centurion paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. 12 And because the harbor was not suitable to spend the winter in, the majority decided to put out to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing both southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there” (Acts 27:9-12).

This event occurred when Paul was being taken to Rome. You can see in this passage that everyone involved can discern that the voyage is risky, but the Centurion decides to defer to the expertise of the sailors, rather than the experienced opinion of Paul, who at this point had travelled far and wide. The centurion did what most people do, he weighed the expert’s opinion far more than the ordinary man’s opinion.

This weighing heavily of the expert's opinion is both a common and a rational trait amongst people. It makes a lot of sense to listen more to those who should know better. And yet, despite this simple and logical concept, the Bible goes out of its way again and again to highlight and warn us how often the experts can be wrong.

The prophets in ancient Israel who were supposed to discern the will of the Lord, were both experts and often wrong, as they were more often than not false prophets. Many of the true prophets faced their opposition again and again, and the kings and leaders regularly deferred to the expertise of these false prophets and suffered for it.

The Chaldeans, who were the bureaucratic experts of the ancient Babylonian empire are shown to be wrong, again and again, as with the dream interpreters of Egypt. From Joseph to Daniel the experts are shown to often be charlatans.

In the New Testament the principle opponents of Jesus were the teachers of the law, also often referred to in the NIV as the “experts in the law”. Again and again their expertise is shown to be wrong, and not just by Jesus, but also by the Apostles in the book of Acts. Jesus is actually quite harsh to these experts, as we read in Luke 11:52, “Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.”

This challenging of the treasured place of the experts in society is a consistent theme in the Scriptures. And as we have seen in modern times the Bible gives us some very pertinent advice: the experts are often wrong. Why they are wrong can change from situation to situation. It may be because they are corrupt, cowardly, guided by a myopic mindset dictated by policy or biased training, or simply because they are fallen human beings and dealing with something beyond their abilities. Whatever the reason, the experts can often be wrong, be aware of this. 

This does not mean we should reject expertise out of hand, or the experts themselves wholesale. We need them, and there are times we can all think of when they have made our lives easier, and maybe even saved your life or someone’s life that you know. We should be thankful for the hard work of diligent experts who study or work hard to become masters in a particular field. But note this: you are responsible for your life and no man, no matter how well trained, is perfect. And especially in times of great societal pressure, the experts judgement can be clouded by all sorts of unseen forces that are at work in their lives and society in general. You, more than anyone else, have to live with your decisions, so be careful who you listen to.

Therefore, heed the words of Scripture about the danger of following experts blindly, and live your life in such a way that you need to rely on them as little as possible, and when you do need to, make sure you do your own due diligence to make sure you have access to the best experts possible. Expertise is needed in this world, but so too is a switched on populous needed that understands the fallibility of even the most learned men and women.


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