When you ask an honest football manager about a pandemic?

I am a Liverpool fan, so naturally I quite like Jurgen Klopp. As it happens though, a lot of people like him whether they support Liverpool or not. He does seem to be quite a likeable guy.

Maybe you are not convinced. Here is something that may or may not help:

I think quite a few of us would do well to take a leaf out of his book. Jurgen Klopp is clear enough that he has some knowledge about football and, probably, beards. He is not an expert on pandemics and the spread of virulent viruses. So he entirely understandably decides he would rather stay within his wheelhouse.

Like Klopp, I’m not an expert on lots of things. The sciences, at large, are a mystery to me. I would never claim to know much, if anything, about engineering, maths, physics, medicine, epidemiology, whatever. Even in the areas in which I am apparently trained – History, Politics, Religious Studies, Philosophy and Theology – I can hardly claim to have a vast amount of knowledge about every bit of history or all political systems across the world. I have some knowledge about lots of it, I have lots of knowledge about some very niche bits of it, but there are evident limits even within the subjects I supposedly know well.

But as Tom Nettles, via Spurgeon, in his book on the big man’s pastoral theology notes:

A Christian’s ambivalence toward science is rooted in the proneness of many scientists to use their success in mastering the scientific method of research, and the many advances in medicine, technology, mechanics, and numerous other areas to justify their assumption of authority as metaphysicians. Spurgeon observed this tendency; while, therefore, he nurtured a healthy respect for science and scientists, his acceptance of their philosophical ontology was far from impressive. “The most absurd theories will have their admirers,” Spurgeon noted, “if they come from men of great scientific attainments.” Their actual discoveries will fuel admiration for their speculation. The dynamic in the scientific world, Spurgeon noticed is the same as in the world of finance. Just as thrift and sound investment policy leads to real wealth and then fuels “ruinous speculation,” so “real scientific knowledge often leads to more than ordinary folly.” The ones to whom we should be able to look for “real acquisitions and clear reasonings in natural science are the first to overleap its boundaries and to substitute their own reveries for established facts.”

As I noted here:

Not many people who have studied philosophy, theology, politics, religious studies or history (the areas in which I have trained to one degree or another) pretend to know a vast amount about physics, biology, chemistry and the like. Whilst we may have a smattering of layman’s knowledge, we recognise the limits of our training. Yet I am continually astounded by the number of folks from scientific fields who refuse to return the compliment. Apparently, vast swathes of them manage to excel as experts in politics, philosophy, theology and world religions despite never having studied any of it.

It is possible, of course, that the arts are simply much easier to grasp than the sciences; those with greater minds go into science and manage to masterfully handle all other inferior subjects without the need to study them. Of course, it might just be possible that where they think they excel and gladly make pronouncements on subjects outside their field they do, in point of fact, make themselves appear a little foolish. Richard Dawkins’ foray into the world of philosophy rather springs to mind. Academic Atheistic philosophers such as Michael Ruse and Daniel Came find his efforts less than helpful. Ruse, for example, said ‘The God Delusion made me ashamed to be an atheist’ while Came gave Dawkins some public advice on some of the more obvious deficiencies in his philosophical arguments (see particularly his final paragraph in the letter here).

The point here is not that individuals cannot take an interest in fields other than the one(s) in which they trained. It is simply that we all need to recognise the limits of our knowledge. Similarly, it is to acknowledge that sometimes, despite our own pride, we must accept there are others whose views on an issue should take precedence over our own because they are better placed than us to know about it. We must give those who know their field the authority that their background and training deserves. In the end, not all views, opinions and beliefs are equally valid.

There are, of course, various implications for the church (some of which you can read here). But Klopp helps us remember the importance of staying in our lane. It is not to say we can’t have opinions on things outside of our field, but we must be careful that we are clearly speaking as layman when we offer them.

For bloggers like me – even those of us who at least try to speak mainly on stuff that we have some basis on which to speak – this bears consideration. Likewise, those who want to respond – whether on Twitter or elsewhere – would do well to ask what ground they have to speak and whether they are challenging those who have more qualification. That is not to say either cannot say what they like, but it perhaps impacts on how we challenge a view and the way in which we make our case.