“For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1.21-24)
As finite creatures, we cannot fully conceive of an Infinite God in all his Truth. Even his revelation is but partial and enigmatic. His truth, then, exists less like the center of a target, and more like various spectrums and tensions in which we exist. On this side of eternity, we live and speak in dialectics where for every point of doctrine in one denomination there seems to exist a counterpoint in another. Truth is not the Lockean notion of our relating to an objective body of facts, but is the point at which two seemingly opposing or paradoxical ideas exist in tension and harmony (such as Jesus = God + Man).
Thinking of these “truth spectrums” while looking at 1 Corinthians, there seem to be two possible errors we can fall into when thinking about theological truth: “over-objectification” which makes this spectrum too narrow, and “over-subjectification” which makes it too broad.
If I’ve learned anything the past few years, it’s that Evangelical Fundamentalism is absolutely right: as I’ve embraced more and more what conservatives often label a “liberal” view of the Bible, it really has negatively affected my spiritual and devotional life.
When you think the Bible is itself the “infallible, inerrant, Word of God”–when you think that the precise words themselves hold a magical power–you do approach the Bible with a greater amount of awe, respect, and mysticism. I’ve written before how it wasn’t until college that I read any of the Gospels on my own, because I had this fear of reading the “literal, unfiltered” words of Jesus. They seemed so big and other-worldly to me.
I’ve loved the Bible my whole life. I still have the first Bible I was ever given as a child. I still vividly remember the evening on my parent’s bed after they had read a Psalm that had been stuck in the middle of the stories about David that it finally clicked for me that the Bible wasn’t just narratives, but also poems and other kinds of writing.
My Southern Baptist upbringing has got it engrained in me that my entire spiritual and devotional life should revolve around this book. No matter how much I tell myself otherwise, something in me always has (and always will) “evaluate” my spiritual health by how I engage the Scriptures, in both quantity and quality.
I use and love Logos Bible Software for my Bible study and seminary work. It really is an amazing piece of software. You can amass such a huge library of books and resources that all connect and sync up to one another.
The one problem is that they can only put the time and resources into putting out books that people will actually buy. This means that their library selection has long been skewed towards a certain demographic: American Conservative Evangelicals, usually of the “Neo-Reformed” variety.
I don’t tend to like the books that are geared for this market. Their theological assumptions seem to come first, and the text seems to often come second. I love reading robust, scholarly commentaries and books that help grow and stretch me; books that focus on the messiness of Scripture and how it is historically and culturally conditioned. Yes, this means I end up preferring writings from “liberal” (God, I hate that term) perspectives and institutions, even if my actual theological conclusions are fairly conservative.
So it’s been frustrating to me that Logos was lacking in this scholarship and thinking for some time. But in the past year, I’ve noticed this changing. More and more commentary series and scholarship book bundles are coming out by Logos that I am loving (though my bank account hasn’t). Maybe I just never noticed them before, I don’t know. But either way, I’m noticing it now, and I’m really happy.
Or rather, I was.
Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
Look at that first line. What an interesting way to open this discussion. How might this apply today? Mainly, I think it shows that this goes a whole lot deeper than just “don’t drink around people that have a problem with alcohol”, or some such usual application. Growing up, this was the main way these verses were used in my life. People would say “you shouldn’t drink alcohol, because some people might have alcohol abuse problems and, seeing you drink, it might lead them into their alcoholism.” This introductory line shows us this is a lot deeper than mere behaviors or doctrinal superiority.
As for the rest of these verses, there a few other big takeaways (other than the hilarious swipe at vegetarians, haha).
First, it does not say that because some hypothetical believers out there might not feel comfortable with some things that others who otherwise feel free to do those things should abstain all together, always, in all places. The burden here is on the person who is “weak”, or who is bothered. They bear the weight to communicate this to the community. They are to let it be made known, and the body is to respond accordingly.
This is Paul teaching us how to respond to the realities and messiness of actual, particular members in the community, not to act generally in anticipation of possibilities.
I pride myself on thinking that a large percentage of the readers of this blog have no idea of this odd subculture/alternate universe that is the “Christian blogosphere”. So for those that don’t know: there is a very large labyrinth of (largely evangelical) blogs and conferences and podcasts and websites that are dedicated to talking about “the” “Christian view” on any manner of things that (1) really don’t affect much of people’s real lives or (2) seem kind of weird to have a “Christian view” of.
It’s not simply talking about things from a Christian perspective (like this blog), but rather doing so with a particular reactive, evangelical, tribal “flavor”. I’m sure I fall into that at times here, but I’m not proud of it and I try to act against it.
the dangers of the Christian blogosphere
There are two primary things about the nature of these sites that more easily lend themselves to human weakness, I feel.
For those that follow this blog only through WordPress, you may have seen the guest post yesterday–a beautiful meditation on spiritual realities that Autumn brings to our minds–and didn’t think much of it. It was pretty and all, but not controversial, right?
Not so, on Facebook.
A good friend, and Atheist (that we here at the blog know quite well), made a comment taking issue with references to the “Fall” and “first parents” (and even the Resurrection) on the grounds that these do not jive with evolutionary science. (Although I don’t think he clicked on the link to a similar post I wrote last year in which I used the same terminologies in the same way, but whatever.) He was surprised that I would have let a seemingly “young earth creationist” (someone who thinks the world was created in six literal days) post on my blog.
Though I assured him that this guest poster was not, in fact, a young earth creationist, and was merely speaking using the common poetic language shared by all of Christian theology and not at all trying to speak in scientific terms, he doubled down. Then, Christians and Atheists all jumped into this thread. Sarcasm, insults, and “who-said-what when” arguments began, all having little to do with the post, and more to do with who was condescending first, who understands genre theory, and who were the more aggressive and defensive parties in the discussion.
My fellow former-Westminsterian (and co-author of a book I plugged a few weeks ago), Jared Byas, just posted an incredible blog post on his blog, Seeking the Good & Claiming it for the Kingdom. The post is called “Why I Will Not Divorce the Bible” and he articulates in such clear prose and winsome graciousness many of the thoughts and perspectives I have when engaging the Bible and then turning to engage the world around me.
Byas writes about how Evangelicals and theological “progressives” both end up devaluing the Bible and not truly respecting it or being “married” to it. He does a great job of exposing the reductionism of both sides as they use various techniques to keep the Bible at arm’s length so they don’t really have to deal with it as it is. (I’ve written similarly before.)
[Update: Part 2 has been posted]
Chris Daniel, Executive Director of the Richmond Center for Christian Study posted this article titled The Origin of Life: Darwinism vs. Design. In it, he unpacks why he thinks agreement with evolution is an incorrect posture for Christians and how “Intelligent Design” is the superior and clearer stance to take.
I consider Chris a friend. He led the Reformed University Fellowship at VCU when I went there and our campus ministries worked together on several occasions. He is a great man of God, a brilliant teacher, and an articulate apologist for the Christian faith.
Nevertheless, my feelings on this topic are no secret, and my heart has broken frequently over these discussion (and has become angered some times). As I started writing out a little comment on the post on their site, it turned into a full-fledged response, which I’ll break up into two posts today and tomorrow. Please refer to his article for any references I make that seem to have no context. Here’s part 1 of my response. Part 2 is here: Continue reading