A Reader named David made this comment recently.
Wrong again, Rob. God never said “Jesus alone is the perfect” in I Cor 13. This is a modern addition/perversion of His word. The original Greek says “that which is the perfect thing’. The original Greek uses the NEUTER gender; when it referred to Jesus, it used the masculine gender. The Bible alone – not Jesus – is “the perfect thing”.
I briefly postponed writing about David’s comment or publishing it. Let me share some of the things I thought about writing in response.
My first impulse was not to argue, but to wish him well with his beliefs. I know he’s probably a sincere believer, and that even if many of his beliefs are mistaken, he is still capable of loving people and receiving adequate guidance. Right beliefs, even if we knew what they were, are unable to guarantee a good life. Arguing tends to harden people in their error.
I thought about making an abbreviated list of all the inexplicable, faulty, and truly weird stuff in the Bible, but my heart isn’t in that approach. Why? I don’t think “attacking” the Bible is generally helpful. An old friend of mine was once told that enlightenment can be found in any religion, that searching for the “right religion” was not the path.
I know that one by one all my orthodox beliefs were shaken and removed. Similar, but not identical, to what some people call the Dark Night of the Soul. But I stopped trying to convert people a very long time ago. If what I have doesn’t make me happy, then why would I want to talk someone out of what little they have, with high degrees of uncertainty and suffering to put in its place?
That’s not to say I haven’t had a few things to “push” on this blog, even an axe to grind. When people use the Bible as a club, teaching dysfunctional things in ignorance, I have resisted that. But I have always narrowed my focus, looking at one thing at a time. I have kept my arguments as narrowly focused as possible. (Did I mention that in every post I have kept a narrow focus?)
David makes an argument about I Corinthians 13, and what that “perfect” thing is, after the arrival of which all the impermanent things will be done away. He argues, like my fundamentalist, dispensational Baptist teachers did, that all forms of supernatural gifts ceased with the closing of the canon.
I finished with that debate, for myself, during my first year in Bible college. That debate is over forty years old for me, and not worth rehashing. Too many faulty premises and assumptions to pick over. Plus, the sojourn out of fundamentalism (or any deceptive system) takes a long time for most people.
Right now, there are two things true about David. First, many of his needs can potentially be met in his present fellowship, no matter where he is. His needs for affiliation and companionship might be met there. His legitimate needs for recognition and status are perhaps being met. His present church may be giving him the intellectual stimulation and personal significance that every person needs. In other words, he may be happy. God bless him.
Second, there are wonderful spiritual resources in the Bible he reverences. There is just about all you would ever need for authentic spirituality and true justice in the pages of the Bible. David can read Isaiah, Ecclesiastes, Luke, Romans and the Corinthian letters and get the massive spiritual blessing that is available.
If you’re interested in the objections that David voiced, I’ll let you read I Corinthians 13 on your own if you’re so inclined. Pay attention to the phrase “face to face,” and the whole status of prophecies and knowledge.
If the day comes when David actually needs to leave his current place, if his fellowship or church should become an actual deterrent to his growth, there are plenty of examples of people in the Bible who had to say good-bye to what they knew, and move on. You can probably list any names from the Bible you can remember, and find examples of Bible-approved people leaving a comfortable life and walking away into the unknown.
So I wish David godspeed and blessings. The Bible says he has everything necessary for godliness in Christ Jesus, that he has all spiritual blessings in Christ. He may disagree with me about many things, but so? Nothing depends on the degree of his agreement with me.
Unless of course he starts hurting people. But I know for a fact that simply teaching something with which I disagree is not, in and of itself, damaging or hurtful.