Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Conundrum of Piety

Are you a dedicated, pious follower of Jesus Christ? Have you made the decision to give your life to the Lord and to walk in humility and gentleness and wisdom for the rest of your days? Great! Then that means you're also the most prone to arrogance, stubbornness, ruthlessness, selfishness and disobedience, more so than the rest of the world. Oh wait... I wasn't supposed to say that, was I? Yeah, I was. Basically, the reality of our salvation is this: there's a reason we need it. To paraphrase a good preacher that I heard recently,

"Mother Teresa once said that 'God doesn't give us anything more than we can handle, but he gives us as much as he can trust us with.' When I first heard this, I was so sick I almost lost my lunch. Of course God gives us more than we can handle! That's why we need Jesus! What need is there for Jesus if we can handle it without him?!"

Simply put, even though we may be 'born again', we need to get over ourselves. You and me are still wicked on a fundamental, natural level.

Want proof? You might consider the man whose hand etched more than half of the New Testament's content would be pretty good in comparison to yourself. And yet, Paul of Tarsus felt it necessary for him to declare, "For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin" (Romans 7:14). So...wait. The law is spiritual, and God's law is good! But... I am of the flesh, and sold under sin? You see, there is no point of spiritual illumination, nor biblical authenticity, which one may reach in which sin becomes a thing of the past. But I'm getting ahead of myself here. Let's take a second to define what sin really is. Miriam-Webster defines sin as:

a: transgression of the law of God

b: a vitiated state of human nature in which the self is estranged from God

So, basically, sin is... not living up to God's law. It seems simple enough. Until you understand that God's law is that of holiness - defined as having the exact character and nature of God Himself. Here's what good ole Piper has to say about sin:

I only have two words to say: Ou, ch. How easy is it for us to take our salvation, our security in Christ, and use it as a scapegoat for our own personal arrogance, or worse, our own self-deceiving defense? When someone tells us of your sin, how simple it is for us to hide behind the grace of God as an excuse not to face our failings? You may say, "Well, this is between me and God. You don't have the right to judge me." Just so you know, if you think this, you're flat-out wrong. Paul actually argued that it's our responsibility to judge one another, as brothers and sisters in Christ, against Scripture (1 Corinthians 5:12). The reality is, it's our nature, our sinful flesh, that forces us to take refuge under the grace of God, and to "thank him until the day we're dead to the idol of our health," and it is our sinful nature that allows us to ignore the very ugly and very beautiful truth that you and I are ever increasing in our need for His grace.

I'll leave you with a last thought: "brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure" (2 Peter 1:10).



  1. 'Though we may be "born again", we need to get over ourselves. You and I are still wicked on a fundamental, natural level.'

    Speak for yourself.

  2. @Clint: Hope you're having a good time transitioning into your role as an ex-pastor. Last time I talked to you, you were too busy talking how hopeless and full of contradictions the Bible is.

  3. Never said it was 'full' of 'hopeless' contradictions. Fact: There are numerous contradictions, additions, and changes though. That is incrontravertable. We all must personally decide what to do with that. My transition is glorious. Congrats on the marriage. Peace be with you my son.

  4. @Clint: It's not incontrovertible. Every supposed contradiction that I've ever thought I've seen has been the result of bad interpretation or of not reading closely enough - the fruits of exegetical laziness. You took one class in seminary on textual criticism; I've been studying it since before highschool graduation. Go read Carson or Waltke on the subject, for a different perspective. Or even older authors like Benjamin Warfield and Franz Delitzsch.

  5. That's great. I am happy for you that you have studied so much. There are people who have studied textual criticism much longer than you, and they disagree with you and each other. All interpretation is subjective. We all have biases, and we all choose authors, experts, theologians who confirm our biases.

    If our starting point is inerrancy, we will always work to great lengths (usually special pleading and grasping at straws to confirm our biases). I have done it many times and am ever more wary of the human tendency to do it. People do it all the time do perpetuate falsehoods such as young earth creationism and holocaust denial.

  6. "We all have biases, and we all choose authors, experts, and theologians who confirm our biases."

    That's a cheap point to make (of course, if you're including yourself here...). Of course we all have biases. But some are better than others, and until now you've never been forward enough to just come out and admit what yours are, or give specifics, or make a case for why your bias should be the preferred one. Like you've said, even the experts disagree with each other, some like Carson and Waltke -leading experts in their fields- holding that inerrancy does in fact hold under pressure from those who assert otherwise.

    If our starting point is that the Bible errs, we will always work to great lengths (usually special pleading and grasping at straws) to confirm our biases... people do it all the time to perpetuate falsehoods such as holocaust denial, various nonsensical takes on the supposed historical Jesus, or the documentary hypothesis.

    P.S. You worked as a pastor for a church that held inerrancy as one of its core beliefs, at least on a denominational level. How long after you realized that you didn't hold to that belief did you continue to allow them to ante up for your paycheck? I think that's the thing that bothers me most - the lying. Plenty of Christian friends believe what you do about the Bible, but then, none of them have tried to disguise that conviction in order to collect a salary from a faith community.

  7. Lying? Judgments are easy, listening and understanding are difficult. Easy on the judgements you know nothing about my friend. Peace out.

  8. @Clint: Right. You know misrepresenting yourself in order to gain money is just a hop, skip and a jump away from a real crime, don't you? I'd say I'm going easy.

    @Nic: Ever read B.B. Warfield's work on 'Miserable-Sinner Christianity'? I highly commend it to your reading list.


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