“Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” James 1:21-22
James’ instructing readers to “humbly accept the word planted in them” leads me to this question: what danger does a person face if they lack humility in their approach to the word of God?
Ever hear someone say something like this: “I know the Bible says that, but that’s not really what it means,” or “I know the Bible says that, but that was just for those people back then. God doesn’t see things that way today – culture is different.”
What’s behind statements like these?
To be very blunt: pride & stupidity.
I understand that not everyone is going to agree on every obscure point of Christian doctrine (and I’m not referring to those), but the Bible makes some things very clear.
“No, God. You’re wrong – I’m right. I’ll study Your book, and I’ll find the moral principles I agree with and live by them, but if You step on my toes or say something I disagree with, I’m going to make up my own interpretation of reality … even if it completely contradicts what You say.”
Leaders, have you ever encountered this person? No matter what’s shown to them in Scripture – no matter how clear it is – they find some way to shoot it down or rationalize their way around it all the while claiming to believe the Bible is the word of God … what a joke that is.
NOTE: I realize this post is one big whine. It’s been sitting in my draft bin for a while and I thought I’d share it tonight. I wrote this one day after dealing with a particularly frustrating person.
So then, what say you about 1 Corinthians 11:3-15?
God expects us to respect authority. Great point, Cary.
And Paul is clear hear that respecting authority means women having their heads covered and men never having long hair. If no cultural interpretation is allowed, then this must be our practice. Is it yours?
Good points, Wes. Keep up the good work. 🙂
Cary; Have you seen Wes’s hair?
It is my practice, but I cannot bind it on others. I can only teach what it says and allow them to deal with God’s words.
The point is, as church leaders, if we read Paul’s words here straight into our practice without cultural or interpretive considerations, then it is our duty to see that this is the practice of our communities. Yet, I know few groups, or even individuals, anywhere that adhere to the 1 Cor 11:3-15 practice.
So, I think we need to be careful about the cavalier “the Bible says it, that settles it” worldview. I’m not claiming that’s Wes’ attitude here, because I know he is very thoughtful. And I understand that he is probably referring to issues much deeper than head coverings and hair length. But we must always test the overall logic of our statements.
The uncomfortable truth is that everyone of us makes value judgments on the statements of the Bible, moving forward with some things and leaving others behind, and it’s all based on our own interpretive modes. Humility may be in order before getting all over others for being prideful and stupid (which may be the case for some, but we’ve got to look at ourselves first).
Appreciate your blog, Wes! Keep it up.
Cary makes a great point. Of course that passage and several others have to be read through the lense of the culture of the time, but that doesn’t mean the principles found within them are outdated or incorrect.
That passage is about respecting authority. The method a person would go about it in that day may be different than today. For instance, we don’t see a woman with her head uncovered and immediately think of her as rebellious. They did in Corinth back then. We don’t see a man with long hair and immediately think he’s making some kind of statement. They did in Corinth back then.
But the principle behind 1 Corinthians 11 is still true – authority is to be respected in the home and in the church. That’s a universal, timeless truth God shared with us through Paul that will never change.
That was not, however, the kind of thing I was referring to in my initial post. I probably could have clarified that better.
Here’s what I’m talking about: I’ve dealt with people who have told me that there’s really no such thing as sexual immorality. That illegal drug use is not a sin. That pre-marital cohabitation is proper and good. That couples viewing porn together is good for their marriage. That there is no, heaven, hell or devil … and the list goes on and on.
There are many things I’m totally comfortable saying “the Bible says it, that settles it” about, and I’m sure there are for you too.
If the Bible is truth, then truth is readily available, and I believe God means for us, not only to grasp it, but to share it with the world by His authority.
I also like what you said about the teacher needing to approach the Word humbly himself. I agree with you 100%. If we’re going to teach others to live under the authority of the word, we have to do so first.
I hope this post didn’t come across as arrogant – that’s something I struggle with and really try to keep in check in myself.
P.S. – Lynn is bald.
“Leaders, have you ever encountered this person? No matter what’s shown to them in Scripture – no matter how clear it is – they find some way to shoot it down or rationalize their way around it all the while claiming to believe the Bible is the word of God … what a joke that is.”
Yes and these people are the most difficult to deal with…at least, the ones I struggle the most to have patience with. And what makes it worse is that in my experience, they have not had any training in theology and exegesis yet they want to completely dismiss those who have such training as useless. I am not saying that a theologically trained person can never be wrong (and I have certainly been wrong in the past) but they have learned some things, perhaps many things, that those without theological training have not learned. It is just like the family physician…while he or she is not above error, they are more likely to be more correct than the lay person (even though some people believe that reading a medical encyclopedia from the local book store makes them an expert).
Of course…religion and politics are the two subjects in which everyone thinks they are an expert.
Grace and peace,
“Of course…religion and politics are the two subjects in which everyone thinks they are an expert.”
This made me chuckle 🙂
I am not saying that a theologically trained person can never be wrong (and I have certainly been wrong in the past) but they have learned some things, perhaps many things, that those without theological training have not learned.
I’m imagining Simon the Pharisee trying to explain this point to Jesus.
Jesus was theologically trained and so was Paul…not in the same manner which occurs in today’s seminaries and universities but nonetheless they were trained.
Grace and peace,
I’m not downing theological training (I’ve been through seminary myself), but I am very wary of anyone claiming they have a greater understanding of God’s ways because of it. Theological training is not like medical training. Jesus constantly pointed to the ignorant and uneducated as some of God’s most faithful and understanding, and in fact chose 12 untrained men to lead a theological movement. Jesus had little regard for many who claimed to know the intricacies of scripture. Paul disclaimed his own training. I know what you are saying Rex, but we have got to be EXTREMELY careful in saying that the “theologically trained” are more authoritative in ways of God in his kingdom. “Unless you change and become like little children…”
I understand what you are saying and believe me that my above comments are the rare occasion where I use seminary training as a trump card. I have met plenty of well-theologically informed Christians who were all self-taught. I have also met some seminary trained Christians who could not conceive of any possible errors on their part. I guess it comes down to the attitude (and the point of this post) a Christian has…are they humble enough to hear and consider a perspective different from their own or are they stubbornly stuck on their own viewpoint to the point at which they can not open themselves to another line of thinking and at worst resort to derogatory labeling of those who hold counter viewpoint (which is what happened to me by someone who wanted to condemn me for reading the NIV)?
Grace and peace,
“are they humble enough to hear and consider a perspective different from their own”
Totally agreed. Arrogance as well as humility can exist all across the spectrum.