Rethink : When healing in the New Testament diminshed

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It seems that in the early days of the Church, in its infancy and newness, miracles and other signs and wonders were plentiful. There was a need for authenticating signs to accompany the Apostles’ ministry, and we see a fair number of examples. Peter walked by people and his shadow healed them.  Stephen healed. Barnabas healed. Phillip healed. The other apostles healed.

And Paul healed as well. As one example.

“And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.” Acts 19:12-13. 50-52 AD

But then there is a shift. Near the end of Paul’s ministry, some 15 years after the events of Acts 19 and over 30 years after Jesus had died- near the time when the Apostles had all but perished and the fledgling movement had become firmly established,  we see something else.

“Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus”. 2 Timothy 4:19-20. 65-66 AD

 “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure. (No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.”) 1 Timothy 5:22-23. 62-64 AD

“I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.” Phillipians 2:26-27. 61-63 AD

We see that Paul, who possessed apostolic power to do signs and wonders and mighty deeds,  could not, or did not, in the course of that time, heal Timothy or Trophimus or Epaphroditus. Whereas in the first half of the scriptural timeline we see that everyone is getting healed, whether they were believers or unbelievers- faithful or faithless, in the later half we see several people who are not getting healed and this gift seemingly being withdrawn. We see illness, disease, and sickness becoming a permanent reality in the life of the Church and congregations as the Church had become established and the need to have authenticating messages subsided and eventually ceased. This fits in well with other bible verses and other arcs of the narrative.

I do believe in healings as a rare, uncommon occurrence, but I also believe that the early overflow of Apostles in the Bible were unique in the history of the church. Once their ministry was accomplished, the need for authenticating signs ceased to exist, and this wholesale, common and frequent signs and wonders has ended.

The Message Bible is not a fan of St. Paul


I heard a sermon recently where the Pastor quoted extensively from The Massage Message bible. Specifically he read a long portion of Romans 9, and then made attempts to exegete it. I don’t even know why he bothered.

I have a theory on why pastors use the Message bible. I wrote in another post that:

Why use the Mb? Because it words things in a way that the pastor finds compelling and gripping and in which he thinks he congregation will get a kick out of. And the congregants go along with that because it has ceased being important for a translation to accurately reflect what was being said. It has ceased being important that Jesus’ words, meaning, and intent-without additions or interpolations- are immortalized and cannonized.

It has become wholly acceptable to abuse and molest the original meaning  because for some people, the intent isn’t to know what the original meaning is, but rather to develop an emotional response. And as long as that emotional response in brought on by something remotely bibley, they can interpret their feelings as a spiritual encounter, which is the source of their security, affirmation and joy. The Pastors putting these paraphrases are are not doing it so that will have a cerebral or intellectual impact, but rather an emotive one.  Its not for piercing clarity, but for vague etherialities. Its not for maximum accuracy, but for maximum sentiment. That’s the thrust of the appeal- because warm fuzzies are an easier sell than  rigorous faithfullness to the text.

What I wanted to focus on in this post is the issue of accuracy and what it means to faithfully represent what was written by the apostles. We believe that the Scriptures are given by inspiration of God and are theopneustos. That is, God-breathed. Some Bibles seek to get as close as they can to the original texts, with our best scholars who painstakingly pore over every nuance so that they can give us a product that represents the best and most accurate and most faithful rendering of the originals we have. The Message bible is not one of those bibles..

When doing a critical scholarship of all the manuscripts that we have, our problem isn’t that we don’t have enough of the original, but that we have too much of what came after. We don’t have 95% of the originals, but rather we have 120% of them. Its like we have a puzzle with 20 extra pieces, and by doing textual and source criticsm, we can weed out the extra pieces, the variants, the transcription errors, the scribal interplorations, etc. The ultimate objective of the textual critic’s work is the production of a “critical edition” containing a text most closely approximating the original.

The Message bible is wholly unconcerned with trying to figure out what was actually said or trying to minimize the excess. I think this is seen well in Romans 9. In the ESV translation, there are 734 words.  The NIV has 738. In Romans chapter 9, the Message bible has 836. In many ways the Mb is similar to Codex Bezae- a codex infamous for its many strange and bizarre renderings, as well as gratuitous flourishes and additions. The horrific gluttonous additions to the Mb is bad, but it actually gets worse than that. Not only are there many places in the Message bible where it’s incredibly bloated with whole sentences added in, there are other places where there are whole sentences missing! There are concepts missing.  There are There are important details missing. There are important statements about God’s character missing. There are important details about God’s purposes missing. In short- it’s just not there.

The twoexamples I wanted to examine are found in Romans 9.

Romans 9: 17 and 18

17. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. ESV

17. The same point was made when God said to Pharaoh, “I picked you as a bit player in this drama of my salvation power. Mb

18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. ESV

18. All we’re saying is that God has the first word, initiating the action in which we play our part for good or ill. Mb

Here we’ve left out half of a verse. Evidently its not important to know that God’s purpose in hardening Pharaohs heart was so that his name would be proclaimed in all the earth, and so that the demonstration of power would yield him glory. I don’t know why that wasn’t included. Its not like it would be difficult to add that segment in. So that is a little strange, and in continuing the trend we see verse 18.  In verse 18, its nothing but vague obfuscation.  There is no mention of God’s mercy, nor is there any mentioning of the hardening that God enacts on whoever he desires. There’s no way to read the Mb and find that information in the scriptures  It doesn’t bring clarity to the texts, and it does not accurately reflect what is trying to be said.

Romans 9:21-23

21-Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? ESV

21-Isn’t it obvious that a potter has a perfect right to shape one lump of clay into a vase for holding flowers and another into a pot for cooking beans? Mb

22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, ESV

23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—ESV

23 and 24 If God needs one style of pottery especially designed to show his angry displeasure and another style carefully crafted to show his glorious goodness, isn’t that all right? Mb

In verse 21, there is no mention of honorable use or dishonorable use in the MB. Instead we see merely a utilitarian difference . In verse 22 and 23, I actually can’t even figure out which verse is what. But look how much is being left out!

1. There is no mention that God has a desire to show his wrath

2.There is no mentioned that God is enduring the vessels of wrath

3.There is no mention that God is showing patience while doing so

4. There is no mention that these lumps of dishonorable use, these “pots for cooking beans” ‘are vessels of wrath

5. There is no mention that these vessels were intended  for destruction

6. “Glorious goodness” is not the same as “the riches of his glory”

7. There is no mention that the wrath of God towards his vessels of destruction was to show his glory to the vessels of mercy

8. There is no mention this this was prepared by God beforehand

9. There is no mention that this was prepared by God for the the purpose of glory

10. There is no mention that the eternal state of the Vessels of mercy is glory. 

It amazes me at how much is missing, and how much we are being robbed from knowing by following this so-called paraphrase. And again, evidently its not important that we know these things. I would also recommend checking out verses 30-32 in both translations. In the case of the Mb, it is shocking bad and inadequate.

The  point is this; the Message bible isn’t a neutral, clever paraphrase. It doesn’t merely “re-word” things, but it adds whole sentences and it removes whole sentences. It actively seeks to distort what God said through his Son and through the writers of the scriptures.  In the case of Paul and Romans 9, it doesn’t care what Paul said. The important thing in not that we have an accurate record of what the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write, and that we relate that to people, but rather its more important to tell people how one person remixes and reinterprets the words of Paul.  And so when someone reads from the Message bible from the pulpit, purporting it to be some kind of bible, it is very hard for me not to lose respect for them. Ultimately what they are telling me that its not important to know what God inspired the Apostles to wrote. That its not important to know what Jesus actually said. That its not important to share the actual revelation of God.

51 Biblical Proofs Of A Pauline Papacy And Ephesian Primacy- Contra Rome

 

I heard a really bad argument for the primacy of the Petrine papacy  few days ago, which was that Peter was the first person to raise the dead, after Jesus, and therefore this biblical evidence demonstrated his primacy and his designation as the Pope. I found this quite silly  and amusing, but did not think much of it, and did not argue it. Then today I ran across this brilliant article by Jason Enwer [here]who demonstrates a more sure and true Pauline papacy and  Ephesian primacy. In it he purposefully and intentionally utilizes the same curious reasoning that Roman Catholics use when they are trying to demonstrate their beliefs.  I thought it a sting well worth enduring to see how the RCC can manufacture evidence of “Primacy” by selective citation and out-of-context “snippetry”

1. Paul is the only apostle who is called God’s chosen vessel who will bear His name before Jews and Gentiles (Acts 9:15).2. Paul is the last apostle chosen by God, apart from the other twelve.3. The resurrected Christ appears to Paul in a different way than He appeared to the other apostles (Acts 9:3-6).

4. Paul is the only apostle who publicly rebukes and corrects another apostle (Galatians 2:11).

5. Paul is the only apostle who refers to his authority over all the churches (1 Corinthians 4:17, 7:17, 2 Corinthians 11:28).

6. Paul is the only apostle to call himself “father” (1 Corinthians 4:15).

7. Paul is the steward of God’s grace (Ephesians 3:2). This means that Paul is the overseer of salvation. Fellowship with Paul and his successors is necessary for salvation.

8. Paul is mentioned more in the New Testament than any other apostle.

9. The book of Acts, which mentions all of the apostles, discusses Paul more than any other apostle.

10. Paul was the first apostle to write a book of scripture.

11. Paul wrote more books of the New Testament than any other apostle.

12. Paul is the first apostle to be taken to Heaven to receive a revelation (2 Corinthians 12:1-4).

13. Paul is the only apostle Satan was concerned about enough to give him a thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7).

14. Paul seems to have suffered for Christ more than any other apostle (2 Corinthians 11:21-33).

15. Paul seems to have received more opposition from false teachers than any other apostle did, since he was the Pope (Romans 3:8, 2 Corinthians 10:10, Galatians 1:7, 6:17, Philippians 1:17).

16. Paul seems to have traveled further and more often than any other apostle, as we see in Acts and his epistles, which is what we might expect a Pope to do.

17. Only Paul’s teachings were so advanced, so deep, that another apostle acknowledged that some of his teachings were hard to understand (2 Peter 3:15-16). Peter’s understanding of doctrine doesn’t seem to be as advanced as Pope Paul’s. Paul has the primacy of doctrinal knowledge.

18. Paul was the first apostle whose writings were recognized as scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16).

19. Paul singles himself out as the standard of orthodoxy (1 Corinthians 14:37-38).

20. Only Paul refers to himself having a rod, a symbol of authority (1 Corinthians 4:21).

21. Paul initiates the council of Acts 15 by starting the debate with the false teachers (Acts 15:2) and delivering a report to the other church leaders (Acts 15:4).

22. Peter’s comments in Acts 15:7-11 are accepted only because Pope Paul goes on to confirm them (Acts 15:12).

23. When the Corinthians were dividing over which apostle to associate themselves with, Paul’s name was the first one mentioned (1 Corinthians 1:12).

24. Paul was the only apostle with the authority to deliver people over to Satan (1 Corinthians 5:5).

25. Paul had the best training and education of all the apostles (Philippians 3:4-6).

26. Paul is the only apostle to call the gospel “my gospel” (Romans 2:16).

27. Paul writes more about the identity of the church than any other apostle does (1 Corinthians 12, Colossians 1, Ephesians 4-5), which we might expect a Pope to do. Paul is the standard of orthodoxy and the Vicar of Christ on earth, so he has the primary responsibility for defining what the church is and who belongs to it.

28. Paul writes more about church government than any other apostle does, such as in his pastoral epistles.

29. Paul discusses church unity more than any other apostle does (1 Corinthians 12-14, Ephesians 4), suggesting that he was the one responsible for maintaining church unity because of his papal authority.

30. Paul writes more about the gospel than any other apostle does (Romans, Galatians). As the leader of Christianity, Paul was most responsible for explaining the gospel and other Christian doctrine.

31. After Jesus, Paul speaks more about the kingdom of God than anybody else does (Acts 14:22, 19:8, 1 Corinthians 4:20, Galatians 5:21, 2 Thessalonians 1:5). After leaving earth, Jesus passed on the responsibility of teaching about the kingdom of God to Paul, the king of the church on earth.

32. Paul speaks of revealing mysteries more than any other apostle does (Romans 11:25, 1 Corinthians 15:51, Ephesians 5:32, 6:19, 2 Thessalonians 2:7), since he was the chief teacher of the church.

33. Paul was the only apostle other people tried to impersonate (2 Thessalonians 2:2), since he had more authority than anybody else.

34. Paul’s clothing works miracles (Acts 19:11-12).

35. Paul is delivered from death more than any other apostle (Acts 14:19, 28:3-6, 2 Corinthians 11:23).

36. The Jewish exorcists in Acts 19:13 associate themselves with Paul rather than with any other apostle.

37. The demons in Acts 19:15 recognize Paul’s primacy.

38. The Jews in Acts 21:28 recognize Paul’s primacy, saying that he’s the man they hold most responsible for teaching Christianity everywhere.

39. Paul had authority over the finances of the church (Acts 24:26, 2 Corinthians 9:5, Philippians 4:15-18).

40. Paul acts as the chief shepherd of the church, taking responsibility for each individual (2 Corinthians 11:29). For example, Paul was Peter’s shepherd (Galatians 2:11).

41. Paul interprets prophecy (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12).

42. Only Paul is referred to as being set apart for his ministry from his mother’s womb (Galatians 1:15).

43. Jesus Christ is revealed in Paul (Galatians 1:16), meaning that Paul and his successors are the infallible standard of Christian orthodoxy.

44. Paul is the only apostle who works by himself, only later coordinating his efforts with the other apostles (Galatians 1:16-18).

45. Only Paul is referred to as bearing the brandmarks of Christ (Galatians 6:17).

46. Every Christian was interested in Paul and what was happening in his life, looking to him as their example and their encouragement (Philippians 1:12-14).

47. Christians served Paul (Philippians 2:30).

48. Paul worked more than the other apostles (1 Corinthians 15:10), since he had more responsibilities as Pope.

49. Paul was to be delivered from every evil deed (2 Timothy 4:18), meaning that he was infallible.

50. Only Paul is referred to as passing his papal authority on to [Ephesian] successors who would also have authority over the church of God (Acts 20:28).

51. Among the seven churches addressed in Revelation 2-3, the church of Ephesus is mentioned first, since the bishops of Ephesus have primacy as the successors of Paul. The church in Ephesus “cannot endure evil men” (Revelation 2:2), meaning that the bishop of Ephesus is infallible when speaking ex cathedra on matters of faith and morals. The Ephesian church puts false teachers to the test (Revelation 2:2) by exercising its papal authority. The bishop of Ephesus has the responsibility of evaluating all teachers and declaring which are orthodox and which are not. None of the other churches in Revelation 2-3 are described as having this authority.

How I learned to speak in tongues, and then resolved to never do it again. Part 2 of [3!]

Part I here

The days passed and the months came. Those experiences had taken a spiritual toll on me and I began to withdraw myself from Church functions and other ecclesial events. I had become a youth leader at the Church I was attending. Whereas initially I had been  outwardly enthusiastic and committed, inside my mind was roiling. I began to grow non-committal and distant. I was the one guy who didn’t speak in tongues. I was the one guy who couldn’t get it together. I was singled out by the Lord as unworthy of his gift and unworthy to communicate with him in this manner. Hell, I probably wasn’t even saved. The impact that had on me was devastating, and it meant I had to live a lie for a long time.

During Church services we usually had people come up and give prophetic messages. They would say “Thus says the Lord our God…..” and then proceed to give a message in tongues. Sometimes we would leave it at that and the pastor would thank them and we would continue as normal. Other times he would tell us that God told him that someone here had the interpretation, and the service would grind to a halt until someone spoke it.  Oftentimes I thought I had the interpretation. I was taught that after someone gives a word, if you clear your mind and focus on the words, that a thought would pop into your head. That thoughts was almost always the interpretation, and that we should stand and give it. I had spiritual things mulling around in my head during those times, and one time I ventured a guess. I stood up and said [approximately] “Thus says the Lord, I love my people and I am pleased with their worship.” And then I sat down as fast as I could. The Pastor stared at me from across the room, and then said “That was good, but that was not the message that the Lord wanted to give us. Anybody else?”

I sat there with my ears red and my face burning, stewing in my own shame. After a few minutes one of the women elders in the Church, our go-to interpreter, stood up and said [approximately] “Thus says the Lord, I am coming to do a new thing. I am coming like a flood to wash away your impurities, so long as you walk in the new things. You cannot put new wine in old wine skins, and you can’t put old patches on a new shirt. So come to be and give me your hearts, humble yourselves and seek my face, and I will heal your land and bring prosperity.”

I was mortified that I had gotten the message wrong. Later during my midweek discipleship time with the pastor he told me that I was acting in the flesh when I stood up, because it didn’t make sense that someone who couldn’t speak in tongues could interpret those tongues, as only “spiritual could interpret spiritual.” I never ventured an interpretation again.

Then one day during Friday night youth group something happened. March of 2004., It was my practice that however long the youth service lasted, I would arrive early and pray for a corresponding length of time.  During the prayers I felt troubled and uneasy. Agitated and mentally wandering. Probably the best description would be “angst”. My heart felt like it would overflow and burst with angst and recreancy. The service began and I sat there, leaning with my back against the wall, listening to a few praise songs, then watching and brooding as the worship leader began to lead a song in tongues.  Disappointment and disillusionment welled up and broke the dam. Even my worship was defective. Deficient. Incomplete. Inadequate. Flawed. The hollow ache finally overcame me and I wept. Weeping and sobbing out of sheer frustration and futility. One of my friends came and put his hand on my shoulder, probably surmising that I was having an encounter with God, when the exact opposite was true. It was an awful, tortuous experience.

Then, in one last ditch effort, I bit my tongue as hard as I could, and blurted out something, anything.  In my mind it was my final effort to speak in tongues. Sheer desperation. I was tired of crying. tired of trying little speaking in tongue tricks. Tired of trying to make my mouth and lips do things they wouldn’t do. Tired of trying to force the issue. Tired of the constant awareness of inadequacy. So here it was- my final offering upon the altar of God’s  faithlessness and indifference.

Out it came.

I was saying the words “God forgive me, God forgive me” over and over again, and I could think myself saying them, but I heard other words come out of my mouth. It wasn’t English or a language that I knew, but something altogether different.  It bubbled forth and spilled out of me. It sounded like “Sundaya-kasho-run-daya sho-ko-tototo”. Even all this time later I can still repeat those words and feel the familiarity wash over me. I gasped. The music was blaring from the front and I could feel the fuzzy reverb bouncing inside my chest. I was hot and sweaty and exhausted,  but all of a sudden I felt alive. Given over to reckless abandon and joy. I stopped speaking, waited a few seconds, then tried to say something again. I tried to say “Is this for real?” but all I could say, in my state of exhilaration and rapturous wonder  was “shandya-ra-so-tototo-shun-da” .

OhmyGodOhmyGodOhmyGod

To be continued…

The Message “bible” is STILL not a Bible


Just wanted to do some compare and contrast as we ask ourselves- what is a Bible and what does it mean for something to be considered Scriptures? What does it mean for something to be the word of God? Better yet, what is the advantage of reading what one person paraphrases the scriptures as “kind-of/sort of meaning”,  versus having our brightest minds and scholarly experts painstakingly recreate for us the exactness of what God actually says? I already told you to stop using the message Bible to preach, and I also told you all tongue-in-cheek that I was writing my own Bible version, and yet sadly no pastors who use the Message Bible took me up on my offer, even though I demonstrated its much better than Eugene Peterson’s version.

But here is some further think-a-long; I have a theory that people oftentimes don’t choose a Bible to know with precision what God actually said, but rather they choose it and use it for how it makes them feel when they read it. You see this all the time in pulpits. Pastors will throw up some notes on powerpoint and they’ll have 5 different translations/paraphrases ranging from the excellent  [NASB] to the good [NIV] to the bad [NLT] to the utterly and completely appalling [Message Bible]. Why use the MB? Because it words things in a way that the pastor finds compelling and gripping and in which he thinks he congregation will get a kick out of. And the congregants go along with that because it has ceased being important for a translation to accurately reflect what was being said. It has ceased being important that Jesus’ words, meaning, and intent-without additions or interpolations- are immortalized and cannonized.

It has become wholly acceptable to abuse and molest the original meaning  because for some people, the intent isn’t to know what the original meaning is, but rather to develop an emotional response. And as long as that emotional response in brought on by something remotely bibley, they can interpret their feelings as a spiritual encounter, which is the source of their security, affirmation and joy. The Pastors putting these paraphrases are are not doing it so that will have a cerebral or intellectual impact, but rather an emotive one. Its not for maximum accuracy, but for maximum sentiment. That’s the thrust of the appeal- because warm fuzzies are an easier sell than  rigorous faith fullness to the text. To that end, here is a segment from Matthew 5:1-10. ESV first, the Message second

1-2.  Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.  And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

1-2. When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:

 

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

3“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

 

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

4“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

 

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

5“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

 

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

6“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

 

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

7“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

 

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

8“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

 

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

 9“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

 

10“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

10“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

 

Examine those few verses. Are they saying the same thing? Do they even sound the same? Are things being added in? Verses 3 and 4 are especially grotesque in their ability to take liberties with the text and add flourishes that not only do not exist, but actually changes the meaning of what was actually said by Jesus. Why is it necessary to do that? It adds foreign concepts that are not biblical and which Jesus never intended to say. So let’s call The Message bible for what it is- A sad testament to our modern-day churchy evangelical culture that values manipulation of the text for personal gratification, over fidelity to the text for corporate sanctification.

The Lord’s Prayer in Old English

Old English” is version of English spoken from approximately AD 450 to about 1100, and was in use in much of England and southeast Scotland. It also known as “Anglo-Saxon”, and is a combination of the Germanic based languages of Old Norse and Old Frisian, and Latin.

Fæder ure

Fæder ure þu þe eart on heofonum;

Si þin nama gehalgod

to becume þin rice

gewurþe ðin willa

on eorðan swa swa on heofonum.

urne gedæghwamlican hlaf syle us todæg

and forgyf us ure gyltas

swa swa we forgyfað urum gyltendum

and ne gelæd þu us on costnunge

ac alys us of yfele soþlice

*

*

Translation of Old English Text

Father our thou that art in heavens

be thy name hallowed

come thy kingdom

be-done thy will

on earth as in heavens

our daily bread give us today

and forgive us our sins

as we forgive those-who-have-sinned-against-us

and not lead thou us into temptation

but deliver us from evil. truly

Speaking Truth in Love; A Love Story

A while ago I posted a string of posts about a certain speaker coming to a certain church and saying certain things. It exploded on my blog and Facebook, garnering comments from the left and the right. It was, in many ways, a hand grenade tossed under the pews. People’s feelings were hurt and the emotional toll it took on all sides was profound and pronounced. In retrospect, after a bit of counsel, I see now that while my content and theological objections were immaculate and near perfect in their argumentation, my execution was less than helpful. What I said was true, and the objections I brought to  bear were important and weighty. The fact that few seemed to believe otherwise was disappointing, but ultimately that doesn’t change the fact that there were several ways I could have gone about it, and it seems I chose the one with the most carnage and the highest body count.

One of the comments that was sent my way in the combox was that I was not speaking truth in love. Its an objection that has been thrown my way on a few occasions, and at the time I spoke of my intent to disseminate that charge. In fact this post was to be a deftly handled rebuttal of that charge, incorporating a proper biblical exegesis to demonstrate the shallowness and irrationality of such an assertion. To be clear, I am tempted to assert that at the present time there is no single statement in the whole of the Bible which is so much abused and misquoted as this particular statement, and I believe I could bring this to bear.

While I may still do that if pressed on the matter, I thought a change a pace might be more appropriate, in tone and intent, and instead just share some thoughts that I have about this. What I think “speaking the truth in love” has become, divorced from its context and historical underpinnings, is a concept that has become entangled and conformed to our society’s ideal of loveless love and painless affection. Here’s what I mean. Growing up I would hear a lot about “speaking into my life.” What it meant for me was that I would pick a few people, mostly my peers [ who were as foolish and immature as I was]  but also some older men who I liked and viewed as wise and spiritually mature. These were the people that I allowed to “speak into my life”. That is, I acted autonomously and made the executive decision that these people were the ones who I would give the right to be able to rebuke me. These were people who I would allow to tell me when I need correction- when I was being stupid,  making bad choices,  having a poor attitude, and so forth. They were also the ones whose words carried a lot of weight with me when I sought advice, needed comfort, and who I counted on to help me grow and develop spiritually and emotionally.

There were other people who sought to correct me, to chastise me or reprove me. These people I either ignored or dismissed. After all, I didn’t give them permission to speak into my life. I didn’t allow them to do that. What was integral to the process as well was that I deemed that only those who had a relationship with me were allowed to speak into my life. I was not alone in this- everyone knew that only those who had a friendship and relationship with you were allowed to speak into your life. But these people didn’t have that, and it didn’t matter that they had legitimate scriptural objections to my behavior or attitude, or that they approached me with varying degrees of kindness or bluntness. My church environment and culture, which I would describe as an evangelical, protestant, mainline non-denominational denomination, did little to dissuade me from having this attitude and mindset, but rather encouraged me at every turn. I was the gatekeeper through which any criticism or praise had to go through. My heart was a vault and mind was a fortress, impenetrable and unrepentant unless I gave you a key, and even then I usually fought kicking and screaming all the way.

This was coupled with a very subjective view of what “speaking truth in love” meant. Truth could only be spoken into my life if I felt it was done lovingly by those who I allowed to speak into my life. That is to say, it was a vague, highly personalized and highly stylized love. It was culturally conditioned- having had taken on the character of what passes for love in our society today. It could not be harsh. It could not be emphatic. It could not be overly critical and it could not in any way tear someone down. It had to have the right tone and inflection, and it could not criticize someone else beliefs or presuppositions- mainly because we had abandoned the perspicuity of the scripture and so who were we to stand so firm and nonyielding when, after all, there was a certain amount of right and truth in everything?

Most important of all, any truth that was spoken could not hurt or hinder the unity of the body and our fellowship. This was the overriding precept that governed all we said and did.  Disagreeing too vehemently or vigorously was seen as divisive and not spirit-led. Telling anyone that what they believed was false,  idolatrous, unhelpful or sub-biblical, was viewed as an attack against the body of Christ- an act of aggression against the Church on par with the vilest of sins.  Truth in love was important, and If we had to pick sides, all of us would have fallen on the love side instead of the truth one. More often than not it didn’t matter how you said it- the fact is that you said it. And that was near unforgivable. “Unity! Unity! Unity!” was our rallying cry, even as we were being discouraged to wrestle with hard concepts amongst ourselves. We did not see that unity without truth was idolatry. We did not see that our ecclesiastical body of Christ had become a rotting and fetid corpse, being held together by sinews of timidity  and tendons of superficiality .

Truth could only be spoken in love-, that was true. But more often than not we discovered that the truth was viewed as unloving, and so instead of speaking the truth in love- we just spoke love; vapid, empty, shallow, culturally-crafted damnable love. Love that was dependent on our feelings. Love that was subjective and self-esteem based. Love that was devoid of scrutiny and sacredness, bereft of sharp edges and piercing honesty,  and which did not poke, prod or prick. A so-called love that was common, vulgar, and meaningless. A love which refused to wound and would not expose our self-canonization. The kind of love that was tepid and safe, spoken by people within the designated parameters and imposed restrictions I had placed on them- but in the end cannot satisfy or sanctify. We thought it was love! We really did- but now I see it instead for what it is, a brilliantly disguised form of hatred.

That’s the environment that I grew up in and cut my theological teeth on. That’s what I grew up in, and what I have since rebelled against. I don’t feel that way anymore, obviously. There are a lot of reasons for that.  But ultimately its because I don’t want a pretend love or a pretend unity which does not have as its foundation the word of the living God. I think there is something better than all that. – a true “truth in love” antithesis which bears itself out with weight and glory. An ideal that has as its center the person of Christ and truth of the gospel, foundational and firm, with implications for every arena of life it touches. It’s not an excuse for cruelty and callousness, but rather redeems both even as it brings light to the darkest of situations.  I spoke in love in those posts, literally the phrase is “truthing in love”- albeit imperfectly and not without a certain regret. Even so I know that it is not the same as what has been spoken of in the aforementioned paragraphs, but it is something that I would consider deeper, more painful, more loving and more rewarding.