"The mark of wisdom is to be ready for suffering. If you aren’t, you aren’t competent with regard to the realities of life. But suffering is also a discipline for growth in wisdom. It can drive you toward God into greater love and strength or away from him into hardness of heart."
God, you need not send Me to hell cause here on earth For the short lives of thousands upon thousands Gravitate towards my hearth Each one single file Skipping to its home sweet home Backwards down the aisle Of my throat where the Church of Rome Sends its grave petitions To the wake in my lungs Pleading with the clowns and the magicians To stop the dance on my tongue That keeps the millions from being embraced ‘Cause they should be bathing in tomato soup Outside the camp, heads shaved with shame But instead they're napping on my spleen Unaware of the day when my body will fold Still I'll befriend them in their dreams And ignore the doubts I never told
I am reading NT Wright's book Justification. I struggle with assurance of salvation, and a book about justification seems apropos. I'm barely into it, and I am learning so much already.
I want to take some time to summarize some of his main points that I found interesting.
So far Wright has mentioned the Reformers, a tradition of which I am a part of (Disclaimer: I love my church) several times. Apparently, Wright stated that John Piper suggested that he was doing away with a tradition that has lasted centuries. Because Wright questions the Reformed doctrine of "imputed righteousness," he is forsaking tradition, which is so interesting to me that Piper would even bring up tradition in their conversations. Why is it okay that the Reformers -- Luther, Calvin, et al -- questioned the traditions of the Roman Catholic church, and yet we cannot question the traditions of the Reformers?
Wright says, "The greatest honor we can pay the Reformers is not to treat them as infallible -- they would be horrified at that -- but to do as they did." What he is referring to is the intensive spiritual disciplines: "to soak myself in the Bible, in the Hebrew and Aramaic Old Testament and the Greek New Testament, to get it into my bloodstream every means possible, in the prayer and hope that I would be able to teach Scripture afresh to the church and the world."
And again, "Wise later readers will honor them, but not canonize them., by thinking through their statements afresh in the light of Scripture itself."
Another issue Wright brings up is our tendency to read our questions into Scripture, when the Scripture is talking entirely about something else!
It reminds me of one of the several memes (coming from my own Reformed circle, no less):
Wright states, "If you read your own questions into the text, and try to get an answer from it, when the text itself is talking about something else, you run the risk not only of hearing only the echo of your own voice rather than the word of God but also of missing the key point that the text was actually eager to tell you, and which you have brushed aside in your relentless quest for your own meaning."
Wow. Talk about a whack in the head (my head). This was a wake-up call to me. I wonder how often I do this. I come to the Bible searching for answers to my questions, but if I eeny-meeny-miny-mo the Bible, I can't expect to find God speaking to me -- to my exact situation with all of its unique, minute details. Context, context, context. But any Reformed person would say that too.
Wright states (I have to keep saying "states" because "Wright writes" just sounds silly), "[It] is vital (within any Christian theology, and, indeed within good hermeneutical practice on many corpus of texts) to allow one writing to illuminate another."
The vibe I got was that he seems to think this is more uncommon than common. And maybe it is, but not in my tradition. Even as a kid, I can still remember my dad (a then Baptist pastor) saying that we use Scripture to interpret Scripture, which seems to me to be exactly what Wright just said above.
But one thing that is different is that he does address a teaching that is held tightly by the Reformed tradition. It is the belief that when Paul is talking about the law, he is including our efforts to gain good standing with God through moral achievement (as opposed to the laws regarding Jewish ceremonial customs, which is what Wright holds to -- as far as I understand it at least). For more info on that debate, you can read an overview at Ye Olde Source of Wisdom As Long As It Provides Reliable Sources -- Wikipedia.
But as much as I would like to keep reading and writing, I need to go do some cleaning.
Maybe I'll keep this up. Maybe I won't. We shall see.
But hey, it was an actual blog post and not just a quote.