Put Your Life Where Your Mouth Is
This essay is directed at Christians who claim to be both Bible believers, and truth seekers. It is not directed at claimed Bible believers who use forgiveness as an excuse for failing to do as the New Testament instructs, nor to claimed truth seekers who seek only that truth which is compatible with their faith.
Though most Christians claim to believe that personal relationship with Jesus is the most important thing in life, very few of them actively cultivate such a relationship. They mostly just read about him and sing songs and talk to other people about how great and good they think he is - like that counts as relationship. However, they do pray. One way communication is at least half of a relationship. But they rarely assume any communication in return. Should they? According to Jesus' words in the Bible they should. That's a major function of the Holy Spirit:
- Lk. 11:11-13 God will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him to.
- Jn. 14:16-17 God will send Christians the Spirit of truth.
- Jn. 14:26 The Holy Spirit will teach you all things.
- Jn. 16:13 The Spirit of truth (clearly the Holy Spirit in context) will guide you into all truth.
- Eph. 1:17 ...the spirit of wisdom and revelation (clearly the Holy Spirit in context) [will give you] knowlwdge of him.
But then if you're a believer but not a truth seeker, you have no reason to care if the Holy Spirit guides you to truth or not. Just claim to believe everything the Bible says, with all the hermeneutic gymnastics necessary to justify your interpretation of it, and assume that whatever you think is what the Holy Spirit led you to think.
If, however, you're a Bible believing Christian truth seeker, have you asked Jesus to communicate with you via the Holy Spirit? More specifically, have you asked for guidance on what to do, and for correction if you're wrong about something important? If not, why not? Are you afraid? Afraid that he might not communicate? Or even more afraid that he might? Scripturalist Christians have many reasons for dodging Holy Spirit communication.Scripturalist objection #1:
The Holy Spirit and the Bible both say the same things.
Let's try a less drastic case: Have you forsaken worldly possessions like Jesus said, and walked out into the street to proclaim the kingdom of God? Oh wait! Paul says not to do that if you have a family to support, so you family guys are off the hook. Of course, Paul contradicts Jesus, who said to forsake not only your parents and siblings, but also your wife and kids (Lk 14:26). So then, at least have the integrity to admit that you consider Paul a higher authority than Jesus. Again, the Holy Spirit could spare you from that choice.
If the Bible contradicts itself, so what if the Holy Spirit contradicts the Bible? Or if you can't admit the Bible contradicts itself, then take whatever hermeneutic tricks you use to resolve contradictions, and use the same tricks to resolve Holy Spirit contradictions of the Bible. If you're sleazy enough for the first, don't pretend you're too noble for the second.
The New Testament has a lot more restrictions on thought and action: Slavery is OK, but women talking in church is not. Women be submissive. Divorce is always wrong, even if it's not forbidden. Always obey authority, unless it tells you to do something unscriptural. Turn the other cheek. Give to whoever asks. Test all things, but not God. etc. Some restrictions have legitimate hermeneutic work arounds. Some don't.
You also have to redefine words in such a way that they don't make sense in normal usage: When you're on jury duty you have a sensible definition of justice. But when talking about God, that has to change. Judgment implies punishment. Justice is being eternally punished for finite crimes, no matter how much good you do to compensate; because you can't do good, because only God can do good, but still you're supposed to do it anyway. Jesus is truth, so Jesus is correspondence to reality. And Jesus is life and God, and God is love, so truth and life and love are all the same thing, but the greatest is love. And love is something you do, except when it's something you have. And even if you do it, but don't have it, then you're still nothing. Pride is always evil. Humility and forgiveness are always good. Be honest, but don't complain. Be wise, but be childlike. Faith is evidence. Homosexuality is a chosen condition.
You scripturalists are so terribly fucked up! Oh, right! Profanity is bad, because cursing and swearing are redefined to include it. But that one's not the Bible's fault. That comes from church.Scripturalist objection #2:
The Bible is an objective and unchangeable document in the physical world. Holy Spirit communication is subjective.
Scripturalist objection #3:
But my interpretation of the Holy Spirit is still subjective!
Scripturalist objection #4:
Insane people sometimes think the Holy Spirit is talking to them.
Scripturalist objection #5:
But it might make me insane!
Bottom line: Either do what the Bible says to do, or quit claiming it as your ultimate authority. Or... acknowledge the Holy Spirit as a higher authority than the Bible. If you believe the Bible, you should have already done that; it's perfectly scriptural. Being forgiven for disobedience doesn't change what you should have obeyed. And you may not even be forgiven. How do you interpret Mat. 7:23, where he said, depart from me; I never knew you, if he didn't mean ignoring the Holy Spirit? But if you claim that the Bible and Holy Spirit always tell you the same things, then you are either lying, or you're reading this with your left eye. I would really like to say you're a fool, but so far I'm too chicken for that. I've found that bad stuff happens to me when I cross that line. Apparently, the Bible and Holy Spirit agree on that one - in my experience - so far.
This brings up an important distinction. If the Holy Spirit communicates at all, he communicates with individuals on their current spiritual and intellectual level. So they keep on maturing spiritually and intellectually. Whereas the Bible says only what the words mean rationally (if it's interpreted rationally). So if your understanding of the Bible evolves, it's either because of the Holy Spirit, or you're finding hermeneutic loopholes to justify what you want to believe. Which is subjective? Hermeneutics or the Holy Spirit?
Other bottom line: Either ask the Holy Spirit (or God, or Jesus) to lead you into truth, or quit calling yourself a truth seeker. You don't need to ask him to lead you into all truth. That's too heavy for anyone. Just ask him to take you to the next step in the direction of truth. Or ask for correction if you're wrong about some particular thing that concerns you. Or ask him to correct your most serious error. Surely your fondness for the truth seeker badge is worth that much. It doesn't even need to be your first priority prayer. You can assign it whatever priority you like. But if you put trivial prayers ahead of it, don't expect much action on it.Assuming you now have the spiritual guts to trust the Holy Spirit, some cautions are in order.
- Don't jump into the deep end. Ease into the shallow end. You will make mistakes at first. Keep them small.
- Don't tell God how to communicate with you. He already knows that. Since you believe the Bible, he'll use the Bible, but he'll also use other things.
- When it gets too stressful (and it will if you do it right), back off and take a break. Stress can damage you. Come back when you think God wants you to.