Wednesday Wanderings

I’ve two pressing matters uppermost on my mind today. The first derives from a book I’m reading. I posted earlier that I was enjoying this book. Now, all of a sudden, I’m not enjoying it anywhere near as much. The problem? Carnal Christianity versus Spiritual Christianity.

The passage of Scripture usually cited regarding this dilemma is 1 Corinthians 2.14–3.4, more specifically, verse 1-3 of chapter 3.

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 1Corinthians 2:15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 1Corinthians 2:16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

1Corinthians 3:1 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 1Corinthians 3:2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 1Corinthians 3:3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? 1Corinthians 3:4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?” (1 Corinthians 2:14–3:4 ESV)

The author of the book takes these verse to imply that there are three types of people: non-Christians, carnal Christians and spiritual Christians. Obviously, the non-Christians are the ones more accurately described in 2.14 – “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to undestand them because they are spiritually discerned.” This one is relatively easy: a person without the Spirit of God is an unbeliever. No debate here.

The problem arises in 3.1-3, where Paul speaks of those who are fleshly, or “of the flesh.” Clearly, they are believers. Paul addresses them as “brothers” and he never does this for non-believers. Yet his concern for these “believers” is that they are acting like babies, “infants in Christ.” They’re not ready for solid teaching, but still “drinking milk,” even thought by now they should be well past that (that’s the tone of his remarks in 3.2).
My question for Mr. Baker (who is very clearly a student of L. S. Chafer and his “He Who Is Spiritual” teaching is this: how long can one be considered a “carnal Christian”? Does he ever “grow up?” And what if he doesn’t? What if a “carnal Christian” dies in this state of “carnality?”

In order to preserve your attention on this matter and not get lengthy here, I’ll keep a running post on this matter. I’ll also be posting a review of the book, Spiritual Maturity early next week (most likely on Monday; that’s my book review day).

Let me return to my opening: I stated that I had two problems that were uppermost on my mind. The second is a more pragmatic matter – How does the leadership of a church motivate said church to pray together? On the one hand, I’m sure some would simply say, “Lay out the commands that we should pray. Let them feel and sense their disobedience.”

I could do that, but my elders and I knew we’d appear like Moses descending from Mt. Sinai, with tablets in hand and a new 11th commandment inscribed upon them, “Thou Shalt Pray Together or your prayers won’t count.” That might work for a few people and it might work for a short time, but it hardly creates genuine pray-ers with a heart’s passion for seeking God.

On the other hand, we could just let grace rule and hope for the best. However, the struggle I have with that approach is this: that’s where we’re at now and I don’t think it’s biblical or helpful.

So there must be another hand here somewhere. I’ll leave you with this quote and address this issue at another time very soon:

Francis Schaeffer once asked his wife:

“Edith, I wonder what would happen to most churches and Christian work if we awakened tomorrow, and everything concerning the reality and work of the Holy Spirit, and everything concerning prayer, were removed from the Bible. I don’t mean just ignored, but actually cut out—disappeared. I wonder how much difference it would make?” We concluded it would not make much difference in many board meetings, committee meetings, decisions and activities.

—Edith Schaeffer, The Tapestry: The Life and Times of Francis and Edith Schaeffer (Waco: Word, 1981), 356.

Technorati Tags:
, , , , , , , , , ,


A Book I’m Enjoying

I’m currently reading, to review, a book published by Grace Acres Press, a small group with the larger Baker Publishing house. It’s title: Spiritual Maturity – the road to Wonderland. the author is Bruce Baker (I’ll tell you more about him later).

This is proving to be a very enjoyable read. The format is set up to be almost like a devotional or study. Chapters are short, and at the end of each there are questions to probe your thinking and help you move on to the next chapter. At the beginning of each chapter, Baker uses a quote from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, a story that most are familiar with only because of the Alice in Wonderland theme, but probably not from actually reading the whole book themselves. Each quote helps set up the theme of that particular chapter.

This fascinates me. At first, my initial thought was, “Oh no, another of these attempts to over-spiritualize something that is not spiritual (Through the Looking Glass) and to under-spiritualize that which is truly spiritual (the Bible).” However, Baker doesn’t do any of that. It’s really quite refreshing.

Baker also finds nothing helpful about the modern trend toward spiritual formation – clearly, a concept that has captured Christian book publsihing and selling. This too got my attention. It’s a thought I’ve had for quite some time. It’s just frustrating that it always seems to take someone to express these thoughts first, confirming what I thought in the first place. Ah well.

I’ll keep you informed as I read and then post my final review for all to see. But I can already tell you, only about 1/8th of the way through, that I’m really going to like this book.

Just a Few Quick Thoughts on a Monday

It’s the Monday after Thanksgiving… Cyber Monday, according to some hack who thought that Black Friday wasn’t sufficient to tap the greed and covetousness of the average American. I’m only going to be able to mention a few quick thoughts today. Tomorrow I’m hoping to have a couple of book reviews from a couple of “older” books.

First, Ann & I returned from our short Thanksgiving trip to Iowa with the news on our answering machine that our credit card had been used by someone to purchase software from Luxembourg, Sweden (try finding that on Google Maps!). Obviously, not very smart “cyber thieves.” They made three purchases from the same place for the same thing… kind of a tip off to the company who monitors our bank’s card (we’ve had this same card for 25 years and while it’s just a material item, all of a sudden Ann & I were feeling slight twinges of sentimentality about having to run it through the shredder). Fortunately, that was the only thing amiss. Now to go through the bank for a new card. There are many times Ann & I wish we were smart enough to know how to live without it, but haven’t quite figured that out in this age we live in.

Second, we had a delightful time in Iowa over the Thanksgiving weekend. We went to Ann’s parents first. Her father has Parkinsons and Alzeimer’s; her mother had double bypass surgery about three weeks ago. This made for a very thankful, but difficult visit. Still, it was good to see them for a bit. We also spent time with my family. On Black Friday, while most of the household decided to be brave (or foolish, not sure which) and try shopping, I spent a couple of good hours talking with my parent’s neighbor, answering some really good and hard questions about Christianity, the Bible, why catholics have priests called “Father” and others don’t, how to interpret the Scriptures and a relationship with Jesus Christ. Time well spent! Then, I waxed nostalgic and drove around many of the places in which I grew up until I was 18 and left home. Simply a wonderful time of giving thanks for all that God has done to pour His grace out upon me.

Third, welcome to Grace Acres Press. I’ll be reading/reviewing books for them, starting very soon. I just received Spiritual Maturity: The Road to Wonderland by Bruce Baker. It looks like a good read; I’ll let you know.

See you tomorrow!