These weekly posts show the Triad teachings. Starting at week 1 and progressing through the weeks will help you see the logic of the series.
The Vocabulary of the Bible
In the first 8 weeks we looked at the concept of sanctification from the point of view of the interaction between a believers’ effort to obey God and God’s help that goes beyond our failed efforts to be Christ-like.
As mentioned in weeks 9 and 10, the deeper parts of our being are beyond thought and effort. The Church has moved towards using psychological terms to describe these deeper inner parts of our being that cause us to sin. For example, we are likely to talk about “addictions”, “defense mechanisms”, subconscious motives” or “ego” when we describe a person’s “dysfunction” and un-Christ like behavior. We now need to develop a spiritual (and biblical) vocabulary that allows us to see God’s methods of spiritual formation.
For example, let’s imagine a church person who is on an “ego trip”. Of course, in the world, a man who thinks he is better than other people is a common sight. In business, for example, hunger for power, even at the expense of ethics and fairness, is actually rewarded. But in the church world such a lack of holiness must be hidden. So, imagine a man in the church who ingratiates authority and serves with the desire to rule, yet not for God alone but for also for self promotion. This will often be a person who must accumulate more status and influence; who resents the promotion of others and whose resentment will manifest as criticism and conflict.
Here is a description of one such person:
“They come to have some degree of satisfaction with their works and with themselves. And hence there comes to them likewise a certain desire, which is somewhat vain, and at times very vain, to speak of spiritual things in the presence of others, and sometimes even to teach such things rather than to learn them. They condemn others in their heart when they see that they have not the kind of devotion which they themselves desire; and sometimes they even say this in words, herein resembling the Pharisee, who boasted of himself, praising God for his own good works and despising the publican…And such a degree of evil are some of these persons wont to reach that they would have none appear good save themselves; and thus, in deed and word, whenever the opportunity occurs, they condemn them and slander them, beholding the mote in their brother’s eye and not considering the beam which is in their own; they strain at another’s gnat and themselves swallow a camel…Sometimes, too, when their pastors, or their confessors and superiors, do not approve of their spirit and behavior (for they are anxious that all they do shall be esteemed and praised), they consider that they do not understand them, or that, because they do not approve of this and comply with that, their confessors are themselves not spiritual. And so they immediately desire and contrive to find someone else who will fit in with their tastes; for as a rule they desire to speak of spiritual matters with those who they think will praise and esteem what they do, and they flee, as they would from death, from those who disabuse them in order to lead them into a safe road—sometimes they even harbor ill-will against them. Presuming thus, they are wont to resolve much and accomplish very little. Sometimes they are anxious that others shall realize how spiritual and devout they are, to which end they occasionally give outward evidence thereof in movements, sighs and other ceremonies; and at times they are apt to fall into certain ecstasies, in public rather than in secret, wherein the devil aids them, and they are pleased that this should be noticed, and are often eager that it should be noticed more.”
What terms would a modern (post modern) person use to describe such behavior? Would we talk about this person’s “insecurity”? We might talk about their bad self image. Usually such behavior is overlooked in the church, and not confronted, because we do not have a good way to spiritually understand what they are really doing. In fact, if such has person has influence; either because they are wealthy or charismatic, then many may actually approve of their behavior. If, out of emotional frustration, someone wants to criticize such behavior, it often must take the form of a slang insult, or an emotional outburst, such as declaring that “the person is on an ego trip”, or “they are too big for their britches. ” Of course, it may be an even more flavorful comment, such as “they are just a *#@%$*”!
But what does the Bible say about such behavior? It is instructive to note that the above passage was written by John of the Cross, a Catholic monk, in the 16th century; long before psychology and psychiatry were developed. What does he say about such behavior? He calls it “the hidden sin of pride”. Not hidden consciously as in hypocrisy, but hidden to the person who is doing these actions. What today might be called “subconscious behavior” he would call sin of pride that the person cannot see because they “are blind”.
Therefore next week we will begin a study of “darkness” and “blindness” and see how these are superior concepts to psychological terms.