« Home | Bald Bears: The Real Deal » | On Worship » | Jesus Is Wisdom » | Letter to the Editor » | Finished Product » | New Testament Wisdom » | The Cultural Mandate » | Alabamian Delicacies » | Wonderful Week » | A Very Quick Post Without Pictures or Anything Int... »

Holy Perplexity

2 Cor 4:7-8 "But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;"
I've never thought about this part of the passage before. It seems to say that it's normal, indeed necessary, for Christians to be confused by what we believe, to struggle to understand it. This doesn't lead us to "despair" or to give up, but to trust God and keep searching. If we pretend to have everything figured out, we actually diminish "the surpassing power that belongs to God and not to us."

I'm not sure if this perplexity extends to doubts about the truth of Christianity, but I think it conceivably does (Mk 9:24). Sometimes Christians will say to non-Christians that they're 100% convinced of the truth of Christianity, beyond any shade of doubt, and that if the non-Christian would simply put his faith in Christ, he would be too. I think this does a disservice to God because (a) I think they're usually lying (b) if the person becomes a Christian but still struggles with doubt, he worries that he's not really a Christian (c) as this verse says, it doesn't acknowledge our human weakness, and therefore steals some of God's glory.

Labels: , ,

Thanks for writing this--I had not thought of that part of the passage easier. In fact, this is one of the passages that I have the toughest time reading because I have that stupid song "I'm trading my sorrows" in my head whenever I get to that. So, thanks for some meat to chew on.

I know! I thought about that song too. It's strange how songs can really at times be a hindrance to scripture. I find myself reading a psalm and then suddenly derailed by strains of cheesy 80s melodies.

lol, you mean you don't like that song jacob?! I'm shocked ;).

Thanks for posting Andrew, I just finished reading that passage not more than 10 minutes ago.... I take it we're all using For the Love of God?

"yes, Lord yes Lord YES YES Lord...Yes, Lord Yes, Lord YES YES Lord...
Oh I'm trading my......................"

jake we commented at the same time

Yeah, we are, as is Bethany. Although I don't actually have the book (er...in Germany...sorry Jacob) but I found the reading plan online.

I was thinking that it's really cool to know that you're reading and thinking about the same passages as other people on the same days. And then I realized, "Oh...that must be what it's like to have a liturgical calendar."

Or my own favorite Nebraska Union food version: "I'm trading my Sbarro."

A second thought on this passage, based on its context: perhaps this isn't so much about speculative theological issues, but more about their questions of why they would be suffering. Certainly it would be perplexing to be beaten, stoned, etc..., but they did not despair because they knew that God was in control of their circumstances.


Gray- Nice work :).
Andrew- Is there a full version to "Trading my sbarro"? Perhaps we can create one?
Jacob- Good point, I'll have to go back and reread that passage when I have time (right now I'm in art history 101... hooray for 100-level classes).

I don't know that sorrows song, but that verse always makes me think of the hidden track on Jars of Clay's first album. "Weeeeeeee have these tre-e-e-sures..."

You're better off not knowing the sorrows song, Bethany. Imagine those "YES LORD" punctuated with a tambourine each time. AND sung for an altar call. We sang that song every Sunday at the church I attended freshman year. And yes, I also initially thought of the hidden track on Jars of Clay.

Jacob- But that whole section begins with Paul referring to us having these treasures in earthen vessels. I'd take that to be referring to our weaknesses and inabilities, being finite, being mere "earthen vessels." He then goes on to say how God's supremacy is exalted b/c though we are finite we are, "crushed but not destroyed....." so I'd certainly agree that this relates to the strength of God shown in the suffering of his children but doesn't it also have a larger application that God's supremacy shown through the finiteness of his children, in which case Andrew's statement is just as true as yours.

This is so exciting to have so many people reading For The Love of God! I am as well and I love hearing other people's takes on the daily passages. Jacob and Andrew, keep up the good work. :)

Point well taken, although I would press your idea of "finiteness" a little further to argue that Paul is not just saying that we are weak, but that we are being made to suffer so that God's glory shows through in us. Our suffering is partially from our weakness, but largely that we are afflicted as part of the growing pains of becoming a "new creation" (2 Cor. 5:17) in Christ. I think this is both the natural result of our metamorphosis into something else while still in this world, but also because Paul is facing physical danger and abuse (2 Cor. 1:8-11)

Where I needed correction was that I was not sufficiently taking into account Paul's idea of "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6) in the fairly immediately preceding context. The never-ending vistas of glory that we see when we look into the face of Jesus Christ would bear immense significance in our struggle to balance boldness based on theological convictions, humility amidst brethren who do not share those convictions (but who are not necessarily unorthodox), and the necessity to continually grow in our understanding of God.

So, thanks--that's a good way to bring us back to Andrew's original post.

Post a Comment