Happy Monday and welcome to another post on Renaissance Woman.
Does anyone remember the poem The Blind Men and the Elephant by John Godfrey Saxe? It’s a poem about six blind men who seek out an elephant so that, by observation, they might understand the creature. Each of the six men encounter a different part of the elephant and liken it to something familiar: a wall, a snake, a fan, etc. The last stanza of the poem states, “So, oft in theologic wars/The disputants, I ween/Rail on in utter ignorance/Of what each other mean/And prate about an Elephant/Not one of them has seen!”
Last week I posted on the Hebrew letters that comprise Shin ש and how I’ve come across two schools of thought on that. One is that the letter is comprised of Vavs and Yods and the other is that the letter is a Yod, a Vav, and a Zayin. Which is correct? I don’t care one way or the other because, as I followed both paths, I found myself in the same place: 3 Vavs and 4 Yods give me the number 7 which is Spiritual Perfection and the number of the Zayin is 7 which is Spiritual Perfection. I found value in looking at both but the study did get me thinking.
I cannot count how many times over the past weeks and months I’ve heard believers of various denominations stress the importance of “sound doctrine.” I have found “that’s not sound doctrine” is used as the final hammer strike on the last nail in the coffin of another person’s argument but there are times when the speaker will explain just what they believe sound doctrine to be. I listen and sometimes agree and other times disagree. This made me wonder, just who decides what “sound doctrine” is? I see one denomination convinced what they teach is the soundest doctrine of all unlike this denomination whose teachings are based on false interpretations of scripture and definitely not like this other denomination whose teachings are a delusion of Satan. I must infer then, that by “sound doctrine” what they actually mean is, “what our denomination teaches.”
What is doctrine? The definition of the word is, “something taught, teachings, something taught as the principles or creed of a religion, political party, etc.; tenet or tenets; belief; dogma, a rule, theory, or principle of law.” There is nothing in this definition that suggests a personal knowing and relationship is necessary. Such is also what I find in those insisting everyone have sound doctrine: there is only a rare mention of knowing God for yourself. I am not concerned with sound doctrine. I am concerned with knowing the Father because knowing Him and knowing Jesus Christ is the very definition of eternal life. “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).
I recently read a book called Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Deibler Rose. When the author married her first husband, Rev. C. Russell Deibler, she and her husband both knew they were called to the Mission Field and, specifically, the Philippines. Mrs. Deibler was several years younger than her husband and had just graduated from school. She relates in her book that, before the Church would allow her to accompany her husband to the Philippines, they tested her in doctrine and theology. She passed the tests and was allowed to go. While in the Philippines, World War II broke out and Japan took over the islands. Mrs. Deibler and her husband were interred in separate camps where her husband died. Mrs. Deibler spent four years in various camps and I was struck by how it was not doctrine or theology that sustained her: it was the vitality of her relationship with Jesus Christ. Mrs. Deibler-Rose writes, “Experientially, I was learning to understand the comfort of the Holy Spirit. Sometime during the dark hours I slept. The sword of sorrow had pierced deep within me, but He had bathed the sword in oil.”
This book gave a graphic picture of the difference between having doctrine-which is by definition a lifeless thing-and having a vital relationship with the Living God. To me, those quibbling over whether or not someone’s doctrine is sound are like the blind men quibbling over the elephant. Not one of them was wrong per se but neither were any of them correct. Not one of them had fully seen.
There is a passage in Colossians I’ve been meditating on for some time: “Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God” (Colossians 2:18-19). Our reward is Christ Jesus. He is our very Life. In Him, we are made one with the Father. Everything the Father has belongs to Jesus. Everything Jesus has is ours because His Spirit lives within us and declares it to us. (See John 16:13-15)
I know this not only because the Bible tells me so but because I KNOW HIM! He is real! He is alive! He is alive in me right now! This is not something reserved for the future. It is not something I earn if I follow Jesus’ example and live a moral life. He freely gives Himself to me, teaches me who He is, and brings me into relationship with Himself. There is no substitute for knowing Him and this knowing is my litmus test. I don’t compare what I hear from others with any doctrine: the Spirit within me guides me into all truth. Jesus Himself is that absolute living truth and, as He has joined me to Himself, I am one spirit with Him.
Let none of us allow ourselves to be cheated of our reward by anyone who has not seen. Let us hold fast to the Head who is Christ Jesus. Let us test everything and hold fast to what is true. “Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection…” and, finally, let us “no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the trickery of men in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head-Christ…” (Hebrews 6:1, Ephesians 4:15)
All Scriptures are quoted from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1982
Guralnik, David B., Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second College Edition, Williams Collins + World Publishing Co., Inc., Cleveland • New York, 1970, 1974
Rose, Darlene Deibler, Evidence Not Seen: A Woman’s Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War II, A Ruth Graham Dienert Book, Harper San Francisco, Harper Collins Publishers, New York, New York, 1988