We're all a mess. I'm beginning to conclude, we're all a mess. Wonder of wonders--I knew it, but am knowing it more. Of course, we're all sinners in need of a Savior. We're all very little people trying to grasp hold of a very big Truth, and none of us have a perfect handle on it. Luther, that hallmark of the Reformation, had his flaws, his odd character traits. Yet people accept his stand for truth, and brush his flaws aside. As I blogged earlier, Bonhoeffer had his flaws, his inconsistencies, but he's promoted because of what he had right. There are some who are approved, and some who are not, and where the dividing line lies depends on the individual. I've been working on a reading list, but all the writers are of course flawed. What determines where the line of acceptability is? How do we know whether to accept the teachings of an individual or not? How do we accept the good and throw out the bad teachings, or do we instead not take on any of them?
The one source we can turn to without hesitation is the Bible. That is The One Gold Standard of Truth, and the only thing that can mess it up is our reading of it, how we take it in--or not reading of it so we can't take it in at all. We need to make a habit of testing all influences around us, knowing that we are all sinners, all the other books we are reading are flawed, all speakers, all the influences that flood our culture. A person could take extremes to perfect the information that he receives, in eschewing writings other than the Bible; or he can receive them, praying for the Holy Spirit's help in discernment of what is to be accepted and what is not. Depending on the Holy Spirit, all writings are acceptable for screening; all writings can be evaluated with His help, and the learning, the discipleship, the iron-sharpening-iron that we will receive may be broader than if we consider too many categories suspect.
Psalm 146 tells us not to trust in man, not to trust in princes...no writing, no source other than the Scriptures is fully reliable. We test everything against God's Word, and we are helped. One major test the Bible gives us in evaluating teachers is to watch how a person's grasp of truth is lived out in their lives. Is there an effort to live according to Christ? Has the person gladly made sacrifices along the way? Is that person teachable, humble, and honest? By their fruits we will know them, the Bible tells us, and I have found that it is a good qualifier. I praise God that just because they have their flaws, we aren't forbidden all these resources, all the learning and thinking and writing of men who have gone before; we have His help to pick and choose, and can then do so in confidence and eager expectation.