The Inerrant Paraclete

The woman sat across from me in my church office.  She had no trouble believing in miracles, the Immaculate Conception, the resurrection, a-man-swallowing-whale, The Eucharist, or any number of unexplainable mystical things.  She had no trouble believing in a God who loved unconditionally – who asked followers to love and forgive even their enemies – who taught we were all one in Christ.  She had no problem with God calling her into servant-hood.  In fact, that gave her a joy that she couldn’t quite explain.

But she had a list of things from the scriptures that made no sense to her.  She was struggling with a deity who on one hand told followers that their purpose was to invite outsiders into their community, but who on the other hand told his followers to kill whole nations in order to gain their land.  She didn’t understand why this deity was against the LGBT community and allowed slavery.  And she didn’t understand why would this deity take an interest in women’s fashion demanding long hair, no makeup, and hats.

The bottom line was that she just couldn’t accept that scripture was inerrant.  There were too many things at odds with each other.  To make matters worse, she attended a church that was very concerned that its members accept every word in the scriptures as completely inerrant – 100% truth – fully inspired – fully relevant to her life.  To believe this was to be “in” – not to believe this was to be “out.”  It was certain she would be shunned if she disagreed.  Understandably, this was all causing her a lot of unrest.

But the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. (John 14:26)

But if we go back to scripture itself, Jesus never suggested that our guidance for following him would come through a canon of letters, books, and gospels put together in the centuries following his death.  We have no record that he ever instructed his followers to even write stuff down.  Instead he told his disciples that the Holy Spirit would teach us, guide us, comfort us, and empower us.

Perhaps, many of us have placed our faith in the wrong thing… a book.  A great book, inspired by the Holy Spirit containing great wisdom.  But why would we place our faith in a book, when we could place our faith directly in the living Spirit of God?

It is not the scriptures that are inerrant – it is the Holy Spirit.  The danger of course is that we never open our hearts to hearing the Holy Spirit and stumble along making it up as we go. On the other hand, if we intentionally seek the Spirit, we will develop a deeper relationship with God than we have ever had before – one in which the things of God are interpreted and understood like never before.

*****

April is a progressive Christian who writes about scripture and spiritual disciplines. See her latest book, James in the Suburbs.  

4 thoughts on “The Inerrant Paraclete

  1. Sometimes when you speak with fundamentalists, who are so focused on Scripture, you would think that God had stopped revealing God’s self at the end of the first century, when the canon of Scripture was closed, that God had said everything that God had wanted to say to humankind, and all you had to do was read it.

    But Jesus says this remarkable thing at the Last Supper. It’s recorded in John’s Gospel. Jesus says to his disciples: There is much that I would teach you, but you cannot bear it right now. So I will send the Holy Spirit, who will lead you into all truth. Now, I take that to mean Jesus is saying, you know, for a bunch of uneducated, rough fisherman, you haven’t done too badly. In fact, I’m kind of proud of you. But don’t for a minute think that God is done with you or that God will be done with the people who follow you because God has got so much to teach you, but you cannot bear it right now.

    So the Holy Spirit will lead you into all truth. And I think, you know, look how many centuries we spent using Scripture to justify slavery. Look how some religions still use their holy texts to denigrate and subjugate women. But I believe it’s the Holy Spirit who has been continuing to reveal God to us in those movements, and what we’re trying to figure out right now is whether or not God is leading us to a different understanding of gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgender people that really does represent God’s will, and before this we have just not been able to understand it.

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