24 February 2020 / Theology Illumination and Sundry Given the plethora of so-called Biblical doctrines, it is clear that you cannot believe all of them. Indeed, each must hold to a subset which is communally chosen. Why just a subset? Because some arise in error and you don't believe those. Why communal? First, to reduce error - for every error in theology (and thereby doctrine) has arisen from the private study of the Scriptures - and second, because there is very limited value in believing something in isolation. To combine the subset and the community, the global church (consider church history, then pick your branch) selects the set, and your local church may refine a bit from there. Unless you're in a cult, in which case you probably have wildly divergent doctrine which is erroneous (your cult leader probably arrived at their beliefs via private studies of scripture, and/or claims special, personal revelation). So... what are you going to believe? To reiterate, you believe according to what your community believes. If you have some differences, consider them - Do you have a smaller community which also holds to such? Are these differences minor? If either of the answers is affirmative, then the assertion stands. "But, I thought I believes what the Bible teaches!" you qualm. And it is likely that this is the case, but only in part. First, the Bible is not your only source of doctrine or theology. Culture is in fact a very pervasive secondary source. As I've alluded to, the culture of your community plays a big role in this, but perhaps even more importantly, the overarching culture in which you live also shapes your beliefs. Not in the colloquial meaning, exactly, although that's true too, but rather, in this way: You observe culture and rectify your beliefs about doctrine with such. They must coexist. Second, you don't understand the Bible perfectly. I don't think anyone does. Why? Because I've never met anyone who is anywhere close. When I find a knowledgeable, perceptive fellow, they are busy finding new, further discoveries. They are humbled at the magnanimity of this special revelation. Yet those are merely the discoveries that they can find - there are others that others can find, and it seems possible that there are some that nobody ever finds. We each are limited to our current cerebri. Some are in some cultures, finding some truths, others are in others, finding other truths, and none are in still other cultures which do not exist, finding nothing, though something may be there. This is one angle towards a discussion of progressive revelation - a direction for another day.So what do you believe? A part of an imperfect image of God, condescended into mortal knowledge. Just enough to long for more, or reject.Prolegomenon concluded, it should be clear that we all must be thoughtful, critical thinkers about our doctrines. It is logically insufficient to merely believe according to your culture. To the extent that you have faculties to consider the things of heaven, you are responsible to do so. This assertion is left unexplained for your consideration. I say this because this is a lesson that I would have been well to learn sooner than last week, when I saw clearly that my understanding of the doctrine of illumination was wrong. More specifically, I hurt in knowledge that my own teaching of this doctrine, which was culturally transferred to me, has harmed the church. It was a doctrine that was integral in at least three important conversations, and several other perhaps less-important conversations with many others. Although, I wonder to what extent these others have propagated my error. Must I take responsibility for this, too?My understanding was this: That Holy Spirit-filled believers were granted additional interpretive powers of Scriptures - the ability to find the truth in them - since it was the Holy Spirit that inspired their words in the first place. There are other formulations of the same name that are on a different topic, but I can reference a systematic theology book, along with several teachings from evangelical churches, where my above formulation is present. At first glance, this still seems innocuous, logical, and perhaps even obvious. Yet its conclusions are hilariously not found in the real world; Wouldn't this mean that all Spirit-filled individuals should find the same truth in Scriptures, along with other difficulties?A non-believer pointed several issues with this doctrine out to me in an evangelistic encounter. I didn't listen, of course, since I already knew the truth, and he stopped listening to me in return. A believer, struggling with understanding Scriptures, found this doctrine not to be true in themselves. They are no longer in the church. A group of Bible-study attendees were led to believe that (isolated) meditation on (isolated) Scriptures was sufficient for determining their truth, since they were filled with the Spirit. How many further errors could arise from this group?Let me show you something. Turn to 1st Corinthians chapter 2, as they say in Church. Now read it; Examine it. Strictly speaking, who is the "we" group referring to here? Strictly: Paul, and the apostles. Not convinced? Examine further - even unto all the epistles save James, Jude, and perhaps Hebrews. Who is the "we" group in all of them? The apostles, or more generally, perhaps, those who Christ revealed himself to in the flesh and resurrection. It is a category error to include yourself in this "we" group, strictly speaking. If you want to do so, it follows that there would be an exception, or additional rule for including yourself with the apostles. I don't think that such exists in the general case - for if it did, we too would be authorized to write down Scriptures. Yet this is not the case, for it was not we who witnessed Christ.Turn to John 14:25 to the end of the chapter. Now read it; Examine it. Do the same for John 15:26 to the end of the chapter. Who is the "you" group referring to here? The apostles, strictly speaking - the eleven. Yes, this is after Judas left - a private teaching to the true eleven disciples of Jesus. Including yourself would be a simple category error.Where else does the doctrine of illumination (as I've described) arise from? Naught significant, as far as my research can detect. So, it doesn't align with observation, and it doesn't align with rightly-read scriptures. It must not be true. "But, it was taught at my church, and my seminary!" I qualm. Perhaps so, in the past. Yet we know better now, and let's not forget it! No, let's learn a lesson from it. We must be critical thinkers about the doctrines to which we hold. We must not commit category errors, for all sorts of nonsense may arise from such. We must have a teachable attitude, not holding too strongly to doctrines without sufficient cause. For today's admonition: Read through the Gospels or epistles, looking for some category error as described in this post. Now consider if the so-called "timeless truth" that you take from this is in fact valid. In what context? Does that make it not timeless? Think critically.