Carson on Psalm 1: 2 ways to live. Then, said he, 'I could stop here. But that leaves us with a question: are there only 2 ways to live?' Most of us aren't consistently in one of these ways or the other. And in the Bible, it's hard to find any characters not profoundly compromised at some stage... 2 ways to live? Isn't it more like a spectrum? How is it just 2 ways to live? What do we do with texts like this? Carson had 3 points to help us consider this:
1) Remember where we ourselves are in culture - ambiguity is lauded, absolutes are despised & rejected. We are culturally located, so we're going to be more sympathetic to those texts that underscore our struggles or ambiguity. Be aware of cultural location so that you can better listen to Scripture (eg in this case, paying more attention to the absolutes so they transform you.)
2) Genre This is a wisdom literature psalm. Sets out choices in polarities. Cf. Proverb's contrasting Lady Wisdom vs. Dame Folly - there's no middle lady who's mostly wise but gets messed up sometimes! In the NT Jesus is the most powerful Wisdom preacher (NB he doesn't only preach this genre, but he does preach this genre.) He preaches with remarkable antitheses which we tend to ignore, liking the parables better, because we enjoy stories (see point 1). The narrow or wide gates / roads. Good or bad fruit trees. Sand or rock foundations. How about a middle-sized road, a mostly good apple, or a clay foundation?? But we need to hear what makes us uncomfortable. Also, note that Jesus reads people so as to address the weakest point in their defense - doesn't deal with each the same.
3) 1 John. So why does the Bible give us these polarities and reflections on our compromise & brokeness? If we were only to have the stories of compromise, we'd accept it as norm and stop fighting. If we were only to have the polarities, we'd either be crushed or proud.
John is transparently concerned to have his readers see that Christians do sin. Ch.1:8-10. But no so they justify sinning - 2:1! But then, John says that
- if you're a Christian you'll love Christians and if you don't, you aren't.
- if you're a Christian you'll not love the world, and if you do, you aren't.
- if you're a Christian you'll not sin, and if you do, you aren't.
- if you're a Christian you'll practise righteousness, & if you don't, you aren't.
How so? How can John merrily write "If you say you don't sin you make God out to be a liar" and then write, "No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God." It's like a teacher telling a pupil, "You cannot chew gum here!" That's not an ontological statement (clearly the pupil physically can chew gum!) but an ethical mandate (in this class, we do not chew gum!) So, sinning is not done here. It misses the point completely to stick up your hand and say, "But God, look, I'm doing it! haha!"
So, we don't only remember that we have an advocate with the Father whenever we sin, but we remember that we cannot sin. Don't go soft on yourself.
The only time this will be worked out in perfection is in the new heavens & new earth.
Carson gave some comments on integrity. The word root is integer - wholeness. To be the same on the inside as on the outside. Now, this side of the consummation we all lack 100% integrity. There are desires, thoughts, that we don't act upon. There is corruption inside under the Christian veneer - the problem is if instead of being fought and brought back to the cross, it's allowed to fester until the person walks away - the ugliness was nurtured. [I thought here that that sounds like James' double-minded man.]
Dr Carson led us in praying what our constant prayer should be in the light of this, "Lord, make me as holy as a pardonned sinner can be this side of the consummation."