The Startling Depth of My Perfection

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When I contemplate the breadth and depth of my wisdom, I marvel like unto one beholding for the first time the Grand Canyon, or the moon through a telescope, or a full-grown white shark, moving unstoppably toward its goal.

What don’t I know? Love, God, relationships, art, why we are here, what we are to do … Chinese food on a budget. I know it all. I’m never in doubt as to which thoughts or feelings are best. Such knowledge, for me, is instinct.

I discern; I commit; I execute; I move on. I don’t look back. The whole concept of regret bores me.

Life for me is a never-ending series of validations of who I am.

I am, in word, perfect.

And maintaining for myself the validity of that truth takes nothing more than summarily dismissing anything and everything that in any way challenges my conviction that there is absolutely nothing about me that could in the slightest measure bear improving.

Pffft.

What a painless price to pay for a consistently affirming experience.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • Scott Spencer-Wolff

    Wow – and I thought I was the only perfect one. Welcome to the club John…

    What are the four categories of knowing? What you know, what you don't know, what you know you don't know, and what you don't know you don't know. Would perfection be a complete mastery of one's boundaries of each category?

    Cool stuff that being perfect.

    • http://www.whitenoisemetal.com Brian Shields

      Who are you, Donald Rumsfeld? ;)

  • Zoomer

    As for me, I am a worm and no man.

    • Scott Spencer-Wolff

      Sounds like you're a potential client for my coaching practice! :-)

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      Elegant.

  • http://www.whitenoisemetal.com Brian Shields

    Actually this is very similar to the theology of Christian Science, the bizarre Christian cult in which I was raised. They think that since God is perfect and we're made in His image and likeness, that we're all perfect. It's our imperfect understanding of our true perfections that lead to sin, sickness, and death.

  • amelia

    ooooh, somebody's in big trouble now…

  • amelia

    John, do you have any thoughts on the early Christian Jews who were eventually dominated by gentile Christians?

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      "Dominated"? Tricky word.

      • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

        Okay, that's enough out of you, Brian Shields.

  • Bri

    I don't entirely understand this post, but your phrase: Life for me is a never-ending series of validations of who I am is one of the most intelligent things I have ever heard. I will add it to my personal repertoire of maxims, proverbs, and other wise phrases, attributed to you of course.

    @ Frank: Thank you for the link with the source material. I really do appreciate it.

  • http://ramblingsofaspiritualidiot.wordpress.com ~Julia~

    Well. That sure 'splains alot. ;)

  • amelia

    you're right. "dominated" was only meant to describe the sheer numbers of roman-christians versus jewish-christians after awhile and how this may have influenced the resulting teachings of Christ by early church leaders.

    • http://none Don Rappe

      I like the question you ask. You use the usual christian/jewish dichotomy. But if I am trying to follow the way and teaching of Jewish Rabbi who is teaching his best understanding of his own Jewish religion, does that make me a Jew or a Christian or something else? Is there a difference? Just asking,

    • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

      That’s so interesting, I’ve not thought of that before.

  • http://marcusdehart.com/site/ Marcus

    I remember being wrong once. Then I found out I was right. How embarrassing.

  • frank sonnek

    Contrast your own experience John to that of our lord Jesus in the Blessed Incarnation. Where is the difference? Is there any?

    To the extent that you are a regenerated New Man who has literally put on Christ and is in Christ and IS washed and sanctified (aka holy and perfect now in the present tense), You look and exist exactly as your Christ Jesus did in his incarnation.

    As St James says, righteous works and righteousness are to breathing as faith is to the body. If we are conscious of our breathing it usually indicates that there is something wrong with our body.

    For Jesus, as for you according to your new man, being good simply is. What else would He or you do? This is first nature, not efforted practice-makes-perfect second nature.

    Now then: the John as Old Adam simply sins as first nature. Nice try John. What else would John-as-old-adam do? Just as we should not be surprised when alcoholics drink. That is simply what alcoholics do.

    Martin Luther says in his preface to his commentary on Romans:

    “To begin with, we have to become familiar with the vocabulary of the letter and know what St. Paul means by the words law, sin, grace, faith, justice, flesh, spirit, etc. Otherwise there is no use in reading it.

    “You must not understand the word “law” here in human fashion, i.e., a regulation about what sort of works must be done or must not be done. That’s the way it is with human laws: you satisfy the demands of the law with works, whether your heart is in it or not. God judges what is in the depths of the heart. Therefore his law also makes demands on the depths of the heart and doesn’t let the heart rest content in works; rather it punishes as hypocrisy and lies all works done apart from the depths of the heart. All human beings are called liars (Psalm 116), since none of them keeps or can keep God’s law from the depths of the heart. Everyone finds inside himself an aversion to good and a craving for evil. Where there is no free desire for good, there the heart has not set itself on God’s law. There also sin is surely to be found and the deserved wrath of God, whether a lot of good works and an honorable life appear outwardly or not.

    Outwardly you keep the law with works out of fear of punishment or love of gain. Likewise you do everything without free desire and love of the law; you act out of aversion and force. You’d rather act otherwise if the law didn’t exist. It follows, then, that you, in the depths of your heart, are an enemy of the law. What do you mean, therefore, by teaching another not to steal, when you, in the depths of your heart, are a thief and would be one outwardly too, if you dared.

    “Sin” in the Scriptures means not only external works of the body but also all those movements within us which bestir themselves and move us to do the external works, namely, the depth of the heart with all its powers. Therefore the word do should refer to a person’s completely falling into sin. No external work of sin happens, after all, unless a person commit himself to it completely, body and soul. In particular, the Scriptures see into the heart, to the root and main source of all sin: unbelief in the depth of the heart. Thus, even as faith alone makes just and brings the Spirit and the desire to do good external works, so it is only unbelief which sins and exalts the flesh and brings desire to do evil external works. That’s what happened to Adam and Eve in Paradise (cf. Genesis 3).

    In this way, then, you should understand chapter 7, where St. Paul portrays himself as still a sinner, while in chapter 8 he says that, because of the incomplete gifts and because of the Spirit, there is nothing damnable in those who are in Christ. Because our flesh has not been killed, we are still sinners, but because we believe in Christ and have the beginnings of the Spirit, God so shows us his favor and mercy, that he neither notices nor judges such sins. Rather he deals with us according to our belief in Christ until sin is killed.

    You must not understand “flesh” here as denoting only unchastity or spirit as denoting only the inner heart. Here St. Paul calls “flesh” (as does Christ in John 3) everything born of flesh, i.e. the whole human being with body and soul, reason and senses, since everything in him tends toward the flesh. That is why you should know enough to call that person “fleshly” who, without grace, fabricates, teaches and chatters about high spiritual matters. You can learn the same thing from Galatians, chapter 5, where St. Paul calls heresy and hatred works of the flesh. And in Romans, chapter 8, he says that, through the flesh, the law is weakened. He says this, not of unchastity, but of all sins, most of all of unbelief, which is the most spiritual of vices.

    “Grace” and “gift” differ in that grace actually denotes God’s kindness or favor which he has toward us and by which he is disposed to pour Christ and the Spirit with his gifts into us, as becomes clear from chapter 5, where Paul says, “Grace and gift are in Christ, etc.” The gifts and the Spirit increase daily in us, yet they are not complete, since evil desires and sins remain in us which war against the Spirit, as Paul says in chapter 7, and in Galations, chapter 5. And Genesis, chapter 3, proclaims the enmity between the offspring of the woman and that of the serpent. But grace does do this much: that we are accounted completely just before God. God’s grace is not divided into bits and pieces, as are the gifts, but grace takes us up completely into God’s favor for the sake of Christ, our intercessor and mediator, so that the gifts may begin their work in us”.

    http://www.ccel.org/l/luther/romans/pref_romans.html

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      You know, I was gonna say that.

      • Scott Spencer-Wolff

        I'm so tempted to weigh in on this one, but where to start? I find myself stuck at the "Blessed Incarnation"….

        • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

          Far be it from me to intrude, but, for what's it's worth, that's exactly where I'd stop.

      • Diana

        Too funny!

    • Diana

      I really do need to get caught up on my Luther. Another project to add to the list. (Sigh.)

  • Don Whitt

    I don’t get. Which is probably telling. :-)

    I read that as thinly veiled sarcasm (and anger) pointed at those who exhibit hubris.

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      I was just trying to point to a bit of the cost of unyielding self-righteousness–which, of course, is so commonly paid in full.

      • Don Whitt

        Whew…then I kind of got that one!

      • http://none Don Rappe

        I was hoping that.

      • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com Ric Booth

        so, wait… you're not perfect? haha…

  • http://malianta.wordpress.com jutta

    I can't figure out if you are serious or not.

  • http://friendlymama.blogspot.com Mary Linda

    Your perfection may be deep but your perception seems to be skewed.

    • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

      I think he was being sarcastic.

      • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

        Was it not … extremely obvious?

        • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

          It was to me. But we see through a cloudy glass – ooh! Bible talk!

      • http://friendlymama.blogspot.com Mary Linda

        as was i…

  • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

    The only thing I have to offer here is that William Shakespeare was right when he said, "Love adds a precious seeing to the eye." That our relationship with the writer and how much we trust him/her actually dictates what we interpret them to be saying.

    The older I get, the less I'm convinced that "validation" means "I am certain that everything I understand is right" and more "I am deeply loved in a way that simply transforms me and transcends all human knowledge".

    I've always searched for the Christian leader who would *lead* me. Who would tell me what to think. Whose words I'd read, speech I'd listen to, blog I'd follow that would cut a clear path through all of the noise, ushering me to the place of knowledge that represented "This is who Jesus is. This is who God is. And this is what you should believe."

    But as I get more committed to experiencing the Presence of God, the knowledge about God becomes less important. God's Presence isn't just the "emotion" of God. It's like eating the actual meal after reading the descriptors on a menu.

    • Scott Spencer-Wolff

      "But as I get more committed to experiencing the Presence of God, the knowledge about God becomes less important. "

      This is a very profound statement, and beautifully written. Thank you.

      • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

        That you were able to push through all my horrifying grammar and punctuation is impressive.

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      Nice!

      • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

        I'm on a sugar high after too many of these (if you come to SF with Cat, I'll make them for you):

        http://dianer.blogspot.com/

      • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

        I'm on a sugar high after too many of these this weekend. .http://dianer.blogspot.com/

    • http://www.lcweekly.com Margaret Evans

      Absolutely beautiful. Thank you.

  • amelia

    DR, that was awesome. Mr. Rappe, no Jewish/Christian dichotomy. I am more concerned with Jewish followers of Christ and what happened to them after gentile( ie. lots of Roman soldiers) "followers of Christ" came on the scene, all of this in light of how Jesus lived, as a Nazorean Jew…

  • Elizabeth

    @ Amelia & Don Rappe: I think you are discussing an historical question, which is way over my head, but I have attended Jews for Jesus services. They simply think Jesus WAS the arrived Messiah instead of believing He is yet to come. Otherwise, the service is traditional: cantor, head-covering, etc. They definitely self-identify as Jews, not Christians.

  • http://ramblingsofaspiritualidiot.wordpress.com ~Julia~

    The more I learn the more I realize I know very little. Instead of being frustrated by what I think I should know I’ve become more fascinated by things I discover along the journey. Afterall: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

    Surprise and wonder should be an everyday adventure and not just for vacations.


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