As the top of the right column states, I'm currently reading D. A. Carson's A Model of Christian Maturity which is an exposition of 2nd Corinthians 10-13. So of course the first thing I do before read the book is read the text several times to get a feel for what Carson plans to exegete. While I certainly enjoy reading this section because it reveals a side of the Apostle Paul that we're not used to, I must admit that at first glance I didn't really see where Carson was going to go. However as I have made my way through the first 50 pages, I'm overwhelmed how much this section actually does show the character of a mature Christian. However, I was interested to see how Carson was going to apply this to our 21st century minds (actually 20th century, since the book was written in 1984). Before he beings the exposition Carson examines the background of what Paul is up against when he begins this section. One thing I was able to profit was an appreciation of what Paul was in fact up against. I'm going to quote a section that I just finished reading and then state a few comments of my own as I can relate it.
"Judaizers will seek to prove their spiritual superiority by making much of their racial and covenantal pedigree (2nd Cor. 11:21a-22); sophists will judge a person's right to lead by the competence or otherwise of his rhetoric (v. 6) and by his ability to command a considerable income (v. 7); and visionary enthusiasts will judge a potential leader by the number and vividness of his alleged spiritual experiences (12:1-10). But all such criteria, Paul perceives, depreciate Christ. If an essential element of true spirituality is race, then it is not Christ's cross-work and our consequent relationship to him that are determinative; if standards of rhetoric and the ability to command a purse are prime conditions for leadership in the church, then a servant mentality is depreciated (even though Christ himself displayed just such an attitude), and culturally bound standards of oratory usurp the place of unchanging and culture-transcendent truth; and if a display of the visionary's enthusiasm is the 'sine qua non' for advanced leadership, not ony is the church vulnerable to fraudulent claims, but the claimants themselves are likely to glory more and more in the esoteric, and not in the sufficiency of the grace themselves. " pages 48-49.
In my short 6 year Christian walk I've encountered many different issues which I've experienced first hand and others I've just read about. Let me draw the comparisons to which I've come across and I'll let you judge for yourself if my assumptions are somewhat accurate. As far as the Judaizers, I see a number of sects and denominations which exhibit this mentality; the first of which is the Roman Catholic church. There are many within this denomination who feel that just because they are apart of this church ethnically (born into, ex. Italians), by no means render's them apart of the covenant of Christ. I see this also in many Baptist churches ever since I moved south. There seems to be a common thread amongst many so called Christians who think that just because their father is a Pastor or they attended a private Christian academy means they are chosen of the Lord. But I've seen, similar to Catholics in NY, a widespread knowledge of the things of God, but no fruit thereof. Can we say false sheep?
For the modern day sophists I would compare to those churches which happen to be over theological, which anyone who knows me might be surprised to hear me say. By this I mean many churches go above and beyond the realm of sacred Scripture and into the realm of philosophical-speculative-theology which ultimately produces a dead faith and an unhealthy overabundance of theological speculation that leaves the practice of Christianity on the roadside and adds to the work of the cross. We find this mostly in liberal churches, though their tendencies are creeping there way back into the church surreptitiously.
The visionary enthusiast, well, I have two words, Rick Warren. I've written a bunch on him in the past, but here I will comment a little. We can trace all the way back through church history the presence of this mentality, and more than ever has this permeated the thinking of our leaders. More than not will you find a job description for a Pastor closely related to a Commercial Lender in banking. High energy, entrepreneurial minded, people oriented, good organization skills...does this sound like what the Apostle Paul wrote in 1st Timothy chapter 3?
Its time to tend to the children and attend my marriage class with Dr. Catanzaro from Southeastern Theological Seminary. I'll have more later...