In a brief chat today, a work associate mentioned that she has a Bible degree. I asked what sort of Bible reading she does: “Is it mostly devotional, or do you read entire books at a time, or are you researching various topics?” I was especially interested in whether she was trying to solve any of the various “puzzles” in the Bible.
She didn’t seem to know what I meant by “puzzles”, so I gave a very simple example. It went something like this:
In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul mentions the “Third Heaven”, yet no place else in the Bible is this term used. In fact, no other ordinal number (other than “first”) is used in conjunction with “heaven” anywhere in the Bible. Paul wrote to the Corinthians as if they would understand exactly what he meant, yet we are without any unequivocal means of understanding just what the Third Heaven is.
In response, she said that the Bible is not a fact book, and that one comes to know such things through “experiencing it”. She went on to say that the Holy Spirit helps people understand these things. Naturally, I asked why so many Christians, all presumably with that same indwelling, do not agree as to what the Bible says and means. This would tend to disprove the idea that God helps Christians understand the Bible, right?
She didn’t find that counterargument to be convincing.
Somewhere along the way in this brief discussion, I mentioned “reality” and she said, “It depends on whether you’re talking about earthly reality or heavenly reality.” I asked, “Is there a difference?” She did not understand the question, so I rephrased it: “Is there any reality in heaven that does not jibe with reality on earth?” And she said, “no”. I was relieved to hear this answer, but still, it was apparent that something in her view of things was amiss.
Our conversation was interrupted soon thereafter, so I didn’t have the opportunity to probe further. It would seem, though, that she believes in some sort of “heavenly reality” that helps Christians to download information that is missing from the scriptures. She is not at all phazed by the puzzles in the Bible, because she believes that, more or less, she has all the rest of the data available to her through the Holy Spirit.
Interestingly, it didn’t seem to trouble her at all that she doesn’t know what the Third Heaven is. She doesn’t seem to view this as a disproof of her claim of availability to such information. She cannot go ask an apostle. She cannot drive to God’s address and visit with him over the question. She cannot turn to any passage in the Bible that purports to explain what the Third Heaven is.
Yet she claims to know…..or something like that.
How can anyone ever get through this cognitive fortress of presumption? How can she be taught anything new about the Bible, using normal means of Bible investigation and logic, when she shuns such empirical study as somehow unspiritual and “earthly”?
It occurs to me that she is but one of millions who has learned a similar attitude of presumption of special knowledge.