“The religious impulse, the quest for meaning that transcends the restricted space of empirical existence in this world, has been a perennial feature of humanity. (This is not a theological statement but an anthropological one—an agnostic or even an atheist philosopher may well agree with it.) It would require something close to a mutation of the species to extinguish this impulse for good.” -Peter Berger, The Desecularization of the World: Resurgent Religion and World Politics
“The key to the mystery of a great artist is that for reasons unknown, he will give away his energies and his life just to make sure that one note follows another… and leaves us with the feeling that something is right in the world.” -Leonard Bernstein
“God has stitched into the fabric of the human mind his existence and power so that they are instinctively recognized when viewing the created world.”- Thomas Schreiner
- Consider the possibility that the passage doesn’t actually teach what it appears to be teaching. The historical distance between this ancient text and us is big enough that some things may get lost in translation (ex: slavery. ALL forms of slavery practiced in the antebellum South are explicitly called sinful by the Bible–1 Tim. 1:9-11; Deut. 24:7. So whatever the Bible has in mind by slave and master relationships, it isn’t the same as what we instinctively think of in the 21st century. More could be said of this complex topic, but this is a start.)
- Consider the possibility that the problem is an unexamined belief of your own, by which you have elevated your own cultural viewpoint to a level of infallibility (ex: just because we live in western society in the 21st century doesn’t mean that all our beliefs are necessarily true).
- Distinguish major themes of the Bible from less important teachings, and consider these in their proper order. So, for starters recognize that many Christians disagree on secondary issues (gender roles, baptism, etc.), but these are secondary to the bigger question of whether Jesus was resurrected from the dead. Use these as a starting point to branch out into other secondary issues.
- The Apostolic office was temporary, and thus so are the elements of the church’s life that are integrally related to the office of apostle.
- That element that was integrally related to the apostolic office (and was temporary) was their revelatory witness to Christ that served to lay the foundation of the church. That foundation has been laid.
- Ephesians 2:20 speaks of others sharing in this apostolic work of revelatory witness. They are “the prophets.” These prophets are New Covenant-era Christian who had the gift of prophecy. According to Eph. 2:20 that prophetic gift was given for the specific purpose of laying the foundation of the church. That foundation-laying work has been accomplished, thus the gift of prophecy has completed its function and passed away, along with the office of apostle and gifts related to it.
- Meanwhile, speaking in tongues according to 1 Cor. 14:22 is a sign against unbelievers. They are signs of God’s judgment against unbelief by making the word of God unintelligible to those in rebellion against God at the crucial point of laying the foundation of the new covenant church. They are analogous to Jesus’ use of parables which were for hardening some hearts and softening others. Being tied to the foundational labors of the apostles, tongues too have passed away.
- It is stretching 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 beyond its intention to read it as if it is trying to explain how long tongues and prophecy will continue with the church. The point of the passage is the transient nature of our knowledge now. The reality is even Scripture is a word-gift given to the church during this transient time. Yet we certainly don’t believe that God is perpetually adding new inspired Scripture to the canon throughout this transient time. Similarly, one can’t assume that because tongues and prophecy were given for transient times that God is continuing to give more and more. He hasn’t with Scripture, why assume he would with prophecy or tongues?
- The best place to go to understand how the gifts of the Spirit play out after the time of the apostles is to consult those New Testament books that speak explicitly to life after the time of the apostles: the Pastoral epistles. These univocally point the church to Scripture as its guiding source of knowledge after the apostles have died.
Here is a nice illustration of how the book of Revelation works. It could also serve well as an illustration of the doctrine of revelation itself.
The Magic Eye phenomenon provides a parable for Christian thinking about the world: to see the pattern that counts, you have to focus beyond the surface, to see the shape of deep realities not accessible to casual observer. Like everyone else, Christians spend much of every day with eyes and mind focused on the surface of things–details about deadlines, delays, dollars, dress, food and shelter, going and coming, work and recreation, politics and more. Attending to everyday issues is necessary and right, but out hearts long to see the big picture, the meaning that lies behind the details. The Revelation shown to John unveils this deep pattern beneath the surface of history. (Dennis Johnson, Triumph of The Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation, pg. 50).