Throwing out the (dirty) baby with the bath water [pt 2]

{What follows are key statements from Galli’s review (in bold italics) followed by my thoughts in response}

2) I’ve come to conclude that I, at least, cannot vigorously pursue holiness without becoming preoccupied with my progress or lack thereof. Let me preface my comments here by stating that none of this is intended as a personal indictment of Galli. “Spiritual narcissism” is a temptation common to every man. That said, I find this second statement to be perhaps the most troublesome of his remarks because faulty theology is more easily swallowed when coated in humility. And let’s face it, few claims are more humble than admitting your spiritual handicap(s).

But his humility not withstanding the question must be asked: is Galli’s advocacy of a non-intentional pursuit of holiness established on his experience or on Scripture? If God, through His Word, has commanded us to pursue holiness (see the previous post) it makes no difference whether or not we think we have the ability. Galli’s sentiment is the promotion of personal experience over the authority of Scripture. Men can’t walk on water–vigorously or otherwise–but Peter did when called to do so. Neither can a dead man walk out of his tomb but Lazarus did at Christ’s command.

As it concerns the command to be holy we’re right to admit our impotence & spiritual narcissism but if the admission isn’t followed by an asking to receive what we lack then the admission is more faithless than humble (Mat 7:7; Jn 14:12-15; Eph 1:19-20; 3:20-21). Paul tells us to work out our salvation–which includes growing in holiness–because GOD is the one who is at work in us to will and to do His good pleasure (Phil 2:12-13).  Peter tells us that by God’s power we have been given all that we need for godliness, that His promises enable us to share the divine nature, and that because of His power & promises we are to make every effort to add God-like attributes to our faith (2Pet 1:3-10). In sum, it makes no difference whether or not I can pursue holiness because God has commanded me to do so and with the command comes the power to (vigorously) obey. As Augustine famously prayed “Give what you command and command what You will.”

So if God, through His promises and by His power, is working in us so that we can pursue holiness, who are we to say that we can’t? To disregard the command because of our (in)abilities is its own form of spiritual narcissism.

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Author: Jonathan P. Merritt

Happily married father of six. Associate pastor for education at Edgewood Baptist Church (Columbus, GA). Good-natured contrarian and theological Luddite. A student of one book.

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